ENTERPRISE — Lorri Birkmaier Fischer first walked into Enterprise Elementary School as a young girl with a knack for reading and writing. She liked school so much she would teach her younger brother, Tommy, lessons of her choice when she had the chance.
After graduating from Eastern Oregon University with a degree in elementary education and a reading endorsement in 1981, Fischer would return to Enterprise Elementary as an educator in 1984. The principal at the time, Bob Eddy, gave her quite simple instructions to start.
“He threw me into a room and said, ‘Teach!’”
Now, 38 years later, Fischer is putting down the chalk and eraser following a career teaching students from fourth through eighth grade. It was a decision based on the need to be there more for her family, of which she has two daughters and four grandchildren.
“I always say that you are replaceable at work, but irreplaceable within your family,” she said.
Throughout her career, Fischer prided herself on lesson plans that made it fun for students to learn.
Her classes have shot themed movies about the 100-year anniversary of the school and Lewis and Clark to name a few. Most recently, she brought her fifth-grade class to the Wallowa County Museum in Joseph to donate an antique dress and a stack of old Wallowa County Chieftains along with her daughter, Aliyse Shetler, and her kindergarten class from Joseph.
She thought that big projects like these were the secret to teaching some of her kids.
“They would be doing what you want them to do, but yet they didn’t really feel like it was hard work because it was fun.”
And it’s this style of learning that may cause her to resonate with the students in Enterprise, even when they’ve gotten older.
“One girl said to me from junior high the other day ‘Mrs. Fisher, you’re leaving us, how can you leave us?’”
For Fischer, who prides herself on having a reading endorsement, literature is near and dear to her heart. She remembered what she would tell her students about how to perfect the craft of writing.
“It’s like making a necklace and every word is a stone, a precious gem that you’re stringing,” she said. “And you’ve got to make sure you pick each one carefully.”
Through all of her years putting effort into educating her students as well as growing up in the school system, Fischer has recognized how much importance a public school can hold in a small town like Enterprise.
“The community, the town revolves around the school,” she proclaimed.
Tom Crane, the superintendent of the Enterprise School District, taught fourth grade at Enterprise Elementary with Fischer at the beginning of his career. He recounted how in every interview he’s had as an administrator, he’s waited for the teacher to say that they love working with kids, attributing this to the devotion displayed by his former co-teacher.
When describing Fischer in one word, he emphasized how much his colleague cares.
“Passionate, because her whole life is about helping kids,” he said.
Fischer choked up when talking about this aspect of the job, explaining how important it is for a teacher to put the effort in.
“Every grade, you’re that piece,” she said. “When you’re that person in their life, you have to make the puzzle complete so when they’re done they have a full puzzle.”
Having been at the school as a student when they just started using computers, to leaving the school as a teacher when the whole classroom has laptops, Fischer sees the coming years of education in her hometown as a slightly different version of the fundamentals.
“I think that the future will just be similar to what it is now, kids learning and teachers teaching.”