Profile Response: Kathy Vitale and Mike Sullivan, Pocatello, ID

HWWLT Logo on yellow“I love Idaho because it’s behind the times. We are the Alabama of the North. But we value the beauty, the pace, the quiet of this place.” Not everyone would agree with Kathy Vitale’s ode to Idaho, folks from Alabama in particular, but they made perfect sense on a warm Saturday evening sitting around a picnic table on a shady driveway turned patio beside a simple wooden bungalow nestled into the side of a hill on the edge of this railroad town. After spending a week in pristine Utah, it was relaxing to be in a place that wasn’t all shiny and trimmed.

Mike is from Colorado. He won a track scholarship to Idaho State University. “I got into town at night. When I walk up the next morning I thought I was in the wrong place. Idaho was supposed to be all mountains. Pocatello’s not that at all. But I stayed for school, and then I stayed for good.” Mike met Kathy through a friend. Their two daughters are on their own now. Their house has gorgeous rubbed wood, a cozy loft and few doors. Their yard includes a garden, large trees, many bicycles, and a sinuous fence Kathy made from willow branches. Their lives have a purposeful, gentle rhythm that would be difficult to match in Salt Lake or Denver. Everything flows.

IMG_3260 IMG_3261

Kathy is a teaching assistant in a nearby kindergarten; Mike teaches physics in the high school downtown. Eighty percent of the young children in Kathy’s school are on free or reduced lunch, while Mike teaches a full array of background and talents. He sees a shift in education from technical skills to analytical skills; a shift due in large part to standardized tests. It serves some students well, since analytic capability is more easily translated to many aspects of adult life. But students who struggle with concepts come away with little, since we aren’t teaching basic skills. Kathy is more tuned of the inequities in our educational system. “We think the poor are not doing enough by their children. But I disagree. Every parent is doing everything he can to raise his child well. We lose sight of how difficult it is for poor families. They simply can’t be as involved in their child’s education when they have so many pressures of work, transportation, food, and housing.”

Both Kathy and Mike acknowledge our country’s continued disinterest, and disinvestment, in education. Students in the United States are slipping in relationship to their counterparts around the world. There’s a widening gap between those with high educational achievement and everybody else. Everyone needs to be educated. As Kathy says, “Where did we get this idea that some education is more valuable, and some work is more valuable? Any work that is needed is valuable. It should be respected and compensated.”

How will we live tomorrow?

IMG_3257“The path we are on is unsustainable. Our goal has to be to create more common good.” – Mike Sullivan

“We need to provide more access to things for people with low incomes. Sports and extracurricular activities are important. Now, in Pocatello, you have to pay to participate in those things. I can afford to pay for my children but a lot of people can’t. It puts our low income children at yet another disadvantage.” – Kathy Vitale

About paulefallon

Greetings reader. I am a writer, architect, cyclist and father from Cambridge, MA. My primary blog, is an archive of all my published writing. The title refers to a sequence of three yoga positions that increase focus and build strength by shifting the body’s center of gravity. The objective is balance without stability. My writing addresses opposing tension in our world, and my attempt to find balance through understanding that opposition. During 2015-2106 I am cycling through all 48 mainland United States and asking the question "How will we live tomorrow?" That journey is chronicled in a dedicated blog,, that includes personal writing related to my adventure as well as others' responses to my question. Thank you for visiting.
This entry was posted in Responses and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s