For 22 years George Companiott has commuted from the Hill to teach in Hemet. Now, the longtime Idyllwild resident won’t face that challenge. He commutes six miles to classroom 20 at Idyllwild Middle School where he teaches social studies to sixth through eighth grades and language arts to eighth graders. And he is already literally and figuratively at home.
“I wanted to get the chance to connect with my students,” he said of his transfer to Idyllwild School. “When you’re running a couple hundred kids through your classroom every day [as he had at Dartmouth Middle School in Hemet], that makes connecting harder.”
The camaraderie and helpfulness of Idyllwild School teachers and administration was something special which Companiott noted. “I’m so pleased with how tight my relationship is already with the middle school teachers,” he said. “Great communication, sharing — it makes for a very secure environment for the kids and allows me to make real contact with them. No one will fall through the cracks.”
Companiott and family have, for many years, called Idyllwild “home.” His wife Heather is director of special programs for the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program. “My daughter went through K-8 at Idyllwild School,” said Companiott. “This is a school where there is a lot more parent involvement and that, of course, is good for the students.”
Companiott is from the Chicago area and completed bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana. He completed his teaching credential at Indiana University in Bloomington.
As part of his credential process, Companiott participated in a cultural immersion program, where he taught at an Apache Indian reservation in Ft. Apache, in the White Mountains of northeastern Arizona. “We had to become [part of] a minority,” said Companiott of the experience. He still maintains contact with some of his students from that time.
From there, he and Heather came to “this place called Idyllwild,” where Heather’s parents had a cabin. “We arrived in January,” he related. “The temperature was 65 degrees and I thought, ‘this could be a pretty sweet deal.’”
The sweet deal has grown into a lifetime, finally capped, with his new Idyllwild School assignment, as full-time immersion in Idyllwild.