GREENOUGH - It's another school year, but the same drill for Amber Leetch.
Now a sixth grader, Amber again rises at dawn every morning, then hops on a snowmobile with her mother Wendy for a five-mile, overland commute to a cold truck.
Last spring, we told you the story of Amber, who was the only child in the Sunset School District's schoolhouse near Greenough.
She was - and still is - a school district of one.
Some things have changed, and others haven't.
Amber is a year older, and gone is Chantale Daniel, her teacher. Daniel had a baby last summer and did not return to the job.
Replacing her is Toni Hatten, a first-year teacher who was a former Sunset school board member before finishing her education degree at the University of Montana last May.
Last spring, Hatten attended Amber's end-of-the-year party at Sunset, and met her parents Jim and Wendy Leetch. The couple was anxious to meet Hatten, too, because she was being considered for the teaching position.
"It's really different," said Hatten. "That was kind of nerve-wracking, but it must have gone well."
The school year actually began with another student, whose family had just moved from the East. But in the fall, the child withdrew.
Amber is alone, once again. And that has created an exceedingly rare situation where one teacher's efforts, one school and one entire school district is centered around one girl.
"I wasn't nervous about her and I connecting," said Hatten. "I was nervous about being with each other every day, and what that was going to look like. But Mrs. Daniel was good at telling me about how I would need my space, and how we would need to take breaks."
Amber continues to excel in her school work, she said. Hatten has also teamed up with the Ovando school district so Amber can play volleyball.
It's a good thing the Leetches enrolled Amber this year. Two consecutive years without a student would have closed the district permanently.
Hatten would like to see more children enroll, because "I hope I stay there for the rest of my career.
"I don't think we'll ever be greater than five, but if we could get two or three ...," she said. "I want to build that school to be a place where parents want to bring their children."
Be the first to know
Get local news delivered to your inbox!