Familiar Faces in New Spaces: Faculty and Staff Spotlight

Heather Girton and James Layne
Please welcome Heather Girton and James Layne to their new roles!

Former Orchard positions: Multiage Preschool Teacher, Third Grade Teacher
New role: Interim Early Childhood and Elementary School Director 
What do you love about Orchard:
I love that when I think of Orchard, either as a parent, as a teacher and now as an administrator, my thoughts are best described as happy and grateful. Being part of a school that is capable of continually seeking out, celebrating and lifting up the people in its community the way Orchard does is invaluable these days. I cherish the opportunity to keep growing and learning in this incredibly special place. 
One of your fondest memories of Orchard:
It comes in the early days of Mulitage Preschool adopting "mascots". Our class was the Cardinals and had spent the morning with Mrs. P talking about what Cardinals sound like. One of our students stood at the edge of the woods mimicking the sound the best she could, and got an answer from a far away bird. It went back and forth like that for about 10 minutes and she was forever our "Cardinal whisperer". Seeing a class of preschoolers respect and celebrate a peer's accomplishment with equal excitement as we were was awesome. It was a moment that solidified that our move to spending the bulk of our days outdoors was the right one for me, too.
Tell us about yourself:
I grew up in East Tennessee, and knew I wanted to be a teacher very early in life. I was incredibly fortunate enough along the way to be pushed and challenged to look at the career with different perspectives. Those experiences allowed me to explore curriculum design, administration and teaching very early in my career, and fast forward twenty-ish years, I've spent the last five years at Orchard. My husband Brad and entering 6th grader Cooper spend most of our free time at the baseball fields. At home, we enjoy time with our dog and two cats (and classroom fish). Whenever possible, I enjoy crafting, making and creating. Any Orchard Owl who has been in my classroom knows I believe these two things: We can do hard things, and, Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose. I am driven by those two mottos and am forever grateful to get to share the spirit behind them with our Orchard community.
Former Orchard positions: Maintenance, Kids Connect, Multiage Preschool Teacher, Marketing & Public Relations Coordinator
New Role: Director of Marketing and Communications
What do you love about Orchard?
The teachers. Hands down, they are the most important piece of the Orchard puzzle. With my role in marketing, I’ve probably talked to at least 100 alums spanning from the 1940s until now. I would say about 90 percent of them have said their teachers are the most memorable part of their Orchard careers. There is no teacher like an Orchard teacher!
I also love our school’s strong sense of community. Like any place of employment, there can be challenges to overcome, but when it comes down to it, I’m standing up for every single one of the people who work at this school. It’s kind of like the sibling rule. I can talk about them, but don’t you dare haha! I love our family vibe and I think the students excel because of it.
What does Orchard mean to you?
I started working at Orchard about 10 years ago. I was playing in a band and looking for a job while in college at IUPUI. So I took the custodial job here on campus because it opened up my weekends and evenings. I was in charge of lunch duty, which meant I was with kids for most of my shift. I loved chatting with students and getting to know them. It felt natural right away. After about a year into the job, former Early Childhood and Elementary School Director Donna Romack called me into her office. I thought I was getting in trouble, but instead, she asked me what I was studying in college. I told her journalism and sociology. She quickly told me, “You’re in the wrong profession. Your heart is in education and you’ll realize it if you stick around. I’m on to you!” She hired me two years later.
This school pushed me out of my comfort zone and then gave me an opportunity to thrive when I was in it. This school helped me grow up, taught me how to be a professional, and will now raise my kids starting in the fall. I’m forever indebted to The Orchard School. Owls forever!
Tell us about yourself:
I grew up in Anderson, Indiana…yes, I’ve been to the casino. All of my high school friends are still my best friends today…yes, we have matching tattoos. I love to skateboard, play sports, attend punk concerts, and play music with my friends. But most of all, I love being a dad. Graham will be an Owl in August, Simon will join the 2021-22 school year, and our little girl will arrive in the fall! My wife Emily is also in education, but after we got married she left the classroom to work full time on our wedding photography business.

Fun fact: Heather and James co-taught multiage preschool from 2015 to 2017 (the picture above was taken the day before their first class in 2015). They were the Cardinal Classroom and they still love to use the hashtag #cardinalsforlife. 😀

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