Montana's Public Schools in the News!

Great things are happening in Montana's public schools every day of the school year. The following are a few of the items profiling the great work of Montana's public schools that have appeared in Montana news media.  By clicking on a link, the reader is taken away from the MTSBA website.  Any payment required to access a particular website is the sole responsibility of the individual reader.  Articles and opinions appearing on this page do not necessarily reflect the policies, positions, opinions or views of the MTSBA Directors or staff.

August 2023 Great News 

Report: Hamilton listed in top 10 MT high schools

Hamilton High School was ranked eighth amongst Montana high schools according to the recently released U.S. News & World Report Best High Schools rankings. The rankings, released on Aug. 29, include data on nearly 25,000 public high schools in 50 states and the District of Columbia according to U.S. News & World Report. Out of the 25,000 reviewed, 83 Montana schools made the rankings. Hamilton was given an overall score of 84.93/100 and ranked 2,664th amongst schools nationwide. Schools are ranked by their performance on state-required tests, graduation and how well they prepare students for college. In addition to traditional high schools, the rankings include science, technology, engineering and math-focused schools (STEM) as well as charter and magnet schools.

How Choteau area schools are tackling Montana's teacher shortage

The past few weeks of walking the halls of Choteau Elementary School and getting her new fifth-grade classroom ready for the fall semester have been somewhat surreal for Amanda Lightner. Day by day, she's added more books to the shelves, arranged the wood-topped desks, papered the walls with daily planning charts and decorations. But she can't shake the picture of what the room used to look like, back when she was in fourth grade. "I'm like, 'This should be this way because that is how it was when I was in here,'" Lightner said on a recent Thursday. "'But this is your room and you can do what you want.'" In her four years as a Montana educator, Lightner has inched closer to what she describes as the "end goal" of her career: a return to the town, and the school, where she and her husband grew up. After a year of teaching in Gallatin Gateway, she landed an elementary job in the Greenfield School District, commuting half an hour each day from her new house two blocks from Choteau Elementary. 

Whitefish grad builds pavilion to earn Eagle Scout

Natural wood pillars combined with steel roofing and an intricate sign make a new pavilion at the Whitefish Airport stand out to passersby. A picnic table sits on a concrete slab and the pavilion provides much-needed shade and a comfortable place to hang out at the airport off East Second Street. This pavilion called the Welcome Center was built by Whitefish High School Class of 2023 graduate Ryan Economy. The recent grad created the pavilion for his Eagle Scout project which he completed in the summer of 2022. Economy says he had the idea for the project in fall 2021, but thought it might be too much to take on as he only had eight months before turning 18 - the Eagle Scout project must be completed before the scout turns 18 and ages out of the Boy Scouts of America program. But he soon decided it was a project worth taking on despite the time frame and the potential cost to complete it. 

Sprunger, Kalispell educators celebrate boost to intership effort

Emmery Schmidt knew she wanted to be a teacher when she was in elementary school. Now a junior in high school, Schmidt confirmed she was cut out for the job through several internships. Schmidt has completed two internships with Kalispell Public Schools, the first looking at early childhood development and the second focusing on elementary education. From working during after school programs to spending two weeks in a classroom with every age group, Schmidt found that she truly enjoyed working with kids. "I do love working in the classroom," Schmidt said. "I won't have to go to college for four years and then start being a student teacher just to see if I like being in classrooms." Students in the Flathead Valley have long had the option to pursue a career and technical education alternative in the form of a job or an internship. This year the Legislature expanded those types of programs, effectively bringing businesses, schools and the community together through technical education.

GFPS offers Chromebooks to all students in grades 7 to 12

Students in grades 7 through 12 at Great Falls Public Schools will now have their own dedicated Chromebook laptop to use in school and at home. The laptops come with no additional cost to the student, unless they decide to purchase insurance for the device, which is only $26 a year. "Accidents are going to happen," Lance Boyd, an executive director of student achievement at Great Falls Public Schools said, "things are going to happen and occur, the one thing we're also proud of and were able to watch during covid was [that] we checked devices out across our district, and very, very few of them came back with any significant damage." 

Big J Show Cares, Education Foundation, raise $77K for Billings school books

he Big J Show Cares, in conjunction with The Education Foundation For Billings Public Schools is thrilled to announce the success of their recent fundraiser Books For Kids. Together, they raised $77,451 to support literacy in the local schools. Thanks to the support from the Billings community, more than 4,300 students across 14 schools in the area will receive a monthly book throughout the upcoming academic year. These books will be wonderful additions to the students' personal bookshelves at home, encouraging a love for reading and fostering a lifelong passion for learning. The majority of the donations came from generous individuals who were eager to contribute to this initiative, promoting literacy throughout the area. "We couldn't have achieved this incredible feat without the support of the Billings community and its generous individuals and businesses," said Justin Hutchinson, director of The Big J Show Cares. "We extend our heartfelt gratitude to businesses like Stink Blossom, 406 Disaster Response, and TDS Fiber for their significant contributions as well as the individual donations we received." 

U.S. News ranks Whitefish third among Montana high schools

Whitefish High School ranked third among Montana public high schools for the second consecutive year, according to the U.S. News & World Report 2023 Best High Schools. The rankings showcase schools whose students demonstrate outstanding outcomes, surpassing anticipated benchmarks, including achieving high graduation rates. In Montana, 173 public high schools were reviewed and 83 earned rankings. Bozeman High School ranked in the top spot and Lone Peak High School at No. 2. Rounding out the state's top five is Red Lodge High School at No. 4 and Manhattan High School, No. 5. In Kalispell, Glacier High School came in at No. 11 and Flathead High School at No. 21.

Stevensville School District starts the year with optimism

The Stevensville School District is off to a great start with additional programming, a nearly full staff and optimism. Second-year Superintendent Dave Thennis said the school has focused on three areas: transportation, a new pre-kindergarten early literacy program at the elementary school and an Alternative Learning Center at the high school. Classes started on Aug. 24 for grades 1-12, Kindergarten began on Aug. 28, and class for students age 4 and 5 begins on Sept. 5. "We have a lot of new things going so anytime there are new things going there are hiccups and we're working through those hiccups and trying to improve, adjust and get better," Thennis said. "We have done a major overhaul of our transportation system. As we go through the process we are continuing to refine, hourly, what's going well, what's not going well and making adjustments."

Bozeman bus company starting school year on the right foot

Bus driver shortages are a problem faced nationwide and has become an all too familiar story. However, one bus company is flipping the script and is finding ample staffing before the school year begins. In 2018, First Student had to cancel routes in Bozeman due to staffing shortages. Since then, every year has had its share of challenges – but the start of this year has a different tune. First Student has enough drivers to fit with adjusted routes. A major factor for the company getting ample staffing for the school year is the leap in wages.

Completing the cycle: Bozeman School District launches composting program in all 13 schools

All 13 schools in the Bozeman School District are set to start composting their food scraps this year, in an effort to reduce food waste while also improving soil health in the Gallatin Valley. The composting program, set to roll out in September, will also provide education to school staff and students about the value of composting and how to do it correctly. Belgrade-based YES Compost is taking on the school food scraps. Started in 2018, owner Karl Johnson said the business has been steadily growing their food scrap collection program and processing capacity. They offer regular composting services and vermicomposting, which uses worms to break down organic material. All YES Compost customers receive the end product of their food scraps, either bulk compost or worm castings. Each product can be added to garden plots, farms, or houseplants as a nutrient-dense organic fertilizer, Johnson said.

MCPS, UM expand early education programs, begin partnership

A week before Missoula public school teachers would open their own doors to students, doors opened for them at the University of Montana's Learning and Belonging (LAB) School. Like the preschoolers in the classrooms during the school year, a clutch of early kindergarten teachers, elementary principals and administrators explored some new classrooms looking to better understand early education in Missoula. Organizers of the LAB school explained how they encourage active learning, with children free to move from messy art activities, to organized tea parties, to basic wooden blocks in the classrooms. Areas are organized with posters explaining the purposes of activities to both encourage early literacy for students and better explain the value of them to parents and educators.

Sidney High School student becomes senator for a week

Ella Norby, a senior at Sidney High School, was chosen for American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) Girls Nation where she and other young women across the country spent seven days gaining first hand experience in how the federal government works in the nation's capital. From July 22 to July 28, Norby and other participants became 'senators' submitting bills and resolutions, participating in senate sessions, and electing officials such as president and vice president.

Safe Routes to School- Walk 'n Wheel Wednesdays, Fit Fridays, begin Sept. 6

With issues ranging from childhood obesity to environmental pollution to rising fuel prices, families are rethinking how they travel, including the daily trip to school. Although walking and biking to school happens throughout the school year, this year's official kick-off of Walk n' Wheel Wednesdays begins Wednesday, Sept. 6 and Fit Fridays on Sept. 8. The City of Shelby, School District#14 and Toole County Sheriff's Office Safe Routes to School group have been working for over 16 years to create a fun, educational program encouraging our young people to walk and/or bike to school. Walk n' Wheel Wednesdays and Fit Fridays are key elements in Safe Routes to School activities. During September and October, and again in April and May, adults are stationed at locations within the community to walk and/or bike with kids to school. Walking school buses, as they're called, begin at the former Shelby Middle School, and intersection of Sheridan and Oilfield Avenues. The walking school buses leave the Middle School at 7:35 a.m. and the intersection at 7:45 a.m 

St. Ignatius expands gym and focuses on academic achievement

St. Ignatius School District welcomed students back Aug. 23 to several building improvements and a renewed focus on academic achievement. Jason Sargent, who is headed into his eighth year as district superintendent, says the district has completed multiple building projects. The major improvement is an extension to the school's gym that will expand the just over 600-seat gym to 1,200 seats. Other additions to the gym include a new air exchange that will give better ventilation to the newly expanded space. The district also added pickleball courts and redid the tennis courts on campus. Other building projects included improving some of the technical skills rooms such as making the shop classroom bigger and pouring fresh concrete into that space as well. Sargent also mentioned many general improvements such as adding new cabinets in the elementary school and cleaning up the bathrooms and hallways.

Ronan Schools prep for school year with building improvements and teacher training

Ronan School District swings into the upcoming school year with an emphasis on facility improvement and teacher development. School begins with an open house 4-6 p.m Aug. 28 and students return Aug. 29. Ronan School District superintendent Mark Johnston had, much like many other Lake County superintendents, a busy summer planning for the upcoming school year and many new developments with the biggest being a new heating system. The high school switched from steam heat to electric heat which will basically eliminate any type of leakage from the heating process. Johnston also mentioned the first phase of a two-phase project that will change the entrances to some schools by adding metal detectors. Many schools, including those in neighboring Missoula County, have implemented similar devices to improve school safety. Johnston also mentioned a new fob system that will improve security in classrooms.

Gov. Gianforte visits Stanford School

As part of his statewide, 56-county tour, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte welcomed students, teachers, and administrators back to school at Stanford Public Schools earlier this week on Wednesday, August 16. "Susan and I wish all young Montanans heading back to school this month a productive and fun year," Gianforte said. "We'll continue to advance commonsense reforms to support teachers, empower parents, and help students reach their full potential." The governor is intentional in spending much of his time interacting with the people across the state. "I learn more about the needs of Montana when I am out visiting with the people," said Gianforte. "We are hearing of some good things going on at the Stanford School."

Lavina School goes 'beef' to school this year

Lavina School invited everyone to their annual back to school ice cream social. But they also had something extra to celebrate. Local ranchers had collaborated to keep the school stocked with prime beef for the next year. A feat that has huge impacts on the Levina community but is also a huge task to take on. K.J. Fauth, a local rancher, and one of this year's donors said that what "we are asking these ranchers for quite a bit especially on a high market year like this. We are in historical market prices and I think sometimes on an off year ranchers are going to be more likely to donate and say 'yeah I'm ok with this, I'm ok if we let this steer go or this open heifer' and now it's a little more crucial you are kind of tapping into their livelihood but people just open up their hearts they are providing of beef, but again that's something we are raising we are having to background as far as feed, getting them in that condition so that they are ready to butcher and then of course that takes several months and then we are hauling them to the plant to get processed and then that's how we fill those freezers." 

Havre High marching band prepares for school year

Havre High School band teacher Cullen Hinkle has been working with high school students, in grades 9-12, to get ready for the start of the school year. Hinkle directed the marching band camp that began July 31 and ran every weekday until Aug. 10 to help begin fine-tuning the students. Hinkle moved to Montana from Louisiana and started as the Havre High band teacher at the beginning of the 2020 school year. One of Hinkle's stories is about the pep band students traveling to Missoula in 2022 to perform for their basketball teams at the state play-offs.

Helena Public Schools: Committed to communication

Since I was named superintendent of your Helena Public Schools two years ago, I've made communication a top priority for our district and a personal commitment for me. Our district receives tremendous support from our Helena community. Support is born of trust; trust demands communication. I'm grateful to our community partners at the Helena Independent Record for this opportunity to start the new school year with a new, monthly column here in the IR. I look forward to keeping you up to date as we build on last year's successes and seize new opportunities in the 2023-24 school year and beyond. In this Saturday's issue of the IR, you'll also find the 2023-24 Helena Public Schools calendar. We took a new approach with this year's edition, which includes a full sports schedule and is jam-packed with information about our district – everything from school safety, to technology, to how to volunteer. The calendar will be available in print and online, so be sure to pin it to your fridge or save the link or both. 

MCPS superintendent discusses new school year

Missoula County Public Schools Superintendent Micah Hill is starting his 27th year in education. In that time, he's learned that the most important thing for a school are the people that keep it running. "Across the board it's always about the people," Hill said. "We're in a people business." Hill previously worked as the superintendent for Kalispell Public Schools. He made the leap to Missoula for family and new opportunities. The job has changed since he started as an english teacher and moved onto administration. Now there's more pressure than ever on teachers – that's one thing he hopes everyone can keep in mind when going into the school year.

HHS athletes work for Community Service Day

Hamilton High School athletes worked on a Community Service Day as a thank you to a supportive community on Friday. The weather cooperated as it was overcast and cooler than the day before which was hot and sunny. As different teams worked throughout the community HHS Bronc football players worked on pulling weeds off the sidewalks and curbs of Main Street. Senior Tyson Bauder plays quarterback and sees the need to thank the community. "Today we are here pulling weeds as a team," he said. "We're helping the community out by making it a better place for everyone to stay." Running back and Linebacker Andrew Frederick praised the team for helping the community. 

Montana Digital Academy offering new Artificial Intelligence course to high school students

English, math, and science are some of the core subjects we're familiar with in school, but as technology advances - so do the courses offered in the classroom. Two leaders at the Montana Digital Academy (MTDA) say bringing Artificial Intelligence to schools is an opportunity to embrace the future. "Fall 2023 represents a really important time in the way schools are responding to artificial intelligence," said MTDA executive director Jason Neiffer. The MTDA offers more than 100 courses to students K-12 across Montana, which might not be available to their local school. 

Canyon Creek School planned to cut activities - until it received a gift

The tiny Canyon Creek School District west of Billings hasn't passed a mil levy in more than 25 years. And when its latest levy failed last fall, school leaders met to make tough choices about what to cut this school year. They settled on trimming activities like field trips and athletics, "anything considered extra above academic programs," said district Superintendent Brent Lipp. Someone in the community heard about the cuts and mentioned it when he bumped into Brandon Scala, senior vice president of business development at Valley Credit Union. And then Valley got out its check book, gifting the school just over $22,000 to support activities. Canyon Creek has 260 kids in a district you'd think would be swimming in money with all the high-end homes going up on the far West End. But, while the school is in a high-toned area, the district draws mainly from the rural, lower-income areas south of Interstate 90.

New MCPS superintendent focused on connections, student success

Micah Hill attended at least 14 different schools during his childhood, much of which was spent in foster care. It was in the schools that he found his life changed, teaching him things like grit and perseverance beyond the normal subject matter of the curriculum. He owes his current role, as incoming superintendent of Missoula County Public Schools, to the relationships he found in his classrooms. "The connections I made with teachers, coaches and adults who saw someone who was worth investing in helped define my trajectory and my passion for education," Hill said. He's now spent more than 25 years in public education. As the new school year approaches at MCPS, he's looking to focus on building relationships in the schools and community, improving school safety and bolstering support for staff.

Helena Native youth receive laptops courtesy of AT&T, Helena Indian Alliance

AT&T with the help of the Helena Indian Alliance, the Montana Consortium for Urban Indian Health and the Helena Area Chamber of Commerce distributed laptop computers to 50 local students Wednesday. More than 100 refurbished laptops will be given to students and families across Montana as part of AT&T's goal to help bridge the digital divide, company officials said. The laptops, funded by an AT&T donation, were refurbished by Los Angeles-based Human-I-T, a nonprofit that converts corporate e-waste into devices for those left on the wrong side of the digital divide. The local recipients are clients of the Helena Indian Alliance, who receive a laptop and digital literacy resources "to help them fully participate in our digital world," an AT&T news release states. In rural Montana, many students don't have digital basics at home, including access to the internet, computers or skills needed to benefit from the online world, an issue known as the digital divide.

Help to 'Stuff the Bus' and help a student in need get ready for school

For many Great Falls families, buying the basics to get their children ready to start school is a struggle. According to Great Falls Public Schools two in five local students live in poverty, and more than 500 of the district's 10,000 enrolled students are homeless. All but one of the district's 15 neighborhood schools has a food pantry or fills backpacks with food for kids to take home on the weekends. To help, United Way is collecting school supplies and living essentials as part of its annual "Stuff the Bus" drive on Thursday, Aug. 10. More than 100 volunteers will be at one of three yellow school buses donated by Big Sky Bus Lines in the parking lots of Target (2000 10th Ave. S.), the north side Walmart (701 Smelter Ave. NE), and the east side Walmart (5320 10th Ave. S.) between 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Nearly 200 gather in Helena for 4th annual Jeremy Bullock Safe Schools Summit

Nearly 200 people met Tuesday at a Helena elementary school to kick off a two-day summit geared toward school safety, bringing together educators, law enforcement and other professionals whose common goal is to make campuses more secure for everyone. This year's theme for the fourth annual Jeremy Bullock Safe Schools Summit is "Growing Your School's Safety Culture. The event was held at Central Elementary School in Helena. It's the first time it has not been held in Butte, the town where 11-year-old Jeremy Bullock was living in 1994 when he was fatally shot by a classmate on the playground of Margaret Leary Elementary School. 

Sister city teen exchange revving up in Missoula, Germany

When a teacher in Germany recently asked her students who might be interested in visiting Missoula, all of the class's hands went up. The enthusiasm represents a growing interest in reinvigorating a cross-cultural exchange program between Missoula and her German sister city, Neckargemünd. "There is lots of room for growth," said Arts Missoula GLOBAL Director Udo Fluck, who spent time in Germany this summer promoting the program. "In all of that, spreading goodwill and peace among cultures and nations in a very unique and enjoyable way." The connection between Hellgate High School and educators in Neckargemünd began 30 years ago, but the initiative faltered with the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, Fluck explained, the original founders of the sister-city movement started creeping into their 70s and 80s. With the exchange sputtering, Fluck saw an opportunity to breathe new life into the project. 

The BSHS Pioneer Wagon has a Unique History of Its Own

With discussion of the impending upgrades to the north side of the High School, I found myself wondering where the Big Sandy Pioneers wagon came from and when it was initially installed in the courtyard. An inspection of the wagon itself makes it obvious that it was a working covered wagon at one time. My research into the wagon's origin began with a series of phone calls to Big Sandy alumni and long time staffers. The universal response was uncertainty. Most off the alumni said that the wagon was installed after they graduated. The staff all commented that it was added before their time. One of the repeated remarks related to a plaque that used to be on the wagon announcing who had donated it.

Big Timber Student named excellence award winner

Sydney Hansen of Big Timber was recently honored with the Student Excellence Award Winner at MSU-Northern. Sydney is an Elementary Education Major. According to MSU-Northern, Sydney strives for excellence in everything she does. In addition to exceptional academic performance overall, Sydney has been a strong contributor to the women's basketball team, showing her exemplary skill as a leader on and off the court. Sydney is a two-time Academic All-Conference selection and will be named an Academic All-American for the second time at the end of this semester. Additionally, Sydney devotes time every year to a significant number of service projects on and off-campus. Of her leadership, her nominator wrote, "Sydney was the vocal leader on the team, but she is also a great leader by example. She does things the right way and earned the respect of not only her teammates, but her opponents as well."

STEM program offers youth extracurricular opportunities

If a person was stranded on a deserted island, with nothing but some pliable material, and a roll of duct tape, how would they make a water holding container that could stand upright, as well as hold 1,000 milliliters of water? This is one of several questions posed to the stranded class in the Coding for Kids program. Exercising their creativity, engineering and designing skills, participating youths must work through several problems during the five-day summer class.

Jeremy Bullock Safe Schools Summit to be held in Helena

National, regional and state experts in school safety are set to meet Tuesday and Wednesday in Helena at the fourth annual Jeremy Bullock Safe Schools Summit. The summit is geared toward school safety teams and professionals who work at improving safety within educational institutions. This year's theme is "Growing Your School's Safety Culture."  The annual event has been established in memory of Jeremy Bullock and his shooting death by a classmate at the Margaret Leary Elementary School in Butte on April 12, 1994. The event will be at Central Elementary School in Helena, 402 N. Warren St. Registration is still open, either online or onsite. More information, as well as registration details, can be found at:

PEO awards scholarship to Flathead senior

Kalispell's Chapter BN of the women's Philanthropic Education Organization has selected Flathead High School senior Kenna Anderson as the recipient of the $2,500 International P.E.O. STAR scholarship for the 2023-24 academic year. The scholarship recognizes the accomplishments of graduating high school young women planning to pursue post-secondary education based on leadership, academics, extracurricular activities, community and volunteer service, and potential future success. Anderson was in the National Honor Society, earned a 4.0 GPA and an International Baccalaureate diploma. She was involved in speech and debate, Model United Nations, She-Ra Book Club and mentor program, science club, competed in fairs and Science Olympiad, Spanish club, poetry club, volunteered and had a summer job at Flathead Pet Emergency.

Students learn to 'Share The Road'

In an effort to increase awareness while hitting Montana's roads, driver's ed students in Great Falls got the chance to go behind the wheel of a semi-truck to gain a deeper understanding of safety while driving. Referred to as "Share the Road," the Montana Trucking Association hosted the demonstration at CMR High School with the goal of giving the students a unique, hands-on experience before they get their driver's license. This is the first time the program was hosted before the Covid pandemic. The program is hosted in various cities across Montana.

