Jett Stewart is a freshman at Heppner High School. He takes classes like math and language arts. But Stewart just competed in Team Roping in the Junior National Finals Rodeo in December in Las Vegas. He placed third in the world in Open Team Roping and fourth in #10 Roping. How does he do both? He is a student at Morrow Academy, the online program of Morrow County School District.
Last fall, Jett’s parents realized that the amount of time he had to spend on the road traveling with Junior Rodeo was not going to be possible with a traditional school schedule. After talking with district administrators, they decided to try the online program.
Sybil Stewart, Jett’s mom, said that initially she was hesitant about Jett not going to a regular classroom, because education is their first priority. However, considering Jett’s team roping goals, they had to step outside their comfort zone.
They were introduced to Betsy Shane, the district’s Morrow Academy teacher. “Mrs. Shane was amazing! Several times, I was worried that we didn’t do what was best for Jett’s education, but he gained lots of ‘real life’ education when it comes to being your own advocate and time management. Mrs. Shane was really helpful with struggles and kept encouraging me and Jett and helped us through some growing pains,” Sybil said.
Jett said that at first the program was intimidating because you don’t see your teachers face to face, but with help from Mrs. Shane, his mom and Marie Shimer, MCSD Director of Educational Services, he made it work. “What makes it really work for me is the flexibility and getting the one on one with Mrs. Shane. Staying on top of the work was pretty challenging because it continues at the same pace and sometimes you need to be your own advocate and contact the online teachers on your own. This is especially important when you are struggling with something that is difficult,” Jett said.
This is the second year Morrow County SD has operated Morrow Academy. Shimer said the online program is a great option for students who need some flexibility in their school schedule. This could be for academic, medical, outside activities or other reasons. Shimer said the program is positive because students remain in their own, local school district. This benefits the student by being able to participate in school activities and benefits the district because the district retains the state money for that student. “When Morrow Academy is a good fit, it’s really a win-win for everyone – we get to retain our students and provide an education that works for them,” Shimer said.
Jett said he is glad he can rodeo and keep up with school. His parents both did rodeo and they help him in and out of the arena. “My Dad rodeo-ed before I was born and was pretty successful. He helps me a lot and helps me get better at my game,” Jett said.
Although he mostly does Team Roping, Jett also does Calf Roping at high school rodeos. His awards are impressive: he won the JR High State Title Header, the JR Bob Fiest Invitational #10, was the JR NFR Open Qualifier and the Jr NFR #10 Qualifier in Reno and qualified for the Jr NFR in both the #10 Roping and the Open.
He credits Morrow Academy for giving him the chance to excel in rodeo and academics. “It gave me a flexible schedule so I could continue with my education while working on my roping. Mrs. Shane helped by guiding me through the process and also was there for me when I needed her the most. She helped me with making sure my schoolwork didn’t slip and helped when I was stressed about getting everything done,” Jett said.
Jett plans to attend college, get a degree in Ag Business, and then try to qualify for the NFR. He also plans on staying involved in riding and training rope horses.