JULY 2023 Great News

Tribes will have a larger voice in the state Indian Language Preservation program

Montana tribes are closer to gaining more authority in a state program designed to preserve Indigenous languages. The state Office of Public Instruction last week released draft revisions to the Montana Indian Language Preservation program, which was created a decade ago to provide funding to help tribes stem the tide of language loss. The proposed revisions implement a bipartisan law sponsored by Democratic Rep. Jonathan Windy Boy of Box Elder passed during this year's legislative session. Windy Boy says the changes include new curricula and increased tribal involvement in Native language instruction across all Montana schools. "I wanted the tribe to have a seat at the table," Windy Boy told MTPR. The Legislature also made the program part of the state's ongoing budget, meaning lawmakers will no longer have to advocate for the program to continue every two years. Nine Indigenous languages are spoken within Montana, at least three of which were critically endangered as of 2019, according to the Montana Budget and Policy Center and the United Nations.

Ronan students join 'Paint the State' education effort

Six Ronan Middle School students have tossed their hats into the ring for this year's "Paint the State" art competition with each creating artwork with anti-meth messaging that's displayed in various locations in Ronan. RMS teacher Bill Becker recruited Anaka Hardy, Anastasia Hertz, Kailyn Marengo, Loren Olson, Rayna Tonasket and April Uhrich to join the competition as part of a new elective class he began teaching this year.  "I'm a math teacher in Ronan and I have been for 13 years, so this is the first year I've ever taught an elective," Becker commented. "Our whole theme was just basically 'why not?' Why not try everything we can try to make ourselves smarter, to showcase our talents and things like that … I've just been out there looking for things to challenge our best and brightest."

Plains welcomes new school superintendent; board reviews bus contract

Plains School Board of Trustees welcomed the new District No. 1 Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Walsh during their July meeting. Walsh brings to the superintendent position a Ph.D in school administration and moves to Plains from the New York City area. She has roots in Western Montana through her husband, Denis Munson, who grew up in the Eddy Flats area and graduated from Thompson Falls in 1957. The board's major discussion was about the school bus contract with Revier Transportation. The lengthy discussion revolved around how the cost per mile was figured by the school district for extracurricular activity bus usage. Chad Revier, owner of bus company, requested that the per-mile figures need to change to recover a loss in revenue. The board agreed to increase the cost per mile over 17,000 miles from $1.80 per mile to $2.40 per mile.

School fair exhibits on display at Central Montana Fair

Stained glass, dioramas, pencil drawings, wire art, and student reports are among the projects created by Central Montana students and on display at the Trade Center this week. Stop in to view our students' creativity and see what they worked on last school year. The projects were created by students from Ayers, Deerfield, Spring Creek Colony, Denton, Grass Range, Roy, Winifred, and Winnett Schools. There are 458 projects created by students from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Charlo Schools ready for new year with improvements, new hires

Charlo School District 7J is preparing for a school year with lower enrollment and fewer teachers, but a revamped HVAC system represents a major improvement for the small rural school. "We had some great things going on and we also had some big challenges," Charlo Schools superintendent Steve Love said of last year. "We got through it like we always do, and every school year's different and every school year has its challenges." Love said he is working through obstacles that have impeded the school's progress since 2020 in filling jobs. Retirements contributed to many of those job vacancies. "We had some tremendous employees retire last year," Love said. "It is extremely difficult to replace the type of people who retired – in the job climate we have now it just seems almost impossible." However, Love said that there are incoming teachers who will help alleviate those losses.

Family donates bronze sculpture to Jefferson Elementary School

The Wilbur and Karen Wallace family donated a Pamela Harr sculpture to Jefferson Elementary School in May. According to Karen, the family made the donation for several reasons. The first, they wanted to show its appreciation to the teachers and librarians who have instilled a love of reading in their granddaughters. "Wilbur and I are supporters of Pamela Harr's work and love what she does for our community," Karen added. Last but not least, Harr used the Wallaces' granddaughter Scarlett Smith as a model for "The Library Cat." The life-size sculpture will eventually be on display in Glendive. Nine-inch castings of the sculpture are available through Harr and Bridger Bronze. Karen noted that Scarlett as the model was not planned. The seven-year-old was with the Wallaces at the Zonta Rent a Table last fall when Harr asked Scarlett if she could take her picture for a new sculpture she was thinking of doing.

Dino Shindig speakers share latest fossil research and fossil collecting skills 

From the youngest to the oldest attendees at the Dino Shindig July 22-23 in Ekalaka, the participants were fascinated by the speakers from all over the world sharing their latest research and collecting skills. The younger attendees were learning the names of common dinosaur species by coloring masks, viewing the exhibits in the museum and digging in sand for treasures. The older participants were digging alongside experts at active fossil field sites in Carter County.

Cut Bank Education Foundation and Alumni Association Announces Scholarship Winners

Congratulations to the 2023 Cut Bank Education Foundation & Alumni Association (CBEFAA) Cut Bank High School Alumni Scholarship award recipients! We are so proud of all of our CBHS alumni and love to see Cut Bank Wolves making a difference in the world!

Math problem-solving camp for middle and high schoolers set for Aug. 14-16 at Montana State

Montana middle and high school students passionate about advanced math are invited to attend the Mathematics Circle Summer Camp Aug. 14-16 hosted by the Science Math Resource Center at Montana State University. Participants will immerse themselves in math problem-solving challenges, tour innovative university labs, and engage in fun science, technology, engineering and mathematics

Event set to meet new HPS superintendent, ed foundation director

People have a chance this week to meet face-to-face with two new leaders in the Havre public schools system. A community meet and greet is set Thursday for Havre Public Schools' new superintendent, Brian Gum, and the newly appointed executive director of the Havre Public Schools Education Foundation, Krystal Steinmetz. The event is scheduled for 6-7:30 p.m. in the Havre Middle School foyer Thursday. "(Havre Public Schools) is dedicated to providing exceptional education opportunities and cultivating an environment that fosters success for all students," a release about the event said. "In line with this commitment, the district is proud to welcome Gum as the new superintendent, bringing a wealth of experience and forward-thinking approach that will further elevate the educational landscape in Havre. 

Glacier librarian hits the road to learn about the auto industry

Kerrie More is not an automobile industry scholar - yet. She recently spent a week in Indianapolis learning about a part of history that shaped the everyday lives of Americans. The longtime Glacier High School librarian and media specialist was accepted to participate in a National Endowment for the Humanities Landmarks of American History and Culture workshop. The workshop titled "The Democratization for the Automobile Industry: Construction, Culture, and Preservation," organized by the Ball State University history department, will teach educators about the historical and cultural significance of cars and the role of the Midwest car parts industry. Experts in the fields of preservation, history, manufacturing, and museums will address the intersection of labor, race and place at historic and modern sites. Fellows will visit to learn about the components of autos used by people for work and leisure. 

High school students get taste of college life at Montana Tech

High school students from Butte, Anaconda and Helena are getting a head start on preparing for college thanks to Montana Tech's Upward Bound summer program. Forty students ranging from incoming high school freshmen to seniors gathered at Butte's East Middle School on Monday to present their summer research projects created as part of a six-week academy through the program. This initiative, paid through U.S. Department of Education funds, allows youth from underprivileged backgrounds to receive a small weekly stipend and the opportunity to work alongside college faculty and get a true taste of college life, including dorm living and a variety of classes.

'Favorite part about myself:' Laurel teen shows TikTok what life without legs is all about

Addison Benson went viral on TikTok just by being herself. The 15-year-old Laurel girl recently got her driver's license and won a state softball championship. She's an avid Gilmore Girls fan and loves clothes shopping, especially from online outlet Shien. She posts TikTok videos showing off her new outfits and goofing off with friends, and sometimes she posts jokes about her legs. She answers questions she gets about her prosthetics, and she has a collection of videos titled "no feet :)." With more than two million likes on her TikTok account, videos joking about her limbs have exploded in views, some filled with comments asking how she is so happy and if it's OK to laugh at her jokes.

Flathead senior winner of car giveaway awarding students

Flathead High School senior Hadley Dennison is the recipient of Hyundai Accent as part of Clark Hyundai's Car for a Star event. The winner of the car is randomly selected from all participating high schools from the Flathead Valley. In order to be eligible, students must be in good standing with their schools and have achieved a 3.5 GPA or higher and attend the drawing at the Clark Nissan/Clark Hyundai dealership in Kalispell. Dennison has established herself as an impressive presence in the world of Acting Speech Theater at the Flathead Theater department, according to a release. She is also attending the esteemed Oregon Shakespeare Festival with her theater group. In addition to her theatrical pursuits, Hadley contemplates a future in criminal justice or psychology, showcasing her broad interests and desire to explore diverse fields. Despite pandemic-related delays, Dennison has also set a personal goal to obtain her driver's license.

Longtime friends, WHS grads head solar business in Whitefish

Two friends and former soccer teammates with a mutual interest in sustainability and renewable energy have joined forces once again, this time to help the valley turn on to solar power. Northstone Solar's CEO, Curran Edland and CCO, Thomas Clark have experience working together, as they were co-captains of Whitefish High School's 2013 state championship soccer team during their senior year. Now their goal is to educate people about renewable energy while installing solar panels at residences and businesses across the valley. In 2019, Edland worked at Northstone Solar with the company's founder, Lee Calhoun. After about two years of learning the business, Edland purchased the company. One of his first big jobs was the solar energy system that graces the roof of Nelson's Ace Hardware in Whitefish. At that time, Clark, the head soccer coach for the varsity girls team at Columbia Falls High School was also working as a journalist.

Evergreen Elementary School Awarded Grant for Student Safety Training

Evergreen Elementary School will receive $20,592 to support student physical and emotional safety programs through the Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI) Stronger Connections Grant Program. Evergreen is one of 25 districts across the state set to receive Stronger Connections Grants, which will address substance abuse, community and school violence, mental health issues and bullying in districts throughout Montana. "As I have said many times, our children are our most precious resource," OPI Superintendent Elsie Arntzen said in a Tuesday press release. "This grant reflects my Montana Hope initiative which focuses on student mental wellness and family and community engagement. Safer learning environments lead to higher rates of student success." Evergreen Superintendent Laurie Barron said that the grant will be used to implement professional training in "evidence-based activities, programs and practices that support physical and emotional safety," which will be specifically designed for classroom teachers, paraprofessionals, coaches, administrators and school counselors. Programs will focus on relationship building, reducing the use of exclusionary discipline practices, trauma-informed classroom management, preventing bullying and harassment and schoolwide positive behavior interventions.


MSU Billings professor leads Hardin students in an investigation of water

Montana State University Billings College of Education Assistant Professor Elaine Westbrook, Ed.D., recently led Hardin students in a month-long investigation into the importance of water, culminating with a presentation in the community. The Hardin Intermediate After-School Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Program partnered with Westbrook to research local water sources and the impacts of water on the Hardin community. During a three-part workshop over the month, students were able to learn about the movement of water, interview community members on their knowledge about local water, and develop a poster presentation featuring their gained knowledge.

TrailWest Bank provides financial literacy education

Financial literacy education is coming to students and residents in western Montana thanks to TrailWest Bank. Students at 16 schools will benefit including Victor Middle School, Victor High School, Daly Elementary School, Victor School, Darby School and Darby grades 7-8. Students will have free access to Banzai, an award-winning online program and content library that allows users to practice real-world finance using any internet-enabled device. Victor Superintendent Diane Woodard said the free programming is a boost. "Our new Social Studies teacher Michelle Meyer will be teaching economics as a requirement for all seniors per the new legislation to be implemented one year from now," Woodard said. "We will begin this 2023-24 to be ahead of the game."

High Schoolers learn democracy at Montana American Legion's Boys State

HELENA - The Montana American Legion Boys State brought over 43 high school students from all over Montana into the Capital City this week. The Montana American Legion Boys State's mission is to teach high school junior boys the fundamentals of government; from city, county, and state.


The link between volunteering and academic performance

There are many reasons for parents to encourage children who express an interest in volunteering. Volunteering is a social activity that can help children develop their social and networking skills, and many parents credit volunteering with instilling a sense of perspective in their children that they might not have gained had they not been exposed to people from different backgrounds. Volunteering also has been linked to stronger academic performance.

JUNE 2023 Great News

Flathead speech and debate earns top awards at nationals

Flathead High School Speech and Debate recently competed at nationals in Arizona with two individuals taking second and fourth place and the team earned the 2023 School of Honor Award.


Flathead auto students complete decades-long Model A build

When Flathead High School automotive students realized the 1928 Ford Model A was finally completed after decades of work, it was a moment of excitement and relief.


Helena Public Schools flying high after $100K in grants from Boeing

Helena Public Schools is working to expand real-world training capacity for its students, and $100,000 in grants from Boeing is helping that along.

MFU Foundation awards Havre High $7,500 for ag programs

Community projects focused on education and agriculture around the state recently received a boost from the Montana Farmers Union and its funding foundation, which awarded nearly $30,000 in grants this month, including a grants to build a greenhouse and expand agricultural classes at Havre High School.


Troy educator nominated for teacher of year award

Local educator Anita Winslow has been nominated for the 2024 Montana Teacher of the Year award. Winslow, who teaches at W.F Morrison Elementary School, recently spoke to The Western News about her experiences in education. "I've always said 'I didn't choose to teach. Teaching chose me,'" Winslow said. According to the state Office of Public Instruction, the award recognizes teachers who elevate student success, empower innovation and enhance teacher leadership. "The Montana Teacher of the Year Program is an incredible opportunity for our teachers to be recognized and celebrated by their community and state, in doing so, bring awareness to the exceptional and passionate educators in our wonderful state and the children and families who deserve them," said 2023 Teacher of the Year Catherine Matthews.

Students, landowners using insects to kill noxious weeds in Jefferson County<o:p></o:p>

In a remote corner of Jefferson County between Townsend and Three Forks, high school students, a landowner, and some tiny insects are using an elegant method to get rid of noxious weeds in the area. Elegant, says Todd Breitenfeldt, a former high school teacher and current leader of the biological weed control program, because you are using the plant's own enemies against them as opposed to other methods like chemical sprays and goats.

High-schoolers get free, hands-on materials engineering experience at Montana Tech

After attending the week-long Materials Engineering Summer Camp at Montana Tech, which concluded Friday, incoming high school juniors and seniors from across Montana might tell you that they were "forged in fire. "Definitely not a blatant rip-off of the hit TV show Forged in Fire," Grant Wallace, a materials engineering research associate at Montana Tech, said jokingly to a room of around 30 high school students, media members and Tech graduate students and researchers.


Little Peeps program launches in Helena, provides free eye exams and glasses

Fourteen Helena-area students were given comprehensive eye exams and glasses – both free of charge – last month through the Little Peeps program, the first initiative of the nonprofit organization Mountain Health Gives. The students were identified as needing follow-up care after a vision screening by Helena Public Schools nurses, and care was provided by optometrists and opticians at Helena Vision Center. Children who were identified as needing care but were unable to participate during the clinic in May will be able to receive the service throughout the summer at Helena Vision Center. "Little Peeps has been a great resource for the nurses of Helena Public Schools," Helena school nurse Francis Leonard said. "It has granted access to vision care to our students who have not been able to afford eye exams or glasses." Last October, Mountain Health Gives received a gift of $750,000, directed to the organization by trial attorney and former Montana State Auditor John Morrison from the Butler Class Fund, to help launch Little Peeps.

Helena High team wins national award for computer game Harpoon Guy

The Helena High School Business Professionals of America computer science team described the computer game they created - which took second nationally at the Business Professionals of America (BPA) 2023 National Leadership Conference - as "a little man harpooning around," but Harpoon Guy is more complex than it sounds.

Three Kalispell teachers named educators of the year

Three educators were named Educator of the Year by the Kalispell Education Foundation. The educators are Edgerton Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Halle Fusaro; Kalispell Middle School health enhancement teacher Noah Couser and Glacier High School French teacher and International Languages Activities Coordinator Stephanie Hill.


Mariah's Challenge honors 20 local graduates

The Mariah's Challenge Scholarship Ceremony was held May 30 in the Montana Tech Library's auditorium. Twenty graduating seniors, all of whom abstained from illegal drug use and underage drinking, each earned a $1,000 scholarship to be used in the first year of attendance at a four-year college, trade school or vocational school. The students are Isaiah Bergren, Parker Brownback, Payton Clary, Tyler Duffy, Max Gallicano, Olivia Kohn, Aunika LeProwse, Gianna Liva, Chesney Lowe, Riley Lubick, Gabriella McPeek, Emma Meadow, Miranda Murray, Doug Peoples, Jasmine Richards, Jacob Sawyer, Madison Seaholm, Jonas Sherman, Ryan Tomich and Alex Watson. Mariah's Challenge was officially launched on Feb. 2, 2008, in honor of Mariah Daye McCarthy, 14, who was hit and killed by a 20-year-old drunken driver on Oct. 28, 2007. Mariah and two friends were walking to her home for a sleepover at the time. Her friends survived their injuries.

Eureka school project produces twin tiny homes

Over the past school year, students from Eureka High School have spent several hours each day inside a workshop north of town. They've driven nails, hung windows, put up sheetrock, sanded, primed and painted. With each step, raw materials partly purchased with federal COVID-19 relief funds have taken on the shape of two identical tiny homes: gray with single-sash windows and black trim, each fully wired and plumbed. The project has brought to fruition an idea that's been cooking in the mind of Eureka's school superintendent, Joel Graves, for several years. And next month, when both tiny homes go on the auction block, Graves intends for those proceeds to help fund a second year of his district's newest trades-based instructional endeavor. He sees the two tiny homes now nearing completion as merely the first in a series of investments in expanding the district's building trades education. "My hope is that we eventually will build one of these shops on our campus," Graves told Montana Free Press, referencing an infrastructure bond the district plans to put to voters this fall. "Right now, part of the reason I can only do two classes is because I have to bus kids out to the site and then bring them back and switch them in the middle of the day. So if we were on campus, I could probably do three two-hour classes instead of two three-hour classes."

Thompson SAR shares its mission with Libby youth

David Thompson Search and Rescue had a fun morning Friday with the Libby Elementary School second grade class as part of their field day. Members put on mini sessions to help them understand the role of their Search and Rescue organization which has been operating for 54 years. There were five stations, including the K-9 unit which works to help find lost people and the mountain unit which can set up rope systems that allow even a second grader to pull a truck easily. They also learned how to load a litter with a patient and move them over rough terrain as well as the effects of hypothermia by challenging them to pick pennies out of ice water for one minute.

Valier students get hooked on Montana

When Stacey O'Neal proposed entering the "Paint the State" art contest with her 7th & 8th grade classes, she didn't anticipate the level of talent and creativity that would emerge. Students submitted designs for a mural that would be painted on a prominent structure on the main drive through town, the car wash on Highway 44. "Paint the State is a program of the Montana Meth Project. The statewide public art contest engages Montana teens and adults in on-the-ground drug prevention. This summer, more than $100,000 will be awarded to winning participants including three $10,000 grand prizes! One entry could win up to $20,000. To compete, harness your passion and creativity to produce a monument-sized original public work of art that inspires drug-free lives and incorporates the Meth Project's "Not Even Once" message."

Troy High School Students Earn College Welding Certificates

Troy High School had ten high school students receive and pass their college certified welding test through Flathead Valley Community College. The leadership and knowledge from the two shop teachers, Mr. Thill and Mr. McClellan guided and inspired students to gain these certifications. The students celebrated with a steak lunch. Troy High School was the only school to get one hundred percent passing rate all on the first try. Only sixty five percent of students at FVCC pass this test.

Masons gift 26 Kindles to area elementary kids

Masons from Lower Yellowstone Lodge #90 in Sidney recently awarded 26 Kindle Fire7 tablets to elementary students representing 9 area schools in seven different communities. Students in Bainville, Culbertson, Fairview, Lambert, Poplar, Savage and Sidney were awarded the Kindles in recognition of their hard work as readers and leaders.

Student Read to Win Kindles

Thank you to the Masonic Unity Lodge #71 and The Grand Lodge of Montana AF & AM for sponsoring this reading program. Students in grades K – 6 read over the month of April and turned in tickets for the drawing.

Broadus Tree Board Sponsors Arbor Day

Mrs. Swenson's first grade class joined the Broadus Tree Board in sponsoring Arbor Day on May 19. Tree Board member Don Birkholz (pictured at, along with the first grade class and Swenson) led the preparation of the planting hole and the planting of a Haralson apple tree at the Powder River Manor. Students helped out enthusiastically by adding compost and soil and carrying water. Following the planting, Anne Amsden handed out Dr. Seuss pencils made of wood to each student and the class went inside to sing for the residents. The event was originally announced for April 28, the traditional Arbor Day (last Friday in April) but was twice delayed due to weather.

Charlo grad's lessons go beyond the classroom

From Montana, to Alaska to Texas, Charlo graduate Gus Shrider has traveled a long way – and surmounted challenges beyond those offered in the classroom or on the football field or track. Gus began his school journey attending preschool in Dixon, where his grandmother, Susie Loughlin, lived. As a kindergartner, he and his family moved to Alaska where his mom, Randi Shrider, taught in remote native villages and his father, James, worked for British Petroleum. The family moved often, and while that offered Gus an opportunity to meet new people, "it's hard starting over all the time," he said. "Every place is different – like this school is way different than all the other schools I've been to – it's a small school where everyone knows everyone." The Mission Valley is also a place with a rich family history. His mom, who teaches in the education division at Salish Kootenai College, was born and raised in St. Ignatius and graduated from Charlo High. His grandmother was also born in St. Ignatius and spent many years working for the Tribes prior to her death in 2022.

Ronan superintendent earns regional recognition

"If you surround yourself with the right people, good things happen," says Ronan Superintendent Mark Johnston. "You can't do it by yourself." Johnston was recently recognized by his peers in the western region of the Montana Association of School Superintendents as the area's Superintendent of the Year. The nod puts him in the running for Montana Superintendent of the Year – a title currently held by another Lake County administrator, Arlee Superintendent Mike Perry. The western region, one of nine, is comprised of around 40 school districts from Ronan to Darby, and Philipsburg to the Idaho border. Johnston first joined the Ronan School District in 2008 as vice principal at the high school. He was offered the job of middle school principal in 2010 and hired as superintendent in 2018. Johnston says his decision to become a teacher took root in his hometown of Butte, where he grew up in a trailer court, the son of divorced parents. He earned a full-ride wrestling scholarship to Montana State University in Bozeman, but "I bombed out after a year and a half and went back to Butte."

Hobson Teacher of the Year Janet Wichman

"Enjoy the sunrises and sunsets, And all that nature has to give. No more endless days and weekends at the school, You only have one life to live. Spend time with family and friends, They are the ones who really care. So never waste time wishing that you could have done much more…. It's time to watch those seeds you planted grow and trust God for what's in store." The above excerpt is from a poem read at the Hobson Kindergarten graduation last week while Mrs. Janet Wichman was presented an approximately 15-feet tall Canadian Chokecherry Tree from her last Hobson Kindergarten Class. She announced her retirement earlier this year. The Canadian Chokecherry has since been planted by Janet and her husband, Dave Wichman, at their home near Benchland. 

Small engine students roar on go-kart track

One can easily say that the first year of small engines at Superior High School was a game-changer for many students. "They are actually four-stroke certified once they graduate," said Matt Doughty, who put the curriculum together on a vision that he had with former superintendent Scott Kinney. "Scott liked the idea and between some special grant money and finding room in the bus barn, I had 27 students at the beginning of the year in three different periods," he said. Doughty was a student of Kinney's years ago when both lived in Plains and even played football and wrestled for coach Kinney, so their relationship was already solid when Kinney approached him to join the Superior school maintenance team last year. "That got my foot in the door and then we started exploring the curriculum for small engines," shared Doughty who had received his teacher's certificate by now. For a new program and curriculum, Doughty wanted it to be fun.

Reservation High School Powwows Honor Seniors

Mission, Ronan, and Arlee high schools held powwows to honor graduating seniors at the end of the school year. Mission high school seniors were honored on May 18 as they danced an honor song and were given gifts. Arlee seniors danced an honor song at their powwow on June 2 and were given gifts by the Indian Club. Several people were overjoyed to see powwows at the local high schools. Charlie Quequesah spoke about his own experience and hopes for the powwow held at Ronan High School on May 31.

NASA Lands in Roberts

Recently, Roberts School participated in 2 exciting NASA events. The first program was called the NASA AREN or National Aeronautics and Space Administration AEROKAT and ROVER program and it was held on Tuesday, May 16, at Roberts School. Roberts School enjoyed this special event because teacher Jen Larson met Suzi Taylor, of the MSU NASA program, at the Summer Institute teaching conference in Bozeman last summer. Taylor was leading a session on kites (AEROKATS) for science teachers. After the session was over, Larson introduced herself and asked if Taylor ever came to schools to do presentations. She said she would love to and mentioned that no one had ever asked her to do a school presentation before.

Unit 109 Names Poppy Poster Winners

In time for National Poppy Day, which was Friday, May 26, five Turner Public School (TPS) students were announced as 2023 Poppy Poster winners last month. American Legion Auxiliary (ALA), Unit 109 of Turner selected Isley Welsh, Gracie Zellmer, Savannah Heilig, Holly Grabofsky, and Meridian Snider as Unit honorees. Every year, the ALA sponsors a Poppy Poster Contest for students in grades 2-12, including students with special needs. Grade levels are divided into six classes with one winner being named in each category.

Native middle and high school students study STEM through program

Over 100 students will soon move onto the University of Montana campus and spend part of their summer vacation building their own computers, learning about color wavelengths and studying river ecology while floating the Clark Fork. The students will live like college freshmen – eating at the Food Zoo, going to class and learning about the environment around them – but none are older than a high school junior. It's the culmination of a year of hard work and anticipation for middle and high school students in the Montana American Indians in Math and Science (MT AIMS) program. The MT AIMS summer camp brings together students from Montana and beyond – largely from Native communities – to forge friendships, gain STEM skills and build pathways to college. 

MSU Billings professor leads Hardin students in an investigation of water

Montana State University Billings College of Education Assistant Professor Elaine Westbrook, Ed.D., recently led Hardin students in a month-long investigation into the importance of water, culminating with a presentation in the community. The Hardin Intermediate After-School Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Program partnered with Westbrook to research local water sources and the impacts of water on the Hardin community. During a three-part workshop over the month, students were able to learn about the movement of water, interview community members on their knowledge about local water, and develop a poster presentation featuring their gained knowledge. Students had hands-on opportunities to build a pump from PVC pieces capable of moving three gallons of water from one bucket to the next and talk with employees at the United State Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service and Little Big Horn College Water Quality Program. 

Harlem High film group releases documentary on blood quantum

A group of students at Fort Belknap Indian Reservation and Harlem High School has continued its work to look at serious issues through film, with the recently released film "Blood Quantum" which premiered April 29 at the "Guiding the Way from Our Past into Our Future" student film festival held in Harlem. The release was a continuation of the work of Harlem High School's Milk River Productions, guided by the Montana group that provides professional media arts instruction, MAPS Media Institute. That collaboration has led to a series of films and recognition, including the Milk River Productions film about how the Fort Belknap Indian Community is working to preserve its Aanniih and Nakoda cultures, "Looking Forward From Yesterday" being featured in 2020 at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Missoula and the Future Forward Film Festival in Portland, Oregon.

Student rides a horse to class on last day of school<o:p></o:p>

Montana has an old law saying if a student rides their horse to school, the school principal has to feed and tend to the horse throughout the day - or at least, there is an urban legend about such a law. But law or not, on a rainy Friday morning, West Elementary School student Dally Tigges and her parents slowly rode up First Avenue NW to the school on their horses. Friday was the last day of school for Great Falls Public Schools. "No!" Tigges quickly exclaimed when asked if she likes riding her horse in the rain. 

Corvallis shot put, discus rings a community effort

Partnerships are bringing throwing events into focus at Corvallis High School's Track. The Play Like Robert Foundation partnered with the RAPP Family Foundation to build competitive shot put and discus rings at the Corvallis Community Event Center. The goal was to bring shot put, discus and javelin closer to the track for more visibility, more crowd appreciation and more convenience for athletes. It also helps the athletes in those sports feel more involved in the track meets. The cost would have been around $10,000, but money from the Play Like Robert Foundation and RAPP Family Foundation along with volunteers made it possible at no cost to the school. 

Charting his own path: From PAL to the Navy

Helena Public Schools' Project for Alternative Learning (PAL) is graduating 23 students at 1 p.m. Friday at the Helena Middle School auditorium. HPS' Access to Success is graduating 36 students at the Helena Middle School auditorium at 9 a.m. on Friday. Kaleb Dullum arrived at PAL his sophomore year from Capital High School, and PAL gave him a renewed sense of hope for finishing high school. He said he would've dropped out without being accepted into PAL, a place he called a family.


Flathead High School senior finds resiliency in face of adversity

Flathead High School senior Jacob Fort has risen from the ashes of an abusive childhood and multiple placements in the foster care system with his kindness and compassion still intact.


Glacier High School senior thrives on helping others

Maggie Frisbee is a natural at connecting with people. Sitting in the foyer of Glacier High School, the senior often stops mid-conversation to say hello or smile at those who pass by. Frisbee served as a student aid for English teacher Carrie Power, who says she's exceptional because of how much joy she brings into a room.


Helena's C.R. Anderson Middle School wins $100K fitness center

C.R. Anderson Middle School had to flex a little creative muscle in order to be among three Montana campuses that will receive a $100,000 fully equipped fitness center in recognition of their promotion of fitness, healthy living and nutrition in their schools and community. Gov. Greg Gianforte said Wednesday that C.R. Anderson, along with Lodge Grass Elementary in Lodge Grass and Mission Middle in St. Ignatius, were the schools selected for the National Foundation for Governors' Fitness Councils' "NFGFC Don't Quit" campaign. As part of the application process, schools had to submit a video explaining why they deserved the equipment. Recipients were selected by National Foundation for Governors' Fitness Councils (NFGFC) for keeping their students fit. The fitness centers will be unveiled during ribbon cutting ceremonies this fall.

Bigfork High School senior perseveres through turbulent journey

Saying Bigfork High School senior Emma Dawson has dealt with a lot of heartache during her high school years would be a colossal understatement. Born with a hole between her right and left ventricle and a second hole in her aortic valve, Dawson battled her way through open-heart surgery and the subsequent recovery as a freshman, along with the rigors of Covid-19 pandemic, all without the benefit of a strong mother figure in her life. Life has never been normal for Dawson. As a young child, she spent much of her time in and out of various doctor's offices while having her heart condition constantly monitored. As she grew older, the hopes of the defects healing on their own did not materialize, but her doctors agreed to let her be more active and join youth sports activities, but results were mixed at best. "I played soccer and basketball just like every other kid, I just ran out of breath way easier than anyone else did. I would turn red because the murmur in my heart kept it from pumping as much blood as it should."


May 2023 Great News

Eureka school project produces twin tiny homes
Over the past school year, students from Eureka High School have spent several hours each day inside a workshop north of town. They've driven nails, hung windows, put up sheetrock, sanded, primed and painted. With each step, raw materials partly purchased with federal COVID-19 relief funds have taken on the shape of two identical tiny homes: gray with single-sash windows and black trim, each fully wired and plumbed. The project has brought to fruition an idea that's been cooking in the mind of Eureka's school superintendent, Joel Graves, for several years. And next month, when both tiny homes go on the auction block, Graves intends for those proceeds to help fund a second year of his district's newest trades-based instructional endeavor. He sees the two tiny homes now nearing completion as merely the first in a series of investments in expanding the district's building trades education. "My hope is that we eventually will build one of these shops on our campus," Graves told Montana Free Press, referencing an infrastructure bond the district plans to put to voters this fall. "Right now, part of the reason I can only do two classes is because I have to bus kids out to the site and then bring them back and switch them in the middle of the day. So if we were on campus, I could probably do three two-hour classes instead of two three-hour classes."

Paris Gibson Education Center graduates walk the stage
Its a time high school seniors have been preparing years for - graduation season is upon us, and it's a busy weekend for Great Falls Public Schools graduates. On Friday afternoon, a graduation ceremony was held for the Career and College Readiness Center. On Friday night, 97 Paris Gibson Education Center students donned their caps and gowns and walked across the stage at Montana Expopark to receive their diplomas, with scores of family and friends watching with pride.

Quick pics: Rocky Boy Celebrates graduation
Rocky Boy High School Class of 2023 Valedictorian Kellen Ryder Colliflower speaks Thursday evening in the high school gymnasium to his fellow graduates at the school's graduation ceremony. Colliflower thanked his fellow students along with many teachers for staying by his side through difficult times. While their paths may diverge as this part of their lives ends, he said, they will always have the experiences of being together. "After all the challenges, you have made it," he said. "You've shown what determination and perseverance looks like."

Columbia Falls High School senior pushes through grief to find strength
Columbia Falls High School senior Carli Harrah is ready for the next chapter. Facing grief head-on as an underclassman, she came out stronger on the other side and ready to pursue a career in the medical field. When she lost her father to suicide a couple of years ago, Harrah said it became very difficult to find interest in school. "At the time, I felt like I could have done better things to help with my mental state and I felt like school was just not helping with anything ... It was just hard being around people when something so big happens to you and they can't really go through it with you- they don't know what you're going through and nobody can really help," Harrah said. One of the only helpful things about school was chatting with Columbia Falls High Counselor Brian Crandell. "Carli is one of the strongest people I have ever met. She went directly at all the feelings and psychological baggage that come with a parent dying. She was open, candid, vulnerable and honest about just how much it hurt to lose her dad," Crandell said.

Whitefish High School senior finds opportunity in life's challenges
Amber Samuels, as her teachers describe her, has a profound impact on those around her. Likewise, Samuels, who will graduate from Whitefish High School on Saturday, attributes all the good experiences she has had in the school system to her teachers. "I'm definitely just really thankful for all of the teachers I have had," Samuels said. "They are amazing teachers." Samuels was born hard of hearing. Born in Kalispell and growing up in Whitefish, she often found it difficult to interact with other kids because she couldn't really understand them. At 6 months old, she got her first pair of hearing aids which she used up until the end of middle school. She was the first - and for a while the only - deaf student to go through the Whitefish school system.

Independent Elementary School teacher recognized by 'One Class at a Time'

Q2, Western Security Bank, City Brew Coffee and Education Foundation for Billings Public Schools have teamed up for "One Class at a Time." The program recognizes teachers who go above and beyond to help their students. Meet Jurell Lindford, a second-grade teacher who has done an amazing job building a loving and caring atmosphere for his students.

Bozeman, Big Sky students named U.S. Presidential Scholars
In May, two area high school seniors were recognized on a national level, being named as Montana's U.S. Presidential Scholars for 2023. Up to 161 students per year are named as presidential scholars, and it's one of the highest honors given to high school students. There is no associated prize or scholarship, but the winners will take the honor with them as they move forward in their academic lives. There were six semifinalists from Montana this year, and only two were from the Bozeman area. Around 60 students from Montana were nominated.

Something that lasts: Gallatin High breaks ground on new green space
As the school year winds down, students at Gallatin High School came out to play on Tuesday. Across the front and side yards of the school, ladder balls, bean bags, frisbees and spike balls flew through the unseasonably chilly air as students took advantage of Gallatin High's new green space. Members of The Democracy Project club "broke ground" on the space, which mostly involved posing with shovels to avoid digging up the grass.

Hundreds of local students take part in Girls on the Run 5K
More than 450 girls, spectators, volunteers and community members gathered on Sunday, May 21 for the Girls on the Run Flathead Valley celebratory 5K event, the culminating moment of the Girls on the Run season, aptly called the Super Power 5K. Donning brightly colored capes and masks, girls from nine elementary and middle schools across the Valley (including Edgerton Elementary School, Helena Flats Elementary School, Muldown Elementary School, Elrod Elementary School, Hedges Elementary School, Rankin Elementary School, Helena Flats Junior High School and Kalispell Middle School), as well as girls from the Boys and Girls Club of Flathead Reservation and Lake County in Ronan, gathered together at Edgerton Elementary School to celebrate the culmination of the spring Girls on the Run season

Strawberry fields are still forever at Bozeman High '60s Museum
Elvis is alive, and he's teaching at Bozeman High School. Alongside wife Priscilla, the king of rock and roll strode the halls on Monday, curling his lip at every 1960s historical or pop culture figure imaginable as the junior advanced placement classes put on the 19th annual 1960s Museum. The Presleys were played by Advanced Placement (AP) American Studies class co-teachers Jennie Tranel and Derek Strahn. The museum is part of an assignment that teaches students about different aspects of the historical decade that included Vietnam, the Cold War, civil rights protests, a presidential assassination and more.

Students from across Montana simulate NASA moon missions at MSU
Moon dust flew from under the tires of a home-built rover on Friday as a team of middle schoolers tested their wheel design on a simulated lunar surface. Nearby, a moon crater mock-up was taped to the floor so students could run their LEGO cruisers in and out as they collected "data" from inside the crater. Forty students from fifth to 12th grade had the chance to get a taste of what it's like to plan and execute a moon mission during the Rover Observation and Drone Survey (ROADS) event at Montana State University. The program is run through Northwest Earth & Space Sciences Pathways, funded by NASA through a grant intended to reach underserved and underrepresented students. Participants came from Thompson Falls, Roberts, Hardin and Missoula. They have all been working on their projects since January.

Log by log, middle school students build history lesson
Outside in a courtyard at Kalispell Middle School, a small log cabin - the handiwork of eighth-graders - is taking shape log by log. "All of the people coming out to Montana in the late 1800s would have built really similar structures with the trees from the landscape," says Montana History teacher Kris Schreiner as he opens an exterior door revealing the structure. The log cabin build is part of a homesteading unit the students are learning, which ties into other lessons Schreiner teaches on Montana's timber industry, mountain men and the fur trade. The 14 by 14 house, or "single-pen," meant close living quarters for pioneers and settlers with families. "This is everything," Schreiner said - living room, kitchen and bedroom. "They just needed a roof over their head to get ahead; to take advantage of the resources that we have in Montana to have a better life."

Bigfork history teacher gains perspective from travels
While Bigfork High School history teacher Cynthia Wilondek is passionate about the past, her own history is filled with interesting accounts of travels and jobs abroad that eventually led her back to Montana. "With teaching American history, it's really given me a broader perspective of our place in the world and our responsibility to it. You know, we do so many things so well and it's great to be able to kind of appreciate that both as somebody who lives here as well as somebody who's been abroad," Wilondek said. When Wilondek, who grew up in eastern Montana, graduated from Rocky Mountain College with a degree in history political science education she was ready for the opportunities life presented. While seeking a letter of recommendation from a college advisor to possibly participate in the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program, Wilondek ran into the dean of students who, coincidentally, was traveling to the college's sister school in Japan the following week.

Billings Public Schools helps honor 1908 graduate
Billings School District 2 placed a plaque at the Lincoln Center on Tuesday afternoon to honor Hazel Hunkins Hallinan, who helped get women the right to vote. It's part of the William G. Pomeroy Foundation's National Votes For Women Trail, which includes one woman from each state. The marker has the suffragette colors of yellow, white, and purple. Hunkins was the valedictorian for the class of 1908 when the Lincoln Center was known as Billings High School. She then went to Vassar College and the University of Missouri. Hunkins was instrumental in helping pass the 19th Amendment and getting women the right to vote.

A real page-turner: Radley Elementary School gets free books from family's nationwide tour
The creators of "The Cookie Chronicles" series are traveling the country on their Busload of Books Tour and giving away 25,000 copies of their books to Title I schools, schools with high poverty rates, in every state. East Helena was among the stops. "The Cookie Chronicles" is a young adult fiction series of five books that follows young Ben Yokoyama and the lessons he learns along the way from cracking open fortune cookies. Series creators husband and wife Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr and their four kids spent the 2022-23 school year traveling in a tiny home school bus. Their mission, by giving away books, is to spread awareness of the challenges facing public schools in America, such as budget deficits, the banning of books and more. The family stopped by Radley Elementary in East Helena last Friday to give away books on their Montana stop.

Bigfork student wins top writing awards
Bigfork High School student Wyatt Barnes is the 2023 Authors of the Flathead student writing competition winner for his poem "My Eyes Belong to Me." Barnes was awarded $300 and free tuition to attend the Flathead River Writers Conference in the fall. His poem was also forwarded to the Whitefish Review literary journal for consideration. This is not the first award Barnes has received for his writing. This year, he entered the prestigious Scholastic Art and Writing competition and won a Silver Key for his poem "Message in a Bottle" and honorable mention for "Captain's Log" for the West region at-large. "I've always been interested in writing," Barnes said, noting he makes an effort to sit down and write at least once a month outside of school work. "I do my best writing on my own outside of school," he said.

Box Elder Staff Appreciation Week a success
Box Elder Schools is finishing up today a new and improved Staff Appreciation Week, which their administration is hoping will give school employees a morale boost going into the end of the year.

Bozeman High speech and debate heading to Africa
If the Bozeman High School Hawkers speech and debate team win any more trophies, they may have to take over a second classroom. Their skills will take them to yet another national competition in mid-June. This year, though, the students' dedication to their craft doesn't stop at structured competition. Due to a kismet of events, 11 team members are headed to Tanzania this summer to teach other students and coaches how to become champion speakers and debaters. The trip came about from a chance meeting.

Como Schoolhouse celebrates National Register of Historic Places listing
With a recent Historic Preservation Award from the Montana Historical Society and a freshly minted listing on the National Register of Historic Places, the Como Schoolhouse near Darby sure has a lot to celebrate these days. Nestled among towering Ponderosa pine trees, not far from the banks of the Bitterroot River, the 120-year-old schoolhouse was officially added to the National Register of Historic Places in December 2022. On May 21 at 6 p.m., the Como Schoolhouse Association will celebrate the designation with the dedication of an official plaque, marking the schoolhouse's place on the historic registry. The plaque was recently mounted on a boulder outside the historic schoolhouse. The event will serve as an unveiling to the community as well as an opportunity for people to tour the grounds and learn more about the local landmark.

Vucanovich scholarships benefit 17 seniors from Butte and Helena
This year's recipients of the George and Emily Vucanovich Educational Trust Scholarship Fund include Gianna Liva, Jack Prigge, Jace Stenson, Mia Keeley, Camille Kautzman, Ashlyn Burnett, Brooke Badovinac, Abby Mellott, Grace Vincent, Olivia Kohn, Bryn Godbout, Alexandria Kovnesky, Reid Whitlock, Payton Clary, Casey Merrifield, Keaton Snyder and Canyon Mullaney. Established in 2004, the scholarship fund benefits graduating seniors from Butte and Helena.

To college or not to college? More high schoolers looking at vocations
Grace Finley likes looking at people's faces and making them beautiful. "I like the feeling of a new haircut and a new color because you kind of feel refreshed and renewed and like you kind of have a new slate," she said. When Finley, 17, was in eighth grade, she dyed her own hair for the first time and was hooked. Ever since, she has been interested in making cosmetology her career after high school. Right now, she's in the HiSET (High School Equivalency Test) Options Program with Bozeman Public Schools. Like Finley, more graduating students in Bozeman are choosing not to attend a four-year college right away, and advisers say they're moving away from pushing college as the only option.

HHS Envirothon Team heads to international competition in Canada
A Hamilton High School Envirothon Team is heading to compete internationally in New Brunswick, Canada, after winning first place in the statewide competition.  HHS Envirothon Team coach Marie Antoniol and Birch Fett said four of the five students on the first-place team are able to travel to Canada, and they pulled in an alternate from a different team at Hamilton High. The Montana competition was at the end of April in Great Falls. Envirothon is a competition for high school students based in environment education involving range, soils, aquatics, wildlife and forestry. Students compete by taking tests about those topics and work toward solving current issues in the natural environment. Hamilton students study all year - learning the details of their focus topic. They work with mentors, take field trips and research for greater knowledge. The HHS team has been successful through the years thanks to dedicated professionals investing in youth.

Mining City History: Grant school principal led Montana Teachers' Association
Butte's public schools had a total enrolment of 7,245 in 1906, a significant increase over the 5,949 counted in 1900. The 3,761 girls and 3,484 boys were instructed by a total of 210 teachers, plus 14 principals and a substitute corps of 10, spread over 14 schools. The greatest enrolment in 1900 was at Lincoln School, with 909, but Grant was a close second at 885 students, and Grant was the most populous school in 1906. The six-month revenue for the district totaled $120,440.89 in 1906, derived from a county apportionment of $60,854, a state allotment of $35,481, the special Industrial School Fund of $15,709, and a library fund of almost $8,400. They also held a general fund of $125,000.

Incoming Park High freshman learn about activities and athletics
The enticing rhythm of the snappy Park High School jazz band could be heard from the school foyer on Wednesday afternoon as Band Director Garrett Stannard led on stand-up bass.

Students' berry nice idea comes to fruition: Huckleberry now state fruit
Behold the huckleberry. It's now Montana's official state fruit. Gov. Greg Gianforte signed House Bill 880 into law Wednesday to designate the huckleberry as the official fruit of Montana. It was a result of students at Vaughn Elementary School who pitched him on the need for bill. Gianforte credited the students for bringing the huckleberry bill to fruition. "Whether you like them in jam, pancakes, or picked fresh off the bush, huckleberries are a Montana staple," he said in a news release.

Bitterroot Valley Fourth Grade Farm Fair in photos  Youth from across the Bitterroot Valley got a taste of life on the farm at the The Fourth Grade Farm Fair on Friday, May 5 at the Ravalli County Fairgrounds.

Margaret Leary to conduct major safety drill Thursday  Margaret Leary Elementary School will be participating in a safety exercise today. The safety drill will simulate a fire, and all students and staff will be evacuated and taken to another location. Fire engines, police and emergency medical services will be on site to test their responses. One of the school's objectives is to test its reunification process that will be used to get students safely back with parents after an emergency situation

Reach Higher Montana gives away $40,000 in scholarships and prizes to high school seniors  The nonprofit Reach Higher Montana has given out about $40,000 in scholarships and prizes to Montana high school seniors this year as part of their Senior Send-Off contest. We are immensely proud of all the students who participated in the Senior Send-Off contest and commend them for their remarkable accomplishments," said Kelly Cresswell, executive director of Reach Higher Montana. "These scholarships and prizes represent our commitment to fostering access and equity in education, and we are honored to play a role in helping these exceptional students realize their potential."

Emily Dickinson Elementary earns Professional Learning Community status  When teachers collaborate, students win. That's the theory behind becoming a Professional Learning Community, or PLC, model school, an official designation given to schools that meet PLC standards. In late April, Emily Dickinson Elementary School received its PLC designation, becoming the second school in the state to do so. The other Montana school is also right here in Bozeman: Hawthorne Elementary.

One Class at a Time: Missoula English language tutor "Ms. Liz"
Missoula has welcomed refugee families from many different countries in recent years. While Montana might feel like a long way from home for incoming refugees, there is a local teacher who spends her days trying to make young students comfortable in their new homes. This week's One Class at a Time winner is Elizabeth Fullerton - Ms. Liz. She's a well-traveled and well-spoken English language learner tutor for Missoula County Public Schools. She speaks Spanish, Russian, a bit of Turkish, and more. "I also decided to study Arabic because I was really interested in it. And then after college, I had an opportunity to volunteer teaching English in Tajikistan, I worked in a language school that was actually for Afghans and then after that, I was in the Peace Corps in Kazakhstan."

'Keep the medicine going': Polson teacher inspires boys to wear hair long
In 2021, when Rod First Strike was working as a cultural specialist at Linderman Elementary in Polson, he noticed a lot of kindergarten and first-grade boys were being teased for wearing their hair long. Hair holds significance in Indigenous cultures. It's seen as a source of strength, connecting Native Americans to their ancestors. And often, when a loved one dies, Native people may choose to cut their hair short to symbolize the profound loss. Some say long hair is a sign of resilience, as Native people were forced to cut their hair short as a form of assimilation in government-run boarding schools. And in some places, long hair remains controversial. A network of charter schools in North Carolina has a policy prohibiting male students from wearing long hair, and the Native American Rights Fund intervened, urging the school to "permanently remove the discriminatory and outdated assimilationist policy."

Farm Fair returns for Gallatin County fourth graders
Tuesday morning at the Brainard Ranch, some kids shook tin cans to make homemade ice cream while others practiced milking cows. Another group rode horse-pulled trailers to a hamburger lunch, while still others pored over photographs to identify noxious weeds. It was a busy day for the Gallatin County fourth graders - and the dozens of volunteers who are helping put on this year's Farm Fair. Organized by the Bozeman and Belgrade Chamber of Commerce agriculture committee, the annual Farm Fair invites all the fourth grade classes in Gallatin County for a day on the ranch.

Helena High School's state champ mock trial team headed for nationals
Not many teams compete against each other for the state championship, but Helena High School's mock trial teams did to win their fourth-straight state championship. And they are headed for nationals next week. "I really, really like the sense of community we formed this year and how walking into it, most of my team didn't know what was happening and we were able to raise a team that won state," said Malaina Kloberdanza, a senior and captain of the state championship team. "I think that the way we bonded this year is insane compared to other years, and without this weirdly uniquely put-together team we wouldn't have won." State competition took place on March 3-4 at Carroll College. Kloberdanza is the only member in the program who has done mock trial all four years of her high school career. She stated that her team had a member who had to drop out a week before state for medical reasons, which left three people walking into their first trial who had never done a run through for their roles. The fictional criminal case for state was about a stolen computer chip.

Bugs, birds and fish: Billings science classes learn outdoors
Red-winged blackbirds were trilling, captured carp were splashing and muskrats swam unafraid past Billings high school students gathering at the Shiloh Conservation Area on Monday. At a variety of stations around the park, led by several science educators, the students gathered information on bugs and birds to take back to the classroom for their ecology unit. The outings are spread out over three days this week to accommodate all of the ecology students. "A lot of these students have never gotten to do anything like this," said Sarah Lord, a Billings Senior High School science teacher. "There's value in being outside." The bird-watching unit started with the basics: how to use binoculars, take off the lens caps and look through the right end. They also began by simply listening to the different sounds made by birds circling the ponds or hanging onto the stalks of last year's crisp, brown cattails.

Belgrade High's cooking team competes in national competition
Culinary arts teacher Kortney Douma stood at the center of a whirlwind at Belgrade High School on Monday as 10 students banged pots and pans and found homes for bowls full of butter after their trip to Washington D.C. for the ProStart national cooking competition May 2-4. As the students' chatter mixed with the inspirational notes of Disney showtunes on the stereo, Douma talked of her pride and attachment to the juniors and seniors in her ProStart class, some of whom she has taught since they were in elementary school. ProStart has been running nationwide for 23 years and is a two-year culinary arts and restaurant management program for high school students. Each year, ProStart teams compete against others in their state for a chance at nationals in Washington D.C., where they compete against some pretty stiff competition.

Students explore Bitterroot river
Students from Hamilton High School's Classroom Without Walls program gathered along the banks of Hieronymus Pond in Hamilton on Wednesday to celebrate the culmination of months of work with the release of more than 100 rainbow trout fry they raised as part of a class science experiment.

99th Vigilante Day Parade strolls through downtown
It didn't rain on Helena's parade - even with rain in an early forecast and threatening skies in the morning. The 99th Vigilante Day Parade floated its way through downtown Helena Friday with 88 floats built by local high school students, portraying the history of the Helena area. The parade was first held in 1924 when Helena High principal Albert Roberts wanted to create a healthy outlet for class rivalry.

Box Elder Schools BPA team brings home national awards
Box Elder Middle Schoolers took home some national awards last week from the Business Professionals of America National Leadership Conference in Anaheim, California, with four projects winning places at the top of their categories. <o:p></o:p>The event sees more than 6,000 middle school, high school and college students from around the U.S. compete in project categories ranging from web design and broadcast news to multimedia promotions and business planning in a series of events.

Making 'being smart cool again': 36 students compete in City Hall of Fame
Thirty-six elementary school students and a crowd of spectators gathered in the Butte High School Auditorium on Thursday for the Butte School District City Hall of Fame. Nik Weiss, a fifth-grader from West Elementary School, won the competition with 24,600 points

Trio of students appreciate Laurie Rossberg
<o:p></o:p>It's Teacher Appreciation Week at East Middle School and for the past few days, students have rolled out the red carpet for their educators. Thanks to the students, a hearty breakfast was served. They picked up the tab on a four-course lunch, and those small gifts and party favors that were handed out - well, that was all thanks to the students, too. Laurie Rossberg was among the nearly 60 teachers honored. The week has been bittersweet for the longtime educator, who will be closing out her career at the end of this school year. The classroom has been her home-away-from-home for more than 40 years. Rossberg, who has taught at East for 32 years, decided it was time to clean out her desk, which will take a while, and move on to her next adventure. She will be missed. Earlier this week, three eighth graders, Nimalka De Alwis, Harper Harryman and Lamar Watson, sat down to share just how much they have appreciated the Rossberg and the life lessons she has taught.

'This is huge for us': Arlee gets fleet of balance bikes
If it's true that once you learn to ride a bicycle you never forget, then Arlee's kindergartners won't forget May 3, either.  On Wednesday morning, Arlee Elementary School's three-dozen kindergartners were surprised with a fleet of brand new balance bikes donated to the school for a new learn-to-ride program. The bikes, which don't have pedals or training wheels, allow a child to propel themselves forward by walking with their feet astride the bike. As they develop a sense of balance, kids can lift their feet to coast forward and truly ride. The models donated in Arlee can be equipped with pedals once a child masters balance.

Bitterroot high school trade students connect to industry professionals
The Bitterroot Shedz School Trades Program is investing in valley students by connecting them to trade classes to expand their academic career paths. On Tuesday, Bitterroot Shedz delivered all the components for students to build a shed to Stevensville and Victor High Schools. Bitterroot Shedz Project Manager Sam Fawcett said the program is an outreach effort. "Essentially, it is Bitterroot Shedz giving back to the community," Fawcett said. "We want to be part of the community and we're helping build the community. Our motto is 'building the valley' and we want to help build the valley. For us it is about teaching the trades, getting people involved and providing opportunities."

'Napoleon Dynamite' producer visits Darby
Napoleon Dynamite" producer and children's book author Sean Covel visited the Darby School District and read from of his "Porter the Hoarder" book series recently. "The students were very familiar with the 'Porter the Hoarder' book series, as each of them had received a previous copy of a 'Porter the Hoarder' book through the Stock Farm Greater Ravalli Foundation, which supplies all the elementary schools in the valley with a Porter the Hoarder books," said Darby Superintendent Tony Biesiot. Covel later gave his "TED" talk to the community. The April 17 family engagement also included tater tot nachos to keep with the "Napoleon Dynamite" theme.  "Sean challenged the audience to change their mindset to 'how' rather than 'can' when asking their brain a question," Biesiot said. "In doing so he shared  engaging and very entertaining stories about his life, from producing 'Napoleon Dynamite' to being a hometown celebrity and being on the 'Price is Right.'"

Helena, Central Elementary celebrate Arbor Day with historic planting re-enactment
Central Elementary School third-grader Kamron Jones triumphantly waved two of the bright pink marking flags Helena Open Lands staff placed to designate sites for 150 ponderosa pine seedlings to be planted in the burn area on the northeast face of Mount Helena Friday as part of the city's annual Arbor Day celebration. Kamron and his friend and classmate Noah Riverman choose adjacent sites to plant their trees. The pair called them "buddy trees." Helena Open Lands Manager Brad Langsather said the planting sites were chosen for the afternoon shade they provide to the seedlings, and that some of the larger stumps left behind by trees burned in the August fire provided enough shade for two seedlings. "The friends have been planting their trees together," Langsather said. Following their success, Kamron and Noah scampered across the still-scorched mountainside, gradually greening with spring, to join another friend and check on his tree

Helena Public Schools joins with HPD for Handle with Care program
Helena Public Schools and the Helena Police Department have another way among many to better support students -- the Handle with Care program. "Knowing that a student has experienced a traumatic event outside of school will help us meet that student where they are emotionally when they return to the classroom," Helena Public Schools Superintendent Rex Weltz said in a news release. "While we won't know specific details of the event, we will be prepared to give the student the support they need to continue learning and succeeding at school." The program is a partnership that establishes a confidential protocol for law enforcement to notify school personnel if they respond to a traumatic incident that involves a student. The notification doesn't contain details about the traumatic event -- it only includes the student's name and the instruction "Handle with Care."

April 2023 Great News

Great falls students, schools honored as part of Month of the Military Child
Students, schools, and military personnel were honored Thursday as Great Falls Public Schools commemorated the Month of the Military Child at the Early Learning Family Center. The Purple Up Recognition Lunch, hosted by GFPS Superintendent Tom Moore, featured guest speakers from state and military leadership in Montana, including Office of Public Instruction Superintendent Elsie Arntzen and Mission and Support Group Commander Col. Christopher Karns of Malmstrom Air Force Base. Karns said he's had 13 assignments during his 28-year military career. In that time, his 18-year-old son has attended 10 different schools, and his 14-year-old son eight.

Art bringing Northern Cheyenne students 'closer together'
There are thousands of stories in a pair of shoes, from their origins to their ultimate decay. For students at Lame Deer High School, shoes have also become artistic muses. The assignment: Deconstruct and rebuild a shoe using new materials and forms. Not just any shoe, but Nike's iconic Air Force 1. Twenty-two pairs of blank new sneakers were donated to the high school through a partnership with Nike, Portland-based fashion designer Palani Bear Ghost, and Nike's N7 Fund, which provides grants to support positive experiences in sport and physical activity for Native youth. "I wanted to empower the students while working with them, inspiring them to tap into their imaginations and freedom of expression," said Bear Ghost, an enrolled member of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation whose grandmother was Northern Cheyenne. She is including student designs on fabric as part of an upcoming release through her fashion brand, No End Of Designs.

MCPS to host Native Youth Powwow honoring graduates
A Native Youth Powwow will honor 2023 graduates in Missoula. Missoula County Public Schools' Native American Student Services Department will host the event this Saturday at Sentinel High School. Grant entry takes place at 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. The event is free and all are welcome.

Two Helena educators named finalists for highest government education award
Two Helena science teachers have been named state-level finalists for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. "A lot of times it's isolating as an educator, and people don't necessarily see what you do every day," said Sarah Urban, a science teacher at Capital High School and finalist. "It's hard to get a whole picture of it, so an (award) is always surprising and exciting." The National Science Foundation administers the award on behalf of The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Every other year, the applications alternate between kindergarten through sixth grade teachers applying and seventh through 12th grade teachers applying. In 2023, the applications were for seventh through 12th grade teachers. Megan Lane teaches science at C.R. Anderson Middle School and has taught there since 2004. Urban has taught at Capital since 2005.

Bozeman School District, United Way partner for summer camps
The Bozeman School District is partnering with Greater Gallatin United Way this summer to provide an early literacy camp for kids entering kindergarten. It's the district's first summer camp project in several years, said early literacy teacher Megan Roth. United Way's kidsLINK program puts on the camp, while BSD provides space and staff for the early literacy component through its Bozeman Reads program. The kidsLINK camp also includes activities for kids up to 5th grade. "On a personal level, I feel like this is kind of a collaboration that just makes sense," said kidsLINK program director Ben Frentsos.

'A level of realism': PAL students balance their budgets at financial reality fair
I learned it's hard to adult in today's society" wrote one Project for Alternative Learning student, noting how life can be unfair at the financial reality fair put on Wednesday by Rocky Mountain Credit Union. This was the second year in a row since COVID-19 that the credit union put this event on at the Project for Alternative Learning, also known as PAL. "This is our favorite reality fair we do every year," said Kelly Fleiner, director of marketing and public relations at Rocky Mountain Credit Union. "I promise you PAL is my favorite school to come to. You guys are my favorite students. You guys always have the most fun with this, and I appreciate it." Students started by picking a job from a pre-made list. Some of the jobs were attorney, electrician, police officer, writer and more. Education requirements, prior experience needed, health insurance and benefits and monthly salary were also listed alongside each job.

FCHS counselor Alli Bristow is the 2023 Montana State Counselor of the Year
A Florence-Carlton High School counselor has been selected as the 2023 Montana State Counselor of the Year by the American School Counselor Association and the Montana School Counselor Association. Alli Bristow has been a school counselor since 2006. "I feel that this award is for all of our school counselors in Montana," Bristow said. "They are all hardworking and dedicated. The award feels honoring but also I hope to be a good advocate for our profession, lifting up all the school counselors and their important roles in the state." She said that a big part of advocacy is making sure students have access to counseling. A recent challenge through the Office of Public Instruction attempted to change the ratios of counselors to students.

'This one feels special': CHS gets dramatic with 'Witness for the Prosecution'
Come witness Capital High School's "Witness for the Prosecution" by Agatha Christie set to open 6 p.m. Thursday. "We usually do comedies in the spring just because they're fun and the kids love doing them and it stretches them with timing and actively listening to each other," said Laura Brayko, who has taught drama and English at Capital for 8 years. "It became abundantly clear with a courtroom drama like 'Oh, we don't have doors slamming or maids missing or mistaken identities. It's all language, rhetoric and presence - a whole new skill set.'" As the play goes, Leonard Vole, is arrested and accused of murdering a wealthy older lady, Emily French, who suspiciously made him her main heir. Vole's wife Romaine, played by senior Lou Sechrist, chooses to testify but as a witness for the prosecution and not for the defense. Her complicated plan is to ultimately free her husband, but will it work?

Farm to School workshops planned in Gardiner
Foods that are raised and grown in the Treasure State are taking center stage in Gardiner next Friday for the Farm to School workshops. The National Center for Appropriate Technology will join with Farm to School of Park County, Gardiner Public Schools and other partnering organizations to host the workshops, which provide general training on Farm to School programs and Montana Harvest of the Month.

Area students in Optimist International speech contest to compete at state
The first and second place finishers from the local Optimist International Oratorical Contest competition will advance, along with other students from Western Montana, to the Montana Regional Competition to be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Lockwood High School. "All the students competing in the Zone contest did a wonderful job presenting their speeches about the topic posed to them." District Oratorical Chair Gail Strever said. "All who heard them speak have no doubt that these students have a bright future ahead of them." The students are sponsored by the Optimist Clubs of Yellowstone County, which have encouraged area students to speak their minds about the topic "Discovering the Optimism Within Me" as part of the Optimist International Oratorical Contest for the 2022-2023 year. In the past six weeks four local clubs have held competitions, advancing eight students to a Zone competition which was held on April 8th. First and second place finishers from those zone competitions will now compete in the state contest in Lockwood.

Statewide summer program prepares kids for kindergarten
For the third year, the Montana Office of Public Instruction has partnered with and online education platform to provide 1,000 Montana kids with free early literacy, math and science education to get them ready to enter kindergarten. According to spokesperson John McCann, the Upstart Summer Learning Path uses a fun and engaging program that often gets participants reading at nearly a first grade level upon entering kindergarten. "Sometimes a kid doesn't even realize that he or she (is) learning something," McCann said. The program removes educational barriers by providing a laptop and internet service to families who don't have those resources, McCann said. The family gets to keep the laptop at the end of the summer.

Middle school girls take over MSU campus for STEAM Day
Middle school girls from across the state got to build things and break things in the name of science on Saturday as Montana State University held its annual STEAM Day. Formerly known as Expanding Your Horizons, STEAM, or Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math, Day gave 120 girls the chance to learn about everything from how plants work to the search for alien life forms using research from Yellowstone National Park. Girls in grades six to eight participated in workshops with the aim of introducing them to careers in a field largely dominated by men. Jillian Welsh, Program Manager from the Academic Technology and Outreach Department, said the number of women in STEAM fields is increasing, but it helps to introduce girls to these fields at a formative age.

A bear is killed at school, a student documentary film ensues
Not many seventh-graders produce a documentary film that screens at an international film festival. But not many seventh-graders watch as a police officer shoots and kills a black bear just outside their schoolyard fence, either. It was that wild moment last fall that motivated students at the Alberton School to learn about how and why bears come into conflict with humans around the small town 30 minutes west of Missoula - and what could be done about it. The story of bear conflict in Alberton, and recent efforts by concerned residents to secure bear attractants, are chronicled in "Fatal Attractants," a roughly 15-minute documentary planned, filmed and edited by five seventh-graders and one eighth-grader in the school's project-based learning class. The film earned support from the International Wildlife Film Festival, Montana Arts Council and National Endowment for the Arts.

Photo: Highland Elementary receives Strider bikes
Jared Harris with HDR Engineering announces a Strider bike donation to Highland Elementary kindergarteners on Wednesday. The Billings company donated 24 bikes, helmets and pedal kits as part of the All Kids Bike initiative. HDR has donated $150,000 to All Kids Bike, designating $18,000 to three schools in Montana.

Anderson School's 'Seussical' will make your heart grow three sizes
The stage at Emerson Cultural Center was a riot of color on Tuesday, filled with Whos from Whoville, Yertle the Turtle, the Cat in the Hat and the sharp-eared Horton the elephant, all singing a finale number for "Seussical" put on by Anderson School. Even the grumpy old Grinch makes an appearance in a play that incorporates elements of more than 20 Dr. Seuss stories. The parts in Anderson's production are played by 55 students from fourth through eighth grade. Directors Stephani Lourie and Laurie Kinna have been working on Anderson School plays since the 1990s, and they credit that longevity to the benefits the productions have on their participants. "It's so much fun, and it's so good for kids," said Lourie. Lourie said the actors learn to work as a group and learn new skills as part of being in the play. "I mean, this is intense music," said Kinna. "If you know anything about music, this is some tough stuff, and they just nail it."

Belgrade Battle of the Bands raises $10k for music program
The first annual Belgrade Battle of the Bands saw hundreds of people show up to support the Belgrade Schools' music department to the tune of more than $10,000, according to a news release from event organizers sent this week. Sponsored by the Panther Music Boosters, the two-day event pitted local bands against each other for some pretty rockin' prizes. The cover bands competed on March 31 for a shot at an Epiphone SG Classic Worn P-90S Electric Guitar from Music Villa and a Marshall MG15FX Amp donated by Ekroth Music. Local bands Tyran't, Scott's Garage, Wilde Hix and The Hall Passes - a newly formed band featuring four Belgrade music teachers - all played. Wilde Hix took home the grand prize. Just one point behind them was Tyran't, which won a $100 gift certificate to Music Villa.

Bozeman Night Live fundraiser showcases local student talent
When the Bozeman High School choir sings Eric Whitacre's "Fly to Paradise," the music seems to travel through your feet and right up into your heart. It's the kind of singing that led to their performance at Carnegie Hall last month, and they're bringing their talent back home on Friday and Saturday for Bozeman Night Live. The shows start at 7 p.m. both nights and feature Bozeman High School and Gallatin High School students showing off talent of all kinds for a shot at prizes and prestige. Bozeman Night Live, put on by the Bozeman Friends of Music, started 31 years ago as Hawks Night Live back when BHS was the only high school. The production is a variety show with singing, music, comedy and dance.

A sky like bubblegum ice cream: Posters collect students' river poetry
If you'd like to see what the Clark Fork River is like to a seventh grader, start at the beginning. "I want to be alone in this place," according to one student in Steven Strothman's seventh-period class at C.S. Porter Middle School. To another, what's above had a particular tint: "The thick blue sky like Big Dipper bubblegum ice cream." A classmate seemed to delve more into the interior: "Suddenly you become the river, and the river becomes you." Each sentence in the 33-line poem was written by a student in that class, with the guidance of Sam Olson, a published poet. Through the Missoula Writing Collaborative, he spent February helping seven classes at C.S. Porter produce a collective poem about a different waterway in western Montana. "Every day, students present raw, vulnerable, humorous, powerful pieces of writing," he said.

Students from Reichle School in Glen win DAR essay contest
Four students from the Reichle School in Glen were selected as winners of the Silver Bow Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution American History Essay Contest. Two students, fifth-grader Paityn Tarter and sixth-grader Sage Rhodes, went on to earn first place recognition in the state. The two students also honored at the local level are seventh-grader Rylee Ford and eighth-grader Faith Rognstad. The essay contest, sponsored annually by DAR, is open all students in grades 5-8 in public, private, or parochial schools, including those who are homeschooled. This year's essay title was "If I Were a Delegate to the Second Continental Congress." Students were invited to imagine that they represented their colony as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress, which met between May 10, 1775, and March 1, 1781. This Congress was instrumental in shaping what became the United States of America. Students answered the questions of which colony they are from and what will be important for them to accomplish for their colony.

No 'ducking' out of this assignment
There were no sports activities being held in the Margaret Leary School gym on Tuesday. Instead, fifth- and sixth-grade students helped build nests for ducks under the guidance of Montana Wetlands & Waterfowl's Bailey Luoma-Tasker, a biologist with Rampart Solutions, and officials with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. The group's goal was to bring science to the classroom and get the kids excited about ducks, and they accomplished both. The fifth-grade students pictured here had a great time. "It was really cool to build the nests and learn about the types of ducks," said Emma Killoy. Timothy Schumway described it as a "very good experience," while Emma Richards was thrilled to learn something new. The three students in front are, from left, Khrysali Meixner, Olavia Krattiger and Gaige Baker. In the back, from left, are Timothy Schumway, Zach Forbes, Bailey Luoma-Tasker, Emma Richards and Emma Killoy.

Gianforte talks internships and work experience with Kalispell educators
Gov. Greg Gianforte joined educators, administrators and students in a roundtable discussion focused on workplace experiences and individualized learning at Flathead High School on Wednesday. Gianforte complimented Kalispell Public Schools on the work district officials have done thus far with BUILD Montana - a private program from the Montana Contractors Association aimed at introducing students to construction careers - as well as other local internship opportunities. "We need more innovation in education," Gianforte said. "That's what is going on here in the Flathead." Gianforte's opening remarks focused on the 2023 legislative session and education bills poised for his signature, including House Bill 257, sponsored by Rep. Courtenay Sprunger, R-Kalispell. The legislation boosts the amount of money available, via a statewide program that supports career and technical education, to Montana students looking to explore career fields through internships and work experience.

Talking Bulldogs heading to nationals
Peyton Waters, 16, recites "Y2K" by Therese Lloyd. Waters is heading to the national speech and debate tournament in Phoenix, Arizona, this summer with five other Butte High Bulldogs. The Talking Bulldogs are currently raising money to attend. Each child will need about $3,000 by June, 1 or their spots will be forfeited. Donations can be made to Butte High Speech and Debate (account 168) or to head coach Roger McCullough at Butte High School, 401 S. Wyoming St.

MCPS robotics team sets sights on championship
There are more than 80,000 students participating in FIRST Robotics Competition events worldwide among 3,000 teams in 26 different countries, hoping to qualify for the world championship in Houston this spring. Missoula County Public Schools' team likes its odds. As one of two high school robotics teams in Montana, Missoula's robot masters have to travel across state lines to compete in regional qualifying events. Typically, they only travel to one event a year. This spring they're doubling their chances by competing in North Dakota and Idaho. "It's the most competitive thing I've ever done," said Tim Walters, a senior at Sentinel High School and the team's leader. "I've also wrestled and done some other sports. (Robotics is) very intense, but it's some of the most fun I've ever had."

Helena and Broadwater high school students visit Japan
Students from Helena and Broadwater high schools recently returned from a field trip of a lifetime to the land of the rising sun - Japan. "Japan was a way better host than anything I've ever been to, and I've taken kids nationally to a lot of places," said Claire Pichette, a science teacher who's been at Helena High School for 16 years. "They took amazing care of us." The idea for the program started in 2020 when HHS teacher Jill Van Alstyne had a chance encounter at Helena's Hokkaido Ramen & Sushi Bar with Japan Consulate staff. She overheard two men speaking Japanese in the restaurant and went over to speak with them. Van Alstyne had spent two years in Japan teaching English, and she's been at HHS for 20 years. The men were Yoichiro Yamada, consul general of Japan in Seattle, and Hiro Tojo, who worked at the Japanese Consulate in Seattle. Alstyne stayed in touch with them and Tojo texted her about the Kakehashi Project, Japan's Friendship Ties Program. Alstyne applied with her students in June of 2021, but COVID-19 postponed the trip until March 2023.

BNSF Railway Excellence in Education award winners at Billings schools announced
The Education Foundation for Billings Public Schools, in partnership with BNSF Railway, announced the winners of the BNSF Railway Excellence in Education Awards for 2023. This year's recipients are Abbey Kochel of Castle Rock Middle School and Angie Langeliers of Will James Middle School. The Excellence in Education program seeks to recognize teachers who strive to make a positive impact on the education of Billings Public Schools students.  Educators are nominated by students for this award, and 205 teachers were nominated this year. Of those, 25 chose to apply for the cash award. As Excellence in Education Award winners, Kochel and Langeliers will each receive a $2,500 award to use toward continuing education or classroom projects. This is the sixth year BNSF Railway has recognized SD2 teachers with this award. "BNSF is proud to recognize the outstanding dedication and achievement of these two educators," said Matt Jones, spokesperson for BNSF Railway. "Ms. Kochel and Mrs. Langeliers are clearly dedicated to creating engaging and innovative classrooms. Congratulations to both of them."

March 2023 Great News

Bozeman high schoolers may see their designs used by NASA
A NASA scientist walks up to a high-schooler and asks him how astronauts could play Dungeons and Dragons in zero gravity. It sounds like the start of a joke, but students at both Bozeman high schools this year had the opportunity to solve NASA problems for a chance to see their solutions implemented in space. Four groups of students are heading to Houston in a few weeks to present projects as part of the NASA HUNCH program. HUNCH (High Schools United with NASA to Create Hardware) is a nationwide program where NASA identifies problems, they have in their flight programs and frames them for high school kids.

Kalispell student competes in constitutional speech contest
Kalispell homeschool senior Ella Pheifer was the winner of the American Legion of Montana High School Constitutional speech contest. The contest was held in Bozeman. She won at this level and will represent Montana at the American Legion National finals contest to be held in Indianapolis, Indiana on April 21-23. The winner receives a $25,000 scholarship. Pheifer won the Kalispell American Legion Post 137 Oratorical contest and also won the American Legion District 4 Oratorical contest. Kalispell American Legion Post 137 contestants have won the Montana Department Oratorical contest three of the past five years and placed second once.

Rural educators receive awards for merit, service
Theresa Watts from Shields Valley Public Schools was recently awarded the 2023 Distinguished Service Award as Montana General Education Teacher of the Year by the Montana Council of Administrators for Special Education. Watts was nominated for the award by several colleagues who recognize that she consistently goes above and beyond to support her students. She is always willing to learn and do more in order for all children to achieve academically, socially, and emotionally. Watts is passionate about working with students and making sure they make progress by growing academically and emotionally, according to a news release.

Quick pics: Learning the stick game
Havre Middle School students learn how to play the stick game Friday in the school gymnasium. In the traditional Native American game, common at powwows and other Native celebrations, teams try to outguess each other as to where markers are being held. The activity was held Friday as part of Havre Public Schools' Indian Education for All program.

'Continuously surprised and pleasantly amazed:' Student of the month HHS' Foster Smith
Helena High School senior Foster Smith lives up to his name – fostering a curiosity for life and all its labyrinths. "I enjoy doing things for the sake of doing them," said Smith. "I wouldn't consider myself a super goal-oriented person as much as an experience-oriented person, and that takes me a lot of places." Smith's family moved from Lincoln to Canada for five years before returning to Helena, where Smith has spent most of his high school years. His parents are both physicians, which has given them the flexibility to live in various places, such as New Zealand when Smith was a child. He has one younger sister. Courtnay Crowell, Foster's mother, describes him as "kind" and "curious."

Darby schools celebrate community; host 'Napoleon Dynamite' producer TEDx talk
Darby School District has selected the month of April to show its appreciation to the community and help give individuals a better understanding of the Darby Tiger experience. Superintendent Tony Biesiot said the goals are to thank the community and reconnect. "We also invite the community to be part of the school," he said. "One of my main goals coming in as superintendent is to reconnect the district with the community. The past couple of years with the pandemic a lot of schools were forced to close their doors. We definitely lost that connection with the community." Also on the docket is increasing collaboration. "We have a lot of great businesses, organizations and individual stakeholders here," Biesiot said. "I've been visiting with them because I think it is important that we share our story. There are a lot of things were doing down here in the south valley. We're excited with the direction we're headed and the momentum is building."

East Helena educator receives technology teacher award
Among educators from five states, East Helena Public Schools Instructional Coach Katherine Senecal stood out. In a surprise announcement on Tuesday during the Northwest Council for Computer Education (NCCE) technology conference in Tacoma, Senecal received the 2023 Outstanding Technology Teacher Award. NCCE is a not-for-profit educational technology professional development organization. The conference was regional, with educators attending from Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Montana. "I was very surprised. Instructional coaches, I don't think, get put up for a lot of awards," Senecal said. "I was very honored. It was so generous and thoughtful for someone to nominate me."

Polson student D.C. bound after winning state poetry reading contest
As Wica-ta-wi Hoksina Brown inhabits the poem that won him the state Poetry Out Loud championship, he does so carefully, his voice almost conversational at first, then growing in strength and passion. The Polson High junior recited "We Are Not Responsible" by Harryette Mullen, a poem he chose precisely because it invited him "to be able to speed it up and be loud, different from the rest." He also chose the poem for its content, which "talks about police violence and hints at microaggressions" towards people of color. Not easy subjects for the reciter, who is Oglala Sioux and Salish, or for the listener. But Brown clearly doesn't take the easy path. The poems he chose for both Poetry Out Loud and for Oral Interpretation in Speech and Debate are often edgy, asking listeners to pay attention to realities beyond their own lives.

FHS student shows compassion for others through community service
Flathead High School student Ivy Gannon is someone who meets people where they are in life with compassion and respect. The caring and talented senior is a recipient of the Winslow Nichols Leadership Award, which recognizes the academic achievement and community involvement of high school students who contribute to improving the lives of others. "Ivy is an enthusiastic, talented and kind-hearted leader at Flathead High School who has set a great example of leadership in our school community and holds great promise to lead as an education professional in the future," Flathead Career Center head Kristin Bay said in her nomination letter. "In her classes, Ivy's teachers describe her as very intelligent, analytical and hard working." During a March 20 interview at Flathead, Gannon contemplated what qualities she thinks make a good leader.

 FFA students conduct 'Day Of Service' in Great Falls
Montana members of Future Farmers of America (FFA) descended upon Great Falls this week, committing to acts of service at four locations - St Vincent De Paul, the Rescue Mission, the Food Bank, and Eagle Mount. "We already knew each other really well, but then getting to work with some of the other chapters here, we're working together, we're moving stuff and we're getting to know each other better, and then we're all working together for a good cause," says FFA member Maggie Darr of Gardiner. Students helped to clean, organize, and feed the community. "We were moving pallets, so that way they could give away food to some of the elderly people here in Great Falls," says Darr.

Havre Public School K-5 STEM Family Night set for Thursday
Havre Public Schools will be hosting a STEM Family Night at Havre Middle School Auditorium Thursday evening from 6 to 7 p.m. The event will feature a live science show, drawings for STEM boxes with STEM-related activities and experiments and a group STEM challenge for students to take home. The night is for K-5 students and their families and will allow them to explore science, technology, engineering and math in interactive experience that aims to engage everyone there. "We are excited to offer this opportunity to bring our families together to experience a STEM Night," said Highland Park Early Primary School Principal Hayley Criner. Criner said Havre High School teacher Erika Brekus will be organizing the live science show, drawings and challenges.

Local students earn Reach Higher Montana scholarships
Several local students in both the high school and college level received awards in Reach Higher Montana the Class of 2023 High scholarship programs. On the high school level, Alisyn Maloughney and Hannah Kinsella, both Havre High School students, and Kylee Zander of Hays-Lodge Pole High and Kellen Colliflower of Rocky Boy High received scholarships. On the college level, Treyten Stiffarm of Fort Belknap Indian Reservation's Aaniiih Nakoda College was one of the recipients. This year, the Montana-based nonprofit organization has awarded 30 $2,000 scholarships to Montana high school students and 50 $2,000 scholarships to continuing Montana college students. In addition, one of the scholarships was awarded to a student who has served or is serving in the military.

Partnership will bring local beef to schools in Bozeman
Gallatin County is home to 36,000 cows, according to the Montana State University College of Agriculture. Through a new collaboration between Bozeman School District and The Producer Partnership, a portion of those cows may soon find their way into the district's cafeterias. The Producer Partnership was founded to take in donated cattle, process them and give them to Montana food banks for those with food insecurity. Matt Pierson, founder and president, comes from several generations of ranchers in the Livingston area. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, Pierson began donating cows to help out his hometown and the surrounding area.

HHS earns fifth straight Science Olympiad state title
Hamilton High School's Science Olympiad team won first place for the fifth year in a row and Corvallis Middle School's Science Olympiad team won first place in the middle school category at the Montana state tournament in Bozeman on March 8. The teams will travel to the National Science Olympiad competition in Wichita, Kansas, beginning May 20. "These kids keep impressing me year after year." said HHS Coach Vanessa Haflich. "I don't know how they do it." Haflich has been the head HHS science coach for two years and was the assistant coach the year before. "The students have a tremendous work ethic and attitude and desire to learn their event and compete," Haflich said. "It is so fun to see this year after year. For seniors, this is their fifth year too. They won this in eighth grade too, so this is very cool. We're excited to see what we do at nationals."

A mover and a shaker: Castle Rock student becomes first Montanan to advance to national competition
It's often said that a handshake can reveal a lot about someone. Their confidence, personality and level of engagement are all believed to be on display to a degree, and a Billings sixth-grader has landed at a nationwide competition to show off those skills. The national program Amazing Shake began in Billings in 2015 and has provided fifth-grade students here the opportunity to learn the nuances of professional human interaction like giving a proper handshake, giving a successful interview, and how to remain composed under pressure. Castle Rock sixth-grader Harper Carsten is currently in Atlanta to compete in the national competition after winning last year's regional competition, and is the first Montana student ever to participate. "I've had so much fun with this. It's been awesome to learn all the things that I have," she said ahead of her departure.

Montana high school students flex skills at MSU culinary competition
On Thursday morning, seven groups of high school students gathered feverishly around tables each razor-focused on their task at hand. Some quickly minced vegetables, while others seared lamb chops over a Bunsen burner. While the students handled their tasks separately, they were all working toward a common goal - producing six plates of luxury cuisine to be judged by professional chefs. The students were competing in the 2023 Montana ProStart Invitational culinary competition held at Montana State University.

Corvallis students bring history to life with Living Biographies project
Corvallis High School juniors dove into the lives of important historical figures, taking part in the 27th year of the Living Biographies competition on Thursday. "Living Biographies allow students to research an important historical figure and portray that person's life story in a 5-10 minute speech to their respective class," said Joel Loran, who teaches U.S. History at CHS, which all juniors are required to take. The class covers American History and includes themes of belief systems, America in the world, geography and environment, peopling, identity, the economy, politics and power. Loran said students focus on mastering historical thinking skills such as chronological reasoning, comparison and contextualization, historical argumentation and historical interpretation. "My goal is to make the curriculum relevant and interesting with the use of problem-based learning projects and simulation," he said.

FEC sends students to D.C. for youth tour
Flathead Electric Cooperative will send three area high school students to the nation's capital this summer on the annual Washington, D.C. Youth Tour. Participants go through a competitive application process involving transcripts, essays, and references. This year, the co-op selected Tayen Lackey, a rising senior at Flathead High School and the son of Shanti Lackey; Kyle McCormick, a rising homeschool senior and son of Kerri McCormick and Lonnie McCormick; and Kaylee Hampton, a rising junior at Flathead High School and the daughter of Amanda Hampton and Robert Hampton. Lackey is currently participating in Model United Nations and enrolled in International Baccalaureate courses. He is also an active member of BSA Troop 1901 and Eagle Scout. "I have for many years been fascinated with the greatest systems in Washington, D.C., and their importance to our nation and the world," Lackey enthused in his application. 

Photo: Hellgate High School celebrates Pi Day with pie
Hellgate High School attendance secretary Crystal Downey, left, and math teacher Zandy Startin hand out free pieces of pie to students on Tuesday to celebrate Pi Day. March 14 (3/14) is known as Pi Day because 3.14 is the beginning of the mathematical constant pi, or the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. Hellgate staff, students and parents brought pies for the day, which resulted in roughly 500 slices of apple, lemon meringue, marionberry, chocolate cream, cherry, banana cream, strawberry-rhubarb and other varieties.

High school club drums up interest in health care industry desperate for workers
Members of the Capital High School's Health Occupations Students of America organization paid a visit to C.R. Anderson Middle School to encourage their younger peers to consider a future career in the health care industry. The high school students demonstrated basic components of a medical exam, such as how to take and interpret a blood pressure reading, and talked to the visitors about the coursework required for a career in the industry. Capital's HOSA co-president RaeAnn Loewen said the television drama "Grey's Anatomy" inspired her to become a pediatric surgeon and while touring the high school ahead of her freshman year, she was introduced to HOSA and has been a member all four years of high school. "I'm passionate about the medical industry and learning, and to be in a club centered around my dreams is incredible," Loewen said.

Students show out science acuity at county fair
How does global warming affect corn crops? How much salt do you need to add to water to make an egg float? How much sawdust can you put in a cereal treat bar before someone notices? These are just a few questions asked by students from schools all across the region as they participated in the Flathead County Science Fair on Thursday. Science lovers of all ages packed into the Expo Center at the Flathead County Fairgrounds to take a look at projects from students in third grade and up. Retired civil engineer Roger Marsonette has been judging the science fair for about seven years. He likes seeing what the students can come up with for their projects. "To see the imagination of the kids - some of their experiments are just different from the typical boiling water kind of stuff. There are some really interesting things out there, how they go through their experiments and how they can apply it to the real world," Marsonette said. Many students said they drew inspiration from what was around them to come up with the idea for their experiments.

Quest Program expands options for Billings gifted and talented students
Billings Public Schools have some exceptional young students, but that doesn't mean they can't be pushed further. Enter the Quest Program, School District 2's gifted and talented program for elementary students across its 22 schools that has continued to grow over the years. Since it was introduced to the district in 2018, Quest has provided students who demonstrate exceptional academic abilities additional learning opportunities outside of the regular public school curriculum through unique projects and local collaborations. This has included a photography exhibition, students creating their own board games and even designing a new playground at Primrose Park with Billings Parks and Recreation. The program recently expanded to approximately 400 students into three separate components for K-1, 2-3, and 4-5 grade students to work on different study units at different locations.

Montana students gather for annual state Science Olympiad
You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs. Based on "The Scrambler" event at the annual Science Olympiad, the same can be said for science. At this year's Olympiad, held at Montana State University, more than 70 teams from 36 Montana cities competed in knowledge tests and practical experiments. Participants in The Scrambler build a wheeled vehicle with an egg strapped to the nose. The vehicle must traverse a field and stop within a designated area without hitting the end stop and breaking its egg. Different tournaments took place all over the MSU campus on Wednesday with middle and high school teams competing.

Victor students hit the slopes at Lost Trail
Victor School students in fourth and fifth grade participated in Ski P.E. at Lost Trail on Feb. 27. For the program, students receive two lessons in their choice of skiing or snowboarding then practice their skills. Victor fifth-grade teacher and event coordinator Taylor Cassidy said the Ski P.E. program provides students with skills for regional activities and the training for a potential lifetime sport and activity. "Skiing and snowboarding is such a beautiful lifetime opportunity afforded to the residents of our area," Cassidy said. "For many students, this is the only opportunity they will have to experience and participate in an activity so central to where they live. We want to ensure that all students have this opportunity regardless of their family's socioeconomic status."

Graduating seniors surprise their Distinguished Educators
Graduating seniors recognized by the Helena Education Foundation as Distinguished Students surprised their Distinguished Educators across the district Wednesday. The students, along with representatives of the Helena Education Foundation and school administrators, surprised the selected educators with an invitation to be their special guests at the Celebration of Excellence. The annual banquet is taking place on May 8. This year, HEF will celebrate 50 student and educator pairs. Educators selected this year include teachers at elementary, middle and high school levels and in a range of disciplines.

Bulletproof desk design lands Montana students in national science contest
The Montana School for the Deaf and Blind was recently selected as the state winner in a national Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) competition. The school's STEM team is engineering school desks designed to withstand natural disasters and active shooters. When the 13th annual Samsung Solve for Tomorrow STEM Competition opened in September, Montana School for the Deaf and Blind teacher Erin Barr tasked her students with developing something to benefit the community. The four high-schooler students, three of whom are visually impaired and the fourth who is deaf and blind, decided to develop a safety desk designed to protect students during earthquakes. "It actually has a shock absorber system in it to keep them safe under the desk," Barr said. The desks, made of stainless steel, wood and laminates, are also designed to withstand hurricanes and tornadoes. They're also bulletproof.

Flathead speech coach receives Assistant Coach of the Year award
Flathead High School speech and debate coach Sean O'Donnell has been named Assistant Coach of the Year for the Western District of the National Speech and Debate Association. The award recognizes exemplary high school assistant coaches serving a National Speech and Debate Association member school. A committee of coaches selects a winner. During his tenure, O'Donnell coached 27 individual state champions and 54 national qualifiers. He was inducted into the Montana Forensic Educators Association Hall of Fame in 2020. O'Donnell got his start in speech and debate as a competitor during his sophomore year of high school at Flathead. It was in college that he started coaching at the high school level.

Glacier speech and debate student named Student of the Year
Glacier High School senior Mac Adkins received top accolades from the National Speech and Debate Association. Adkins was named the 2023 Student of the Year for the Montana West District. He is the first Glacier student to receive the award. To be considered for the award, coaches in each district of the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) are invited to nominate a graduating senior, "Who best represents the tenets of the association's Code of Honor: humility, equity, integrity, respect, leadership, and service," according to the association. A committee of coaches selects the winner. Flathead High School head coach Shannon O'Donnell nominated Adkins, describing him as a "beacon of leadership." She noted that while it isn't every day a coach nominates a competitor from a rival team, Adkins exemplifies the award criteria. O'Donnell said she has watched Adkins progress into a "formidable competitor," who remained respectful and kind throughout his time competing.

Photo: Students learn Irish dance steps during Academic WorldQuest
Lockwood High School seniors Austin Therriault, at left in dark shirt, and Isaac Bovington, at right in white sweater, and other Montana high school students learn Irish dance steps during Academic WorldQuest at the University of Montana on Monday. Academic WorldQuest, hosted by the Montana World Affairs Council, brings Montana students to UM for two days to meet with global and policy experts on a range of subjects and participate in a global trivia team competition. Students heard from UM's Irish Studies program and talked remotely with students in Ireland on Monday, and on Tuesday they'll converse remotely with students in Ukraine.

Joey McKeon Memorial Scholarship and Legacy Award given to Helena High School seniors
The Joseph Michael "Joey" McKeon Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Helena High School's Gabriella Radley, a senior, at the Helena and Capital High Swim Team Banquet. McKeon was also a Bengal many years ago. "My wife and I, along with our daughter Erin McKeon and Mary McKeon offer this scholarship and legacy award in memory of our son and brother who left us to early in life as a result of an automobile accident," said Jim McKeon. "This is our 12th year offering the scholarship and legacy award, and we are honored to be able to recognize all the student swimmers and the high school sport of swimming." The $1,000 scholarship goes to support a Helena high school swimmer in furthering their education after high school. The team also created the Joey McKeon Legacy Award which is given out each year to a swimmer who embodies Joey's spirit, which was awarded to HHS' Allison Christensen.

Baker High School senior Cheyanne Dame presents her project on bacteria in Baker Lake at the 2023 MSU B Science Expo

Sunset School's Hatten named top Montana Rural Teacher
If you would have told Toni Hatten when she started her teaching career that she would be named Montana's Rural Teacher of the Year, she wouldn't have believed you. Hatten, who teaches at Sunset School, decided to enroll in college at age 40 to shift her career from a paraeducator in Seeley Lake to a full-time teacher. Now she's in her 12th year of teaching at Sunset and has been named Rural Teacher of the Year by the Montana Association of County School Superintendents. "I wanted to show that with my students that it's OK to be proud of who you are," Hatten said. "But what I think I do well - I don't know for sure, I don't get it right all the time - but what I think I do well is work well with students on a personal level."

Five National Merit Scholarship Finalists at West High
Billings West High School has five students who have been named National Merit Scholarship Finalists this year. They are Ian Barriger, Melanie Irwin, Abel Paulsen, Ryan Pilcher, Hayden Trost. National Merit is based on scores on last year's Preliminary SAT (PSAT/NMQT) college entrance exam. The teens are among the 16,000 semifinalists announced in September. In February, the 15,000 finalists were announced and are then considered the top 1% of the 1.5 million juniors who took the test nationwide last year. The finalists will compete for 7,250 National Merit Scholarships worth over $30 million offered this spring.

Manhattan robotics team headed to regionals with their robot, 'Joe Mike'
In an echoey high school room amidst the chatter of students, a machine of metal and wires zooms across the room, picks up a road cone and tries to deposit it on an upright wooden rod. The cone falls to the floor, but no one complains. The group immediately turns back to the computer to try to figure out what went wrong. The machine is a robot named Joel Michael Oppenheimer Senior II, or "Joe Mike" for short, built by Manhattan's high school robotics team. This week, the team heads to a regional FIRST Robotics Competition to compete against other teams from across the country.

Emily Dickinson teacher co-writes book to help early readers
A Bozeman elementary school teacher and her cousin from Michigan have found their way into print, collaborating on a book to help early readers who are having trouble with pronunciation. In "Sonny Says S," the main character is a yellow lab inspired by co-writer Kat Bezek's dog, Truman. Bezek is a first-grade teacher at Emily Dickinson Elementary School, and she's been teaching for eight years. Her co-writer and cousin, Kailey Riker, has been a speech and language pathologist for more than 10 years, Bezek said. In the book, Sonny writes a note without any 'S' sounds because he can't say them, a common speech error among early readers. Sonny's forest friends come together to help him pronounce and read the words. Bezek said the story is about more than how to say words - it's about friendship, teamwork and lifting each other up.

Kalispell ag center hosts district competitive events
More than 200 FFA students from a dozen high schools around Montana recently converged at the H.E. Robinson Agricultural Education Center in Kalispell for a chance to earn a spot at state in March. The ag center hosted a day of Western FFA District competitive events on Feb. 20. Ronan High School hosted the second day of the competition. Students competed in veterinary science, sales and service, parliamentary procedure, agronomy, mechanics, livestock evaluation and multiple speaking events. Ag student Makenna Howard provided a tour of the events after walking through classrooms where competitors took written tests to identify surgical tools and parasites and quiz them in math skills. There were also hands-on portions of the competition which Howard referred to as practicums. "A practicum is any of these tasks they have to perform that is like haltering a sheep, or filling a syringe, or putting the 'cone of shame' on the dog," formally known as Elizabethan collars, Howard said, smiling. "They're just practical skills that any veterinarian or vet tech would have to perform that the kids learn how to do."

Sunset School's Hatten named top Montana Rural Teacher
If you would have told Toni Hatten when she started her teaching career that she would be named Montana's Rural Teacher of the Year, she wouldn't have believed you. Hatten, who teaches at Sunset School, decided to enroll in college at age 40 to shift her career from a paraeducator in Seeley Lake to a full-time teacher. Now she's in her 12th year of teaching at Sunset and has been named Rural Teacher of the Year by the Montana Association of County School Superintendents. "I wanted to show that with my students that it's OK to be proud of who you are," Hatten said. "But what I think I do well - I don't know for sure, I don't get it right all the time - but what I think I do well is work well with students on a personal level." At first, Hatten resisted nominating herself, feeling it was too self-congratulatory. However, she changed her mind after remembering what she teaches her students about being confident in themselves, specifically with eighth-grade student Sera Benton.

Kila fourth-grader places in Energy Share art contest
A Kila fourth grader won third place in Energy Share of Montana's statewide art contest. An award ceremony was held at Kila School honoring Kannin Crawford on Feb. 24. Teresa Miller, Energy Share Board member and member services manager for Flathead Electric Cooperative, and Mary Olson, capital credits and energy assistance administrator for the co-op, presented Crawford with a $25 check from Energy Share. Flathead Electric also brought pizza to teacher Tika Counts' class as a "congratulations" for all their fine artwork. Using the medium of art, Counts taught her students about Montana neighbors who sometimes need a little help with keeping warm in the winter. Per Energy Share's contest guidelines, the drawings by her students depict what Energy Share means to them. 

PAL's Lili Bennum strives to give school and wrestling her 'all'
Senior Lili Bennum felt like she was running toward a finish line that was running from her before she switched to Helena Public Schools' Project for Alternative Learning a year and a half ago. "I wanted to be able to give school my all and wrestling my all at the same time. At Capital, I felt like I was so far behind but I looked back, and I wasn't even doing bad. It just felt like everything was piling up," said Bennum. "... (PAL has) helped me organize my time, be more responsible and get stuff done. I now know how to sit down and get work done." Bennum stated that since people have to apply for a spot at PAL, there's more accountability to show up to school and class so that people don't lose their spot. The school does 90-minute periods and alternates A and B schedules throughout the week. Every three weeks or so, they switch subjects in a block schedule.

February 2023 Great News

North Star students eating pulse crops courtesy Columbia Grains

Columbia Grains International recently made a donation of pulses to North Star Elementary so the school can offer healthier food options to students for World Pulses Day, which was earlier this month. CGI Vice President of Pulses Tony Roelofs said the donation is part of a larger effort to give back to communities in Montana, Washington, Idaho and North Dakota where their company has facilities. Roelofs said the company has facilities across the Hi-Line and they've been looking to make donations to local schools, food banks and other organizations. He said products like pulses, lentils, chickpeas and pinto beans are valuable, lesser-known, elements people can work into their diets and he's hoping these donations not only help the people directly served by organizations like North Star, but help to raise awareness about the items.

Local students received Good Citizens Awards from local DAR Chapter

The Daughters of the American Revolution Black Eagle-Assinniboine Chapter in Great Falls presented 11 Good Citizen Awards at its Feb. 11 meeting and George Washington Tea. Chapter Regent Selene Thomas and Good Citizen Chair Char Ross awarded Good Citizen certificates, pins and wallet cards to students including Lance Rutledge from Big Sandy High School, Bree Swanson from Chinook High School, Rayna Johnson from Havre High School and Rainee Watson from North Star High School

Terry students take in tourism meeting

On Feb. 8 the Terry High School US Government class participated in the Visit Southeast Montana Tourism board meeting which was held at the Cameron Gallery.  The Visit Southeast Montana Tourism board meetings take place five times per year in selected communities in southeast Montana. Visit Southeast Montana Tourism is one of six tourism regions in Montana that promote Montana as a destination for world class tourism.

Sunset School's Toni Hatten wins Rural Teacher of the Year award

Every year the School Administrators of Montana accepts nominations from small schools all over the state and chooses just one classroom instructor to award with the annual Rural Teacher of the Year award. This year's recipient of that prestigious award is Toni Hatten of the Sunset School in Greenough, a small two-room schoolhouse with an average yearly enrollment of less than ten students.

Making a splash with physics

Tara Moon's Physics classes made a splash this semester. Groups of students worked on their design skills as they built handmade cardboard boats. Not only did they have to come up with a design, but teams also had to make sure their boat was sturdy enough to float. The students only had 6 class periods to plan, gather materials, and build the boats. 

Cut Bank teen performs at Carnegie Hall in New York

"I feel like all my hard work and dedication to an art I love is starting to pay off," said Cut Bank High School senior Stefani Bohmer after she performed at Carnegie Hall earlier this month. Stefani was selected for the High School Honors Performance Series in New York City after being nominated by Cut Bank High School band director Dr. Kathy Lindberg.

Big Sandy Schools welcomes back Alecia Raining Bird

Alecia Raining Bird, Big Sandy Schools' newest teacher, is serving students in the special education classroom with patience, grace, and a heart for teaching. It was her compassion of kids that prompted Alecia to come into the classroom in the first place when she stepped into a staffing gap in the local school.

'A crowning achievement': 17 out of 21 new National Board Certified teachers in Helena

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards announced that 21 Montana teachers have successfully earned their National Board Certification, and 17 of the 21 are Helena teachers. "Earning National Board Certification is a crowning achievement in an educator's career," said Amanda Curtis, Montana Professional Teaching Foundation (MPTF) chair and Montana Federation of Public Employees president. "I join Montanans in congratulating these dedicated professionals for the incredible feat they've accomplished. These educators provide our students the best education in America, and Montana families are grateful to them." MPTF administers the program in Montana and is the nonprofit foundation of the Montana Federation of Public Employees, the union that represents public educators in the state. Jane Shawn, president of the Helena Education Association, stated that Helena has 38 out of the 175 National Board Certified teachers in the state. She said there's been a rise in certification across Montana, but especially in Helena in recent years. This is due to Helena equating master's and National Board Certified teachers in the same pay lane upon feedback from educators.

Educators tout internships and apprenticeships at Kalispell Chamber luncheon

Learning to fly, interning at a law office, using a surgical robotic arm, identifying fish at a hatchery, creating art to display at the hospital - these were just some of the examples Kalispell Public Schools officials touched on while highlighting the transformational learning taking place in the district during a Kalispell Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday.

Bozeman High Speech and Debate team continues winning streak

It's been another winning year for speech and debate teams at Bozeman and Gallatin High Schools as 30 total students head to the National Speech and Debate Association High School National Tournament in June. Bozeman High won its third consecutive state championship in late January, sweeping all four categories of the sweepstakes award. Gallatin High took third in speech, debate and overall. Bozeman is sending 26 competitors to nationals in Phoenix, and four are coming from Gallatin. Bozeman High Hawker Sparta Evans, 17, had a rocky start to the season with not much time to prepare for one of her speeches, a dramatic interpretation. "It definitely takes some late nights, you know, being willing to stay a little later than you might usually want to sort of get the results you want," she said.

Deaf and Blind School team claims state title in STEM competition

A team of high school students attending classes at the Montana School for the Deaf and Blind (MSDB) has been selected as the State Winner for Montana in the 13th annual Samsung Solve for Tomorrow STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) competition. It's another achievement for the team, who secured one of 300 coveted spots in the nationwide competition last January. "Every year, Samsung Solve for Tomorrow entries provide a unique snapshot of the concerns and issues on the minds of America's students – identifying what they perceive as pressing community issues they want to help solve," said Ann Woo, Senior Director, Corporate Citizenship, Samsung Electronics America. When Samsung announced that the MSDB team had been selected as a state finalist the team's academic advisor, teacher Erin Barr, was reluctant to describe the project the students were working on.

Washington Middle School 'Robosapiens' take on the world
The Washington Middle School robotics team punched their ticket for the FIRST LEGO League World Festival after recently winning the Montana State Robotics Championships in Bozeman. The 10-student team, known as the "Robosapiens," are now fine-tuning their robot and other competition materials as they prepare to take on the international competition based in Houston in April. "They worked hard for this," said Alec Arntzen, who is the team's coach and a sixth-grade teacher at Washington Middle School. "I think about a week before state, that's when I started to have an idea that it was possible. And then they did it. They just surprised me over and over all season." Though team members were confident in their preparation for the state competition this year, coming out on top still came as a shock. "We knew that we did, like, really well on innovation and robot design, but (the judges) didn't announce us for first or second in either of those," said Gabe Hammitt, a student on the Robosapiens team. "None of us put it together that if we didn't place for either one of those, then maybe we'd place overall. But we were all just like, we didn't get anything."

Speech and debate students qualify for nationals

Speech and debate teams from Flathead, Glacier and Columbia Falls high schools will be well represented at nationals following the West District Qualifier tournament at Sentinel High School in Missoula. Both Flathead and Glacier have four-time national qualifiers who will be recognized at nationals. They are Jasmine Anderson of Flathead, who will compete in Humorous Interpretation, and Mac Adkins of Glacier, who will compete in Duo Interpretation. Including Anderson, Flathead had 11 students qualify in main events and two students in supplemental events. Three-time national qualifier Rylin Wilde will compete in International Extemporaneous. Two-time national qualifiers include - Ada Milner in Program Oral Interpretation; Bethany Nairn in Program Oral Interpretation; and Neila Lyngholm who vacated the U.S. Extemporaneous Speaking Speaking event to compete in International Extemporaneous Speaking.

Flathead, Glacier to offer slate of new classes

Flathead and Glacier high school students will have a slate of new courses to choose from for the 2023-24 school year, including several that will get students outdoors for physical education, science and art instruction. The financial impact of fees, supplies, materials to the 2023-24 budget will not exceed $24,000. This amount also includes any costs related to course revisions. Money will come from building block grant funds and money from the district's curriculum budget. Staffing costs are expected to be neutral. New courses at Glacier High School include: Art Outside, Pottery, Seeds of Success and Product Development. Art Outside will be part of an outdoor education block and is geared to hands-on learners who enjoy the outdoors. Pottery replaces a sculpture class and is designed for students wanting to advance their ceramics skills. Seeds of Success is intended to teach incoming freshmen the skills and tools needed to achieve success in high school.

Valley Credit Union supports local high schools with $15,000 donation for sober parties

Valley Credit Union has donated $15,000 in support of local high schools for their annual sober graduation parties. The all-night sober party is a drug and alcohol-free event that provides a safe and fun environment for high school students to celebrate the end of the school year. The funds donated by Valley will be used to ensure every student, from all three schools, leaves the party with a gift. "We believe it is important to invest in the youth of our community and provide them with positive, healthy experiences," said Brandon Scala, SVP of business development of Valley. "This all-night sober party is a great opportunity for students to have a memorable, enjoyable time without having to worry about the dangers of drugs and alcohol." The all-night sober parties are scheduled to take place the night of graduation on Sunday, May 28 at their respective schools.

Havre speech does well at national qualifiers

Havre High School speech and debate took a small squad to a national qualifying tournament, and while none of the Blue Ponies qualified this year for a trip to nationals, they did well against the toughest competition in the district. "I am really proud of how we did this weekend in Belgrade," head coach Tim Leeds said. "I would have loved to have taken some kids to nationals in Mesa, Arizona, this year, but our students did well against tough competition." The tournament allows members of the National Speech and Debate Association, of which Havre High School has been a member since the 1920s, to compete for a chance to qualify for the association's national tournament, held each June in a rotating location, this year in Mesa.

Helena third graders make Valentine's Day cards for hospice, home health residents

Third graders across the Helena Valley created Valentine's Day cards for hospice and home health residents this year, wishing people they have never met a happy holiday and letting them know they are loved. Hazel Noonan, the area manager for Enhabit Home Health and Hospice, said this is the third year she has collected and distributed the cards. "It's unbelievable," Noonan said when asked what receiving a card means for these people. "It brings back memories. They can respond to the kids. It's wonderful." Kim Helseth's third grade class at Jim Darcy Elementary School in the north valley "really knocked it out of the park this year," Helena Public Schools spokeswoman Karen Ogden said in an email.

From Madrid to Colstrip: Foreign exchange program sees a comeback across Montana

After years of planning and anticipation for her foreign exchange trip to the United States, one thing quickly stood out to 16-year-old Carmen Garcia shortly after arriving in Colstrip from Spain. "Well, it's really cold, I have to say," she said with a smile. It's one minor adjustment among many that the self-proclaimed city girl braced for as one of 12 exchange students currently enrolled in Montana high schools through the Forte International Exchange Association (FIEA). This year's students reflect a major upswing in local placements following only one student three years ago and none over the past two. For the 2022-'23 year, local field reps have placed students from Spain, Brazil, Germany, Mexico and the Netherlands across Billings, Lockwood, Gardiner and Great Falls in addition to Carmen and one student in South Dakota.

Flathead student shows versatility in path to nursing career

Science, art, music, volunteering and working with individuals with special needs - Veyda Anderson has pursued a range of interests during her years at Flathead High School. The inquisitive and artistic senior is a recipient of the Winslow Nichols Leadership Award, which recognizes the academic achievement and community involvement of high school students who contribute to improving the lives of others. Flathead Career Center Coordinator Kristin Bay, in her nomination said Anderson is an exceptional student who "holds great promise to lead in caring for her community in the future," based on her past contributions to the FHS community. "One unifying quality noted by everyone who works with her, is Veyda's kind personality," Bay stated in her nomination letter. "She is able to work with all types of students and does so with her gentle, caring and respectful demeanor. She is not one to create drama or focus on the negatives and is able to work through issues with communication and calmness. She is also able to ask for help if the situation warrants it. Peers are drawn to Veyda as she creates a welcoming and safe environment to learn in with plenty of laughs along the way." 

Deer Park School nominated for Blue Ribbon award
Deer Park School in rural Columbia Falls is one of three Montana schools nominated for the U.S. Department of Education's National Blue Ribbon Schools Program by Montana Office of Public Instruction Superintendent Elsie Arntzen. The Blue Ribbon program recognizes excellence in a school's overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Deer Park was nominated in the academic performance category. Exemplary high-performing schools are measured by all student scores on state assessments and nationally normed tests. "It is a credit to our amazing staff for all their hard work and dedication to our students. Also, the parents and the families of our students are tremendously supportive. But, the students are also doing their part by showing up, putting in the work, and making the most of the opportunities they are given," Deer Park Principal Sheri Modderman said.

Montana State hosts robotics championship
The pit area of the First Tech Challenge robotics championship was swarming with activity. Teams huddled tightly around their tables. Some talked strategy for their qualifying matches while others joked and ate pizza - the atmosphere was jovial with only a whiff of intensity. Montana State University's Shroyer Gym played host for the annual robotics championship. Twenty-seven teams made up of middle and high school-aged students from Montana, Wyoming and Idaho were competing for a chance to head to nationals in Houston, Texas. ach team built their own robot that had to undergo inspections before participating in the tournament. Julie Heller, a board member of the Montana Robotics Alliance, said that the students participating tailored the style of robot they built to the game they were playing.

Seeing double: eight sets of twins attend Cayuse Prairie School
One set of twins attending the same school might be special but eight sets at a rural school with a total enrollment of about 300 students seems pretty remarkable. These identical and non-identical twins attend Cayuse Prairie School, where it's not the first time several sets have been enrolled at once in the kindergarten through eighth-grade school. Cayuse Prairie Principal Amy Piazzola recalled it happening at least once before. Leafing through a 2014-15 yearbook, Piazzola was surprised to count seven sets of twins. This year, the twins are in grades third through seventh, and five of the eight sets have attended Cayuse Prairie since kindergarten. What do the students like about being a twin? "That we were born with a friend," said fourth-grader Quora Roe, sitting next to her twin Teaghan. Her sentiment was expressed by several of her fellow students.

Morningside Elementary School Principal earns national award
School Administrators of Montana, SAM, awarded Kim Marzolf, with the National Distinguished Principal of the Year Award. Over 20 years in education, the announcement was a complete shock. "I was very surprised. There's a lot of very deserving principals out there for the award." Beginning her career as a coach, she made the transition to teaching with no problem at all. "I love the students; I love the staff. They're a very family-oriented community. It probably starts with the community that comes from outside our building with the parents." Shelley Andres, is the principal at Bonner Elementary and the President of SAM. She was a panelist for the award.

Box Elder's MacDonald featured student speaker at anti-meth event
A Box Elder High School student was the featured speaker this week at the kickoff of an event to promote drug prevention. Box Elder student Juliet MacDonald spoke in Helena at the launch of The Montana Meth Project's Paint the State 2023, a statewide public art contest that engages Montana teens and adults in on-the-ground drug prevention. The contest invites Montana residents 13 years of age and older to create monument-sized original public works of art that inspire Montanans to live vibrant drug-free lives incorporating the Meth Project's "Not Even Once" message.

Hileman wins Sunnyside spelling bee
The Sunnyside Intermediate School spelling bee was held Monday, Jan. 23, 2023. After 14 rounds, Risa Hileman was declared the champion speller. Her winning word was "serum." Isaac Yost was the runner up, and Tenlee Hungerford took third place. The top 10 spellers from the Sunnyside bee will go on to compete at the 2023 Hill County Spelling Bee, Feb. 9, 2023. In addition to Risa, Isaac, and Tenlee, the top ten contestants include Mason Dannen, Hunter Tweeten, Jacobi Knoles, Kaelin Peltier, Genevieve Lass, Sidney Farr and Walter Hibl. Charlotte Stoll will serve as alternate. All spelling bee competitors are fifth graders at Sunnyside. Tony Vigliotti served as moderator for the Sunnyside spelling bee this year. Vigliotti was the champion of the 1979 Hill County Spelling Bee. His winning word was "ombudsman."

Family engagement nights keep Central Elementary School busy after the bell rings
Central Elementary School has been a busy place both in and outside of school. Throughout the school year, Title I teacher Jill Downing has been working with the parent council and other community groups for family engagement nights to welcome parents and students to Central for various activities. Downing has been at Central for as long as she's been in Helena, 16 years. "This year, we've been doing a lot of events. It's kind of like getting back to pre-pandemic times," said Downing. "The building is relatively new. When we compare it with the pandemic, we were only in here a full year before then. We have lots of new families, so this is a year of trying things out and seeing what works for families." The most recent family engagement night was a family science night sponsored by STARBASE on Jan. 24.



January 2023 Great News

Victor students receive bicycles
Bitterroot Disposal donated 11 bikes and helmets for Victor School students without a bike, on Monday. Victor Community Liaison Kristy Gaul said the donations were exciting. "This is so amazing and awesome," Gaul said. "We went through each class and asked who had bikes and who did not. Then we talked to their parents to make sure they were OK with their child receiving a bike. The bikes are here today, and parents will come get them." Gary Savage of Bitterroot Disposal brought the bikes in two loads in the back of a white pick-up truck. Gaul had selected each bike for a specific child according to height. When the children ran from their classes, they found the bike with their name on it and were thrilled. The children sat on their shiny new bikes and offered thanks. The youngest students made racing noises and pretended to be riding at a breakneck pace, while the oldest students were checking details like colors, stripes and tire pressure.

Two electric buses for Havre Public Schools
A vast majority of the buses rolling down the road use either gas or diesel. Two buses in the Havre Public Schools' fleet are entirely electric, becoming the first fully-electric buses to be used in Montana according to service attendant Allen "Woody" Woodwick. He says it was about a year's process, after HPS was awarded a grant for two buses, and they have proven to be efficient. The grant, from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, provided most of the funding. Woodwick said the grant came from a settlement with Volkswagen and HPS payed about $120,000 out of their pocket for the buses, while the grant covered the other 85% of the cost.

Montana Students to Hear from NASA Astronaut on Space StationStudents from the Boys & Girls Club of the Flathead Reservation and Lake County in Ronan, Montana, will have an opportunity this week to hear from a NASA astronaut aboard the International Space Station. The space-to-Earth call will air live at 12 p.m. EST on Thursday, Jan. 26, on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency's website. NASA astronaut Nicole Mann will answer prerecorded questions from student participants of the Boys & Girls Club of the Flathead Reservation and Lake County out-of-school programing. Mann is the first Native American woman to fly in space. The program provides opportunities for reservation youth that inspire students to be the best version of themselves and uses science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to foster collaboration and problem solving. The downlink connects to their experiences as part of the Students to Launch program and their study of STEM.

Brothers return to ranching roots to teach next generation
Through teaching an agriculture and construction class at Whitefish High School for the last four years, educator Mark Casazza has watched struggling students transform into attentive and motivated workers. Casazza has watched the class transform struggling students into attentive and motivated workers. "[The class offers] room for adaptation," Casazza said in a recent interview in his classroom. "Kids who are struggling in school have the opportunity to change paths." Now, Casazza is launching a post-secondary trade school, with the intention of training the next generation of construction and agriculture teachers for Montana public schools.

Hellgate High School choir to perform at national conference
Hellgate High School's top choir, the Chevaliers, was selected to perform at the National Association for Music Education's All-Northwest Conference. The conference takes place in Bellevue, Wash., this February. Only three groups from Montana have been selected, including the Montana State University Montanans Choir and the C.M. Russell High School Wind Ensemble. The performance takes place on Feb. 18.

'Be a Light': Montana School for the Deaf and Blind students return to Capitol after 4 years
In a world full of hate be a light. When you do somebody wrong, make it right," rang out from speakers across the floor as Expressions of Silence performed "Be a Light" by Thomas Rhett to our elected officials. Expressions of Silence (EOS), the performing group at the Montana School for the Deaf and the Blind, performed on the House and Senate floors for what school officials said was the first time in four years Monday. The group performed for the 2019 session, but bowed out of the 2021 session due to COVID-19 concerns. They also performed "Imagine" by John Lennon.

Sparks fly! HHS, EHHS compete in annual Crosstown Weld-Off
Students welders from Helena High School and East Helena High School went head-to-head Thursday for the 11th annual Crosstown Weld-Off. Students dug through scrap metal, chose pieces that would work for their project, then designed and welded their projects in four hours. Judges for competition were from Dick Anderson Construction, General Distributing, Boilermakers Union Local 11, Iron Workers Union Local 732, Pioneer Aerostructures, Helena Sand and Gravel and Winfield "Be Tough" Memorial Foundation.

Bigfork School Board authorizes purchase of electric bus
Bigfork Schools are taking advantage of a grant which aims to help districts move towards clean energy buses. The Bigfork School Board on Jan. 11 unanimously approved the purchase of an electric bus. The district was awarded $375,000 for an electric bus in 2022 through the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean School Bus Program. Transportation Director Danny Walker said after researching a few different electric bus companies, he recommended purchasing a 71-passenger bus from Lion Electric. The cost of the bus matches the grant they received and the charging infrastructure would cost $20,370. Walker said the EPA program would cover $20,000 of the cost of the charging infrastructure, leaving the district with an out-of-pocket cost of $370. Walker said a requirement to receive the grant is to take one of the diesel buses entirely off the road. The district selected a 2010 Bluebird bus with 105,000 miles on it to be removed from its fleet.

5 principals to watch in 2023
As the latter half of the 2022-23 school year gets underway, principals nationwide face a veritable phalanx of challenges. Across the board, the concerns are familiar, including fostering positive school culture to support engagement and achievement, closing the gap on pandemic-related learning loss, creating equitable access to enrichment programming, and providing wraparound services to reengage and support those most at-risk. The following five principals are leaders you'll want to keep an eye on as we launch into the new year. Shelley Andres, Bonner School in Bonner, Montana, During a ceremony last fall in Washington, D.C., honoring the 2022 Class of National Distinguished Principals, Shelley Andres, elementary principal of Bonner School in Montana, received a bell. The bell, she said in an interview on the school's website, is a reminder of the honor she has in serving students, staff and families.

Fort Benton teen publishes debut novel
Emerson Giese, a senior at Fort Benton High School, is many things: a three-sport athlete (volleyball, basketball, and track), a member of the National Honor Society, and president of student council. Aside from her success as a student, she has now published her own debut novel titled "The Miserable Lives of the Perfect Ones." The adult fiction story came to life as she entered her senior year. The process of completing the story took two years, but she developed the idea during her freshman year of high school. "You get this divine inspiration at first," Giese said. "Your chapters are coming easy because you're doing the basic concepts and outlines. After that, it's just work you have to do. It feels more like a job and something that you just need to do and push through to get your final product. I enjoyed it a lot, but it was very difficult to find the job and motivation to continuously write about this certain thing. I had to research and find information outside of my experience."

BPA teaching real-world business skills to students
Sometimes people will joke that Montana's biggest export is it's kids, but Business Professionals of America (BPA) is actually trying to change that. "My favorite part about being an advisor is connecting my students and my teams with mentors in the community," said Jessica Goosen, BPA advisor at CMR High School. This year, 13 schools and 280 students competed in the Regional BPA competition at CMR High School on January 16. And it's all working to help them find their passion and develop business skills. Students say they are learning real world skills at BPA. "Presenting, data management, how to handle yourself under stress," explained Landen King, a sophomore at Great Falls High School. In other words, they are teaching students business skills and allowing them to practice those skills in a competitive environment. But it also gets students more involved in the community.

Butte students read for peace on MLK Day
MLK Read for Peace is a statewide service project in Montana that brings volunteers to elementary classrooms to read to students about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. After listening to a book read aloud, students were asked to draw a dream they have that promotes peace and equality in their own lives.

Hellgate High School teacher named educator of the year
The Missoula Education Foundation Student Board of Directors awarded a Hellgate High School teacher with the 2022-23 High School Educator of the Year Award. Milton Zhinin-Barreto, a Spanish teacher, received the award Thursday morning in the school's auditorium. Zhinin-Barreto receives $1,000 to purchase any items to enhance learning for his classroom.

Worden school wins national NASA STEM contest two years in a row
Huntley Project Schools was one of 60 schools from across the country to win the NASA TechRise Student Challenge, the second year in a row the Worden school has taken the award. The challenge, in its second year, is a national STEM competition for sixth- to 12th-graders that offers students hands-on STEM experience and the opportunity to test their own innovative solutions for space exploration and the study of Earth. Administered by Future Engineers, it is designed to attract, engage, and prepare future science, technology, engineering, and mathematics professionals. This year, the challenge was to design a science or technology experiment that could be tested on a NASA-sponsored high-altitude balloon flight. High-altitude balloon platforms have catalyzed fundamental discoveries for decades that contribute to our current understanding of the Earth, the solar system, and the universe.

Hamilton High students gain leadership skills through service projects
The Hamilton High School Leadership Class is wrapping up the semester with a wide array of community service projects. The 27 students in the class were given a task for their semester final: Make a positive impact on your community. The Leadership Class is team-taught by Kiah Nisly and Seeley Mickelson. "Through events like homecoming, the community food drive and the reception for the Veterans Day assembly, students have practiced establishing goals, creating plans, working with school administration and community members, and coordinating large-scale events," Nisly said. The community service final gives students the opportunity to demonstrate those leadership skills with a project of their own devising.

NEA grants go to Montana projects like MMIW play and Native ceramics
Around of federal funding will pay for western Montana workshops on Native American ceramic practices; elementary students learning poetry and Plains Indian sign language, translating some work into Salish, and an original touring play addressing the issues of missing and murdered Indigenous women. The National Endowment for the Arts grants, announced this week, are the first funding round for fiscal year 2023, according to a news release sent on Tuesday.

Powell County High School students create 'something of their own' for senior English project
Whether it be via Reddit, Cliffnotes or elsewhere, the internet – among other sources – provides students with easily accessible coaching or guidance for the age-old assignment of writing papers. So this year, Powell County High School teacher Sean McConnaha wanted to push his English IV seniors to create something organic. "Papers, I think, get really formulaic," McConnaha, 33, said Wednesday morning during an interview in his classroom. "Maybe some students have outside assistance, and I just wanted to have them make something of their own." The class named their collaborative effort "Richest Tailings," a nod to the "Richest Hill'' podcast by Nora Saks and Montana Public Radio. "Nora Saks gave us permission," McConnaha confirmed. The audio series narrated by Saks about Butte Superfund, along with Michael Punke's nonfiction work - on the 1917 Granite Mountain mining disaster - titled, "Fire and Brimstone," helped inspire the senior Wardens in their research-based storytelling endeavor covering "the intersection of the history and culture of Butte and Deer Lodge."

FEC offering scholarships to local students
Flathead Electric Co-op is offering over $117,000 in scholarships to local students this year. Applications are due March 15. Graduating high school seniors across the Co-op's service area, as well as current undergraduates, are encouraged to explore the requirements on the Co-op's website: All Co-op scholarships are funded by unclaimed capital credits. Despite the Co-op's best efforts to return capital credits to its members, some go unclaimed. Usually this is because a member moves and doesn't update their mailing address. The Co-op can use capital credits that go unclaimed for five or more years for educational purposes in Montana. If the Co-op chose not to use the unclaimed capital credits for educational purposes, these funds would go into the Montana general fund. The Co-op strives to award scholarship dollars across its service area to meet varied community needs. Scholarship dollars are earmarked for each area high school, including Stillwater Christian School. Dollars are also set aside for homeschool graduates and for those already attending a post-secondary Montana education institution. Additionally, scholarships are awarded each year to students pursuing trades degrees.

Havre schools add two electric buses to fleet
Havre Public Schools just added two new electric buses to its fleet, which the district's Transportation Department service attendant and trainer, Allen "Woody" Woodwick said will save the district a significant amount of money and improve their operations. Woodwick said the buses have a range of about 100 miles, only take an hour to charge and are easily handling two of their local routes even at -20 degrees, and at less than a quarter of the fuel costs they would have for their diesel buses. "And that's just the fuel costs. We also don't have to change 16 quarts of oil, or a filter, or flush the transmission fluid, your brakes don't wear out as quickly," Woodwick said. " ... So far, they've been working great." He said the buses drive about the same as the diesel-powered ones but are also far quieter and the only fuel they need other than electricity is some diesel for the auxiliary heating system, which helps keep the back half of the bus warm in the frigid Havre winters.

Hellgate Spanish teacher wins Missoula Educator of the Year
In the five years he's been at Hellgate High School, Milton Zhinin-Barreto has made a lasting impact on Spanish students by adding his lived experience into engaging lessons. On Thursday, Zhinin-Barreto hopped to his feet and ran down the aisle of the school auditorium as his colleagues delivered a standing ovation for his recognition as the Missoula Education Foundation's High School Educator of the Year. "This is going to be the highlight of my year," Zhinin-Barreto said. Originally from Ecuador, the engineer-turned-teacher traveled between his home country and the United States for many years before taking a job at Hellgate. Now, he teaches multiple sections of Spanish classes. His personal experience and knowledge of South American and Latin American culture make his lessons engaging and difficult to forget, according to many remarks from students who nominated him for the award 

Students from Montana School for the Deaf and Blind reach finals of STEM competition
One of the goals of any school is to provide their students with the skills they need to move confidently through the world, and to instill in them the belief that if they apply themselves and work hard, they can achieve whatever goal they set their minds to. That's a tall order for any school, one made even more challenging when its students must confront visual and hearing impairment. Students at the Montana School for the Deaf and Blind in Great Falls are proving that being "differently abled" is no barrier to academic achievement even at the highest levels. In December, international tech giant the Samsung Corporation announced that a team of students from the Deaf and Blind School (MSDB) are state finalists in their 2023 STEM competition to develop technologies with the potential to solve real world problems impacting the communities in which they live.

Corvallis students visit with local employers for Career Day
Corvallis High School held a Career Day for seniors on Tuesday for exploring jobs they could get immediately or with minimal training and will continue Wednesday with a focus on careers that require further education or instruction. CHS Counselor Jennifer Gaston-Smith organized the event along with American Legion Post 91 Adjutant Pat Clover. "We have about 85 seniors and over 21 opportunity booths," Gaston-Smith said. "It is not huge because I wanted it to be small enough for students to have time to get to the presentation booths they want to know more about." Representatives of the military, Bitterroot Health, Ravalli County Sheriff's Office, the City of Hamilton and the U.S. Forest Service were just a few of the entities who spoke about careers available without going to college, each giving brief presentations.

Trout in the Classroom: Bitterroot Valley students study fish ecology
The local Bitterroot Chapter of Trout Unlimited is working with four local high schools and the Trapper Creek Job Corps to help students learn about raising trout. Trout in the Classroom was started in the Bitterroot Valley three years ago with Hamilton High School and Corvallis High School. This year Florence High School, Darby High School and the Trapper Creek were added. On Wednesday, Dave Ward, president of the BRTU, said the program teaches students about the river ecosystem and the delicate balance required to provide life for fish. The program is "fabulous for the students," said Hamilton High School Principal Marlin Lewis.

GFPS and Alluvion conducting coat drive for students
This year, there are more than 10,000 kids enrolled in Great Falls Public Schools, and not all of them have the things they need, such as winter coats. GFPS is looking to change that. GFPS staff say they have identified more than 376 homeless students. With a big need for supplies, they have partnered with Alluvion Health to put on a coat drive for the month of January.

Lincoln School music students celebrate Christmas with a pair of concerts
Lincoln student had the chance to show off their musical talents during a pair of concerts in the Lincoln School gym last week. The elementary students served up a some Christmas cheer Wednesday evening, Dec. 14, with each class from Pre-K through sixth grade handling classic Christmas tunes including the first graders rendition of "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" and fourth graders playing "Jolly old Saint Nicholas" on recorders. Fifth graders, accompanied by sixth graders keeping tempo with 'boomwhackers," tackled a little latin with "Dona Nobis Pacem" and the fifth and sixth grade band followed up with a performance that included "Jingle Bells" and "My Dreydll."

Ronan basketball teams heading to Alaska after winning prize trip
The Ronan boys and girls basketball teams will be taking the trip of a lifetime at the end of January after winning the Alaska Nets High School Movie Night Grand Prize. Because of this, Alaska Airlines will fly both the Maidens and Chiefs up to the Alaska Airlines Classic High School Basketball Tournament in Anchorage. "The kids, parents and fans are pretty excited," Head Ronan Girls Coach Steve Woll said. "Many of the kids have never been on a plane or out of Montana so this is a great thing for them." Ronan High School had originally screened "Alaska Nets" as a fundraiser, showing the documentary about life and basketball on Alaska's last Native Reserve in the traditional community of Metlakatla. The school had a dinner night to go along with the film and there was a good turnout. Organizers realized that there was a hoops contest that could be entered as well and decided to compete.

Lodge Grass reboots music program
Lodge Grass schools have received 16 child-sized violins in an effort to restart music programs at the school. A program starting at the end of January will teach all third and fourth graders, twice a week.

Long-time Glendive educators leave $1.4 million to DCC
There is a once-in-a-generation phenomenon where exceptional educators shape the lives of young people in ways that they will remember fondly for the rest of their lives. In a recent case, the generosity of two of those educators has become a benefit to the entire community. Richard "Dick" and Winifred "Win" McMullin, two long-time educators in Glendive schools, donated their sizable estate to multiple organizations in the community, leaving the largest share to Dawson Community College. Richard - a science teacher at the college and at Dawson County High School prior to the college and high school separating in the 1960s - and Winifred left approximately $1.4 million to the institution for the betterment of students looking to receive a scientific education.

December BARK awards
On December 20th, Ekalaka Elementary School held its December Behavioral BARK awards. BARK is an acronym for Be Respectable, Act Responsible, Remember Safety and Kindness Matters. Each month, students at Ekalaka Elementary work on a specific character trait. During December that trait was kindness.

Billings high school student gives back to families in need
It's hard enough when families wonder when, where or how they will get their next meal, but oftentimes special occasions like a birthday celebration get completely overlooked because of these day-to-day challenges. A new volunteer group in conjunction with the Education Foundation for Billings Public Schools is looking to address that through take-home birthday kits. Since starting this fall, over 50 kits have been made and sent to students across School District 2 struggling with food insecurity. Through the efforts of a local student and her mom, the program looks to not only provide a treat for a student and their family, but also to deliver a celebration they may not have otherwise. "It's easy and fast and it definitely helps a lot to make someone's day and normalizes having a birthday (for them)," said Senior High freshman Ellie Edwards.

Billings high school student gives back to families in need
It's hard enough when families wonder when, where or how they will get their next meal, but oftentimes special occasions like a birthday celebration get completely overlooked because of these day-to-day challenges. A new volunteer group in conjunction with the Education Foundation for Billings Public Schools is looking to address that through take-home birthday kits. Since starting this fall, over 50 kits have been made and sent to students across School District 2 struggling with food insecurity. Through the efforts of a local student and her mom, the program looks to not only provide a treat for a student and their family, but also to deliver a celebration they may not have otherwise. "It's easy and fast and it definitely helps a lot to make someone's day and normalizes having a birthday (for them)," said Senior High freshman Ellie Edwards.

Belgrade school bus driver wins $10,000 to purchase heated clothes for fellow drivers
A Belgrade school bus driver received $10,000 to surprise her fellow drivers with heated gloves, vests or jackets this winter. The money, from a "These are my people" contest run by a financial technology company called Kasasa, was awarded to Heather Garity last week. When Garity saw the contest mentioned in a newsletter from her bank Sky Federal Credit Union - where she has a Kasasa account - she immediately thought of her coworkers. Gifting the drivers with heated clothes was a way to recognize them for their hard work and say thank you, Garity said. "They don't ever think about themselves. They think about what to do for the kids and what's best for the kids," she said. In a news release, Kasasa said the contest launched through community banks and credit unions was an opportunity for people to share their stories and connect with their loved ones.

December 2022 Great News

SSHS Entrepreneurs Showcase Products at "Blackhawk BIZ" Market Day
From juniper charcuterie boards to scented soy candles, Seeley-Swan High School students have been working hard since the first day of school to build their own independent businesses. The semester-long entrepreneurship class, taught by Michele Holmes, is a chance for students to learn their way around the world of business. During the "Blackhawk Biz" Market Day, students were able to sell the products they have been working on throughout the semester.  The students were challenged with the complex process of creating a business plan, a cost analysis, making a product to sell, and then marketing their product.

Seeley Lake youth one of 21 students nominated in the state
Owen Hoag, of Seeley-Swan High School, was announced as one of the 21 students in Montana nominated by U.S. Senator Jon Tester to the country's four prestigious military service academies. Owen is nominated to the U.S. Military Academy. The announcement was made in a press release on Thursday, Dec. 8, noting that Owen is captain of the football team and a track and field 200-meter dash state champion. He is also a junior member of Seeley-Swan Search and Rescue, a student trustee for the Missoula County Public Schools Board, and has attended Boy State. 

Polson High senior receives Winslow Nichols Leadership Award
"It's been my goal to be valedictorian since forever – pretty much at least since I knew what the word meant," says Polson High senior Aspen McKee. With just two quarters left in her high school career and a 4.0 grade point, she's on track to check that accomplishment off of her to-do list. The highly motivated student is the recipient of the Winslow Nichols Leadership Award from Logan Health. In nominating McKee, school counselor Betsy Wade calls her "an exceptionally talented student – demonstrating academic excellence and intellectual curiosity." "I'm a doer," says McKee of her many accomplishments. That propensity for engagement helps explain her decision to take the most rigorous course of study available at Polson High, including five AP classes and two dual-enrollment classes, which have already earned her 15 college credits. She's taken music all four years, playing saxophone and piano, performing with the Symphonic Band, Jazz Band and Pep Band, and receiving superior ratings at the district and state level. She's the sole band member to earn a berth at the prestigious All Northwest music conference in February, featuring top high school musicians from six states. 

Alberton parent-teacher group hosts gingerbread day
On Sunday afternoon, the Alberton School Gymnasium transformed into a gingerbread house manufacturing plant as parents, guardians and kids came in to build and have fun. Graham crackers were used instead of gingerbread so boxes were spaced out on the lunchroom tables with an aluminum foil mat in place for the building site. A plastic bag of vanilla frosting was set in each construction zone to be used as adhesive sealant and the trim and accessories (candy) were lined up in bowls on the stage for the builders to help themselves to for the finish work. The Alberton Schools Parent Teachers Student Association (PTSA) was disbanded about 10 years before Felicity Day became the president two years ago. "A couple of parents pitched the idea of bringing back the PTSA and my kids were enrolled here and I wanted to get involved. I wanted to support the teachers," Day shared.

Plains art students bring holiday cheer to area businesses
Art teacher Kristen Cole's students spent last Thursday bringing holiday cheer to businesses around Plains. They used their art skills to paint holiday-themed pictures on the windows of 17 businesses. The Post Office was among those having 11 windows painted. This was the second year in a row to have the students paint their windows. Artist and 10th-grader RuBea Privett was hard at work painting the character, Cindy Lou Who, which came to life under her brush strokes. Privett said she enjoyed spending time creating her art. Ninth-graders Madi Peele and Maddie Carter were adding more holiday cheer to the windows, with snowflakes and the always poplar Grinch and Max the dog. Each of the paintings were hand drawn with color carefully added on. Many of the artists painted multiple businesses starting at 9 a.m., Thursday morning and ending around 4 p.m.

Lincoln High School Graduate Sage Kamps Inducted into The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi
Sage Kamps of Ovando, Mont., was recently initiated into The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, the nation's oldest and most selective all-discipline collegiate honor society. Kamps was initiated at University of Montana. Kamps is among approximately 25,000 students, faculty, professional staff and alumni to be initiated into Phi Kappa Phi each year. Membership is by invitation only and requires nomination and approval by a chapter. Only the top 10 percent of seniors and 7.5 percent of juniors are eligible for membership. Graduate students in the top 10 percent of the number of candidates for graduate degrees may also qualify, as do faculty, professional staff and alumni who have achieved scholarly distinction.

Chess Club a new option for strategic students
Another new endeavor for Laurel High School is the Chess Club. The chess club is hosted by art teacher Ceilon Aspensen. The club has four active members that meet in Aspensen's room every day during lunch to play chess against the other members of the group. At this time, the players rotate to rival each other to improve at the game. All the players are at different levels, but everyone can play and participate. It is a stress-free time to enjoy playing chess with other chess lovers. It is a great opportunity for them to play chess because they are able to do one of their favorite activities with other teenagers that know how to play. Dallas Jackson, a member of the group said, "I like playing chess and especially in Laurel High School because I can actually find other people who know how to play it so I can practice with other chess players. It's very fun." Many high school students enjoy playing chess, but can't find students to match who know how to play the game at a high level. The club in Laurel High School makes it possible for students to easily find fellow chess players and play for fun. In the spring of 2023, the club will start to enter in tournaments.

Another LHS real-world venture: Hot Diggety Dog
Let's be frank: we all love a good hot dog, whether it is boiled, grilled, or even microwaved. "Hot dogs just hit the spot!" says Lisa McDonald, who teaches life skills classes for the Special Education students. These classes include Math, Science, Montana History, English, and Job skills. Specifically, the job skills class has been preparing for their hot dog cart debut. The hot dog cart called "The Hot Diggety Dog" opened for the first time on December 2, and will carry on through the end of the year. The students will be selling their hot dogs outside of the Laurel High School Depot every first and third Friday of each month. Two students at a time will be working at the cart, selling hot dogs along with chips and condiments.

Reading For Graduation Matters
Graduation Matters is a program at Laurel High School that emphasizes that the work students do in the building is important. It is important to be a good role model for younger students as well as focusing on their own post-graduation goals. This year the high schoolers went on an adventure to read for the elementary students on November 17th for an early Thanksgiving treat. In the beginning of November, Lori Hodges, the high school's librarian and Graduation Matters coordinator, sent out an email to all fall and winter season coaches to invite the athletes to help host this event; a couple of weeks later the fun began. After reading a short book to the kids as they sit and look at the pictures, elementary students are given the opportunity to ask the high schoolers questions and learn more about what high school is like or their specific sport. This is a great way of getting the elementary students excited for their future in high school, and a way for the athletes to give back to all of their little fans who cheer for them at games. Hosting these events allows the older kids and elementary kids to make a connection with each other where the younger ones now have a special bond or person to look forward to at high school games and other big events where the high schoolers are. 

Interior Design another elective available for students
Jennifer Painter, a new teacher at Laurel High School, specializes in classes such as La cuisine, ProStart, FACS and Interior Design. With this being her first year teaching Interior Design and it being her first year teaching high school, Painter has talked about what a wonderful class it is and the struggles that came with it. Painter herself had to take this class when she went to college so she has some background knowledge of this class. Painter also said, "I have to reteach myself the curriculum that I was taught in college, now teaching students myself." With all of that said, however, Painter's classes have been successful and engaging for a large spread of students. Interior Design is a lesser known elective for students.

Student Council takes on Great Falls
After not being able to attend the State convection for Student Council for almost 2 years due to the pandemic, schools from all over the state were able to have a chance to attend. "We left on the 6th and got back on the 9th; it was a 3 day conference," said Lori Hodges the Student Council co-advisor. "There were approximately 470 students from across the state; it was huge." Two advisors and 17 students from Laurel High School went. This year, the convention was held in Great Falls. Every year, the State Convention has a theme. This year's theme was "Lewis and Clark" because in Great Falls they have the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. Senior, Tazsia Brester mentioned, "They were showing off what the Great Fall is all about; we were pretty much doing what they did. So, they opened up the museum for all of us to go in to show off Great Falls and their school." Sophomore, Raylea Brown said, "We got to build boats that they used, wear their type of clothes, and we watched a film. I really loved it. I'm a history fanatic!" At the conference they had 3 keynote speakers, Josh Fingerhut, Michael V. Ivanov, Josh Huestis.

Home Room
For the past six months, Reanna Taliaferro, her two children, and the family's mixed-breed rescue dog have shared a 270-square-foot hotel room on the outskirts of downtown Kalispell. Filled with emblems of childhood chaos - old Halloween costumes, homework sheets, ramen noodles and teddy bears - the small space is the most constant home the family has had in years. While not ideal, the hotel room offers privacy, a bathroom and a heating system, which is more than Taliaferro can say for other recent living arrangements. As the family's after-school routine unfolded on a recent weekday evening, Taliaferro described her enduring struggle with the Flathead Valley's harsh housing market and its impacts on her two children, who have been forced to weather the storm of homelessness alongside their mother for the past three years. The family has been without stable housing since October 2019, when an unexpected eviction pushed them onto the streets and into a sequence of transitional living situations. Her daughter, a first grader, and her son, a freshman in high school, are both enrolled in Kalispell schools. 

DCHS pantry benefits students
The Dawson County High School student pantry has seen an uptick in usage this year, and while that means student needs are being met like never before, it does also raise some questions for those who manage the program. The goal of the pantry is to provide food and other products to students who may not have those resources as easily available to them as their peers. It was established in early 2020 by a member of the graduating class and taken over by the school's Z Club later that year. It's success has even inspired the implementation of another pantry at Washington Middle School this year. According to Z Club Adviser Nicole Cohen, this year has seen some changes to the pantry's operation, though those have mostly been due to the way it has been utilized. For example, she explained that students have shifted from primarily taking food home to cook and have instead been utilizing it more for in school, such as at lunch time. What this means is that there is more of a conscious effort to stock the pantry with items that can be suitable for an easy lunch or snack. "This year, the student pantry has been used in a different way than I've seen it used in the last couple of years. Our first couple years, we saw a lot more leaving the building for, like, after school, and this year, we haven't seen that as much. I'm not sure if that's just because it's earlier in the year or we are just facing a different need this year, but we are seeing more use in school than we've seen in previous years," Cohen said.

Trout in the Classroom brings watershed to life for Frenchtown students
Growing up, Caitlin Wilcox had a pet Betta fish. Now, the Frenchtown High School junior and her classmates in Hannah Pepper's advanced biology class are responsible for the lives of about 200 rainbow trout. Caring for the trout - which the class is raising from eggs to fry - is a lot more involved than Wilcox's previous experience. It's a process that involves more equipment, frequent (but regimented) feedings and routine testing of the aquarium water. 

Dinner and a show
The CCHS drama class performed at their annual Dinner Theater last Thursday. This year, the class put on an original production entitled "Hospitals Can Be Murder." The story was set in an old military hospital. Performers included Zander Ashbrook, Barbara Rose Elmore, Travis Shallenberger, Jenna Elmore, Jolyn Elmore, Alivia Foxley, Tristan Reynolds, Abagayel Stonebrink, and Ayla Yates. The local FCCLA chapter provided the dinner portion of the evening, chicken cordon bleu with sides and dessert.

Youth tour winner announced
Southeast Electric Cooperative Inc. recently announced that Kayl Hadley of Plevna, Montana was chosen as the 2023 Washington D.C. Youth Tour winner. Kayl, the daughter of Jeff and Josi Hadley, is currently a sophomore at Baker High School. This year students were asked if they could witness one historical moment firsthand, what would it be and why? Kayl chose the Apollo 11 Moon Landing stating that "this moment in history exemplifies one of the greatest technological, far-fetched, and complicated advancements in the 20th century."

Big Sandy High School Music Rules the Air
It is that time of year when music rules supreme. The time of year when we usually know every song being played. It brings up memories and smiles. It lifts us, and despite ourselves, we find ourselves smiling. Ok, there is occasionally a song that is played so much we start crumbling about "that" same song. There is music about the Savior being born. Music about family. Music about Santa. My favorite concerts are this time of year. I love listening to grade school children sing. I love watching them search the crowds for their parents. I love seeing them in their Christmas dresses. "Gramma, I have a new dress! It's so beautiful! It's gold." I love hearing the first time the grade school band plays. They are still learning, but it's terrific! The Elementary School Concert is 6:30 PM on Thursday, December 15th. The High School Christmas concert is on Tuesday, December 20th, at 6:00. This concert is fabulous because of the quality of the music! Our high school musicians are that good.

'FFA goes Urban Cowboy': CHS chapter organizes fundraiser
The Corvallis High School FFA chapter is organizing its 4th annual Alumni fundraiser "FFA goes Urban Cowboy" for Friday, Jan. 27, at the Ravalli County Fairgrounds. Chapter Advisor Neela Andres said the FFA program helps the youth prepare for the future and that the funding provides opportunities to more members. Sentinel Gia Bumgarner said the event will include a sirloin steak dinner, a dessert auction, live music by the Copper Mountain Band, silent and live auctions and a mechanical bull. "Corporations can buy tables and we also have general admission seats," she said. "Doors open at 5:30 and dinner will be served at 6:30. The other events will take place the whole time. It is going to be so much fun. The band, Copper Mountain Band, is super good and the bull riding will be so fun."

Sen. Daines nominates local students for military academies
U.S. Senator Steve Daines on Tuesday nominated 19 Montana students who are applying for enrollment into U.S. military academies, including two from the Flathead Valley. Daines nominated Kalispell student Luke Leech for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and Columbia Falls student Nicholas Dills for the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, U.S. Naval Academy and U.S. Air Force Academy. "One of my greatest honors as Montana's U. S. Senator is to nominate committed Montana students to compete for an appointment to one of our nation's military academies. Their commitment to serving our nation is a reflection of Montana's rich legacy of service. I wish them the best as they continue in this extremely competitive process," Daines said in a press release.

Highland Park students learn about Native heritage
Students at Highland Park Early Primary School were treated to a number of activities Friday meant to introduce them to aspects of Native American culture and history. Native elders from around the area came to the school and helped with a number of activities students engaged in, including learning about the reservations' flags, and the significance of certain symbols and animals. Students were also able to take a beading class with Renita Longknife, an elder from Fort Belknap, and Nikkita Foursouls, also of Fort Belknap, who spoke about traditional Nakoda teachings about the Circle of Life.

Dolce Canto to perform with SHS Chrysolian Choir Saturday
Stevensville High School Chrysolian Choir will join the Missoula choir Dolce Canto for a special "Love in December" concert at Stevensville United Methodist Church on Saturday, Dec. 10. SHS Choir Director Kyla Morton said she is pleased her students get the opportunity to sing with a professional choir. "Every few years Dolce Canto reaches out to schools," Morton said. "This year they reached out to the Bitterroot and called me. I was so honored." SHS will sing a solo number and a combined song with Dolce Canto.

Durward looks to improve HHS band as drum major
Havre High School's band has a new Drum Major in Liana Durward, a senior and former color guard captain, who took over at the beginning of this year and who has been looking to continue improving not only their performance, but their connection to the larger community. Durward started playing music in middle school, as part of a family tradition that included her father and brother, both of whom played in middle school, the former playing percussion and the latter playing trumpet. Durward on the other hand opted for the alto saxophone, but has since pivoted to a baritone saxophone which the high school band was in need of, a change she said she has definitely enjoyed.

Two Bitterroot high school coaches selected as COY Fall 2022
The Montana Coaches Association has selected two Bitterroot high school coaches as Coach of the Year for Fall 2022. Pat Duchien, Florence-Carlton High School, is the Class B Football Coach of the Year and Owen Burch of Hamilton High School is the Class A Girls Golf Coach of the Year. This is the second year the Florence Falcon football team earned the Class B 11-man state championship. The first time was just last year. The exciting repeat by the Florence Falcons as Class B state football champions was 48 to 7 against Loyola on Saturday, Nov. 19. Duchien said that although he appreciates being selected as Coach of the Year it was a group effort.

4 local students nominated for military academies
U.S. Sen. Jon Tester has nominated four Flathead County students to the country's four prestigious military service academies. Tester selected a total of 21 students based on their academic accomplishments, extracurricular activities, and dedication to serving and leading in the United States military. A nomination from a member of Congress is a student's first step in applying to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. "Montana has a long and proud history of producing some of our nation's finest military men and women, and it's a great honor to nominate our state's best and brightest to continue this legacy at one of our military service academies," said Senator Tester. "Their outstanding work ethic and dedication to serving our country prove they are exactly the kind of leaders we need in the military and I look forward to watching them continue to make our state and country proud."

Former Cascade teacher will lead national ag educator recruitment
It has been a few years since Eric Tilleman was at the head of an ag education classroom. He was a fixture in the halls at Cascade High School as the Ag Education teacher for 16 years. But his passion for the profession never faded, even as he took a job as the Agricultural Education Specialist with the State of Montana. Recently, he was named President-elect of the National Association of Agricultural Educators, which gives opportunities to over 9,000 teachers across the country. A big part of the organization's mission is to attract and keep new ag teachers. "We're trying to get teachers into the classroom, trying to retain them, because we have a lot of teachers, they quit after three years," said Tilleman. "So we had to figure out how to solve that issue." Tilleman will serve in a presidential capacity for three years, first as President-elect, then President, and then past president.

Buzz! Students battle it out for title of best Apsaalooke Language Speaker
How do you say, "Thank you, may your day be good?" "Aho, Diish Baapaa Itchi." Correct! The Intertribal Language Summit came to Montana State University Billings with an Apsaalooke Language Bowl for elementary, middle and high school students on Wednesday. The students were given words or phrases in English, which they had to translate into Apsaalooke. They were given buzzers, Jeopardy! style. They would then duke it out over the course of five minutes with the winner answering the most questions in that time. Tribal elders who speak the language served as judges. Around 30 students vied for the title of best speaker and the competition was fierce with a few going on runs of three or four correct questions in a row, while also flexing their buzzing skills.

Emerson students deck the halls for floor decorating competition
At Emerson Elementary School, teachers and students alike not only got into the holiday spirit, but also embrace the spirit of competition. This is the first time the school has done a Christmas floor decorating competition, and it's not an annual event, said principal Brenda Miner. First-grade teacher Alynn Jonart said the floor decorating – which has been going on since before Thanksgiving – started as a competition between the teachers, and evolved to include the students. The teachers decided on three themes: one for each floor. On the first floor, where the pre-k, kindergarten and first-grade classrooms reside, the theme is "The Polar Express," the 2004 animated movie which was adapted from the 1985 book by Chris Van Allsburg. When you first walk down the hall from one side, you'll see Christmas trees made of some of the students' green-painted handprints.

Student of the month: Curtis Corzine of EHHS 'reaches for challenges and doesn't back down'
Curtis Corzine is redefining the word busy, and he hasn't even graduated high school yet. Curtis attends East Helena High School and is a part of the first senior class since the new school was established in 2019 and moved into a newly constructed building in 2020. This is his first normal school year in his new school. "I wish COVID hadn't happened," said Curtis. "The first two years, we didn't have a real high school experience because they hadn't even built the school the first year. We were in the middle school. Then COVID hit, and we had the weird block schedule. I've enjoyed my one year of high school." Curtis Corzine is redefining the word busy, and he hasn't even graduated high school yet. Curtis attends East Helena High School and is a part of the first senior class since the new school was established in 2019 and moved into a newly constructed building in 2020. This is his first normal school year in his new school. "I wish COVID hadn't happened," said Curtis. "The first two years, we didn't have a real high school experience because they hadn't even built the school the first year. We were in the middle school. Then COVID hit, and we had the weird block schedule. I've enjoyed my one year of high school."

Grandparents fill local schools with love
Grandparents always have the best stories, interesting facts, and delicious treats and now these role models can be found in the schools. Foster Grandparents are currently in 10 of the 15 GFPS elementary schools and three private elementary schools. The Foster Grandparents program is a federal program and a United Way of Cascade County grant provides the required matching local dollars to leverage the federal funds as they're given $3.15 an hour for their time. However, it's not the money that fuels their desire to spend time with kids, it's the kids themselves. "Being a foster Grandmother means I can enlighten a child's life and perhaps give him something he doesn't have, and perhaps he can have a totally fun filled day with love while he's at school," said Genia McElroy, a foster grandma. McElroy, better known as Grandma Genia has been a foster grandma in the Great Falls Public School system for 8 years. She's just one of 25 grandparents who go into classrooms throughout Great Falls to give teachers a helping hand and students a little extra attention.

Montana Model UN announces high school winners
More than 250 students from 12 Montana and Idaho high schools participated in the 57th annual Montana Model United Nations Conference, hosted in November at the University of Montana. UM Provost Pardis Mahdavi welcomed students and their advisers to campus and shared her own personal experiences growing up in Iran. Joanna Shelton, a UM economics faculty affiliate and nonresident senior associate in economics for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, gave a keynote speech titled "Global Cooperation in a Fragmented World." The top five high school seniors were Melina LaPlante, Eden Maxwell and Ashley Kim of Hellgate High School in Missoula, as well as Aiden Rohn and Eddie Chisholm of Columbia Falls High School in Columbia Falls. Each will be offered a $1,000 scholarship to attend UM. Schools also won awards at the conclusion of the conference. Participating schools were divided into small and large delegations based on the number of students attending and were judged on the overall preparedness, participation and excellence of their delegate.

Columbia Falls students top-5 at Model UN
More than 250 students from 12 Montana and Idaho high schools participated in the 57th annual Montana Model United Nations Conference, hosted in November at the University of Montana.

East Middle School students learn about 'gift of giving'
Not every school assignment is taught in a classroom. Sometimes, the classroom can be temporarily moved to the toy aisle at Walmart, or right smack in the middle of the store's clothing section. While shopping Sunday morning for Butte families in need this Christmas, East Middle School students, with lists in hand, had to use not only their math skills, but their organizational skills as they walked up and down the store's aisles. All of the students wanted to make sure they didn't go under budget, nor over budget, and that the gifts they picked were not only needed but what each person wanted. Everything had to be just right. Early-morning customers who thought they would beat the crowds and noise were in for a surprise. During the nearly two-hour shopping excursion, pre-teens were heard laughing and shouting throughout the store. "This is so cool!" or "I think she'd really like that!" were just two of the many comments that reached high-decibel levels.

'I'd love to go back and do it again': PAL students attend EconoQuest Conference
For high school teachers wondering how to make economics fun, look no further than EconoQuest. The Montana World Affairs Council put on the first ever EconoQuest Conference in Bozeman from Oct. 23-25. Students Ashton Thompson (senior), Adam Rea (junior) and Nova Charlton (senior) from Helena's Project for Alternative Learning (PAL), along with their government, history and world culture teacher Ryan Cooney, were in attendance. "The Montana World Affairs Council based in Missoula is a wonderful program, and I want to emphasize to any teacher to get their students involved because it is mostly free. They provide scholarships, transportation, hotel rooms and great programming," said Cooney. "... I think the benefits and values are too numerous to list." The main goal of the conference was to provide Montana students with an opportunity to engage with local companies and government leaders about economics. The takeaway from the conference was basic understanding of economic theory, business investment planning, the impact of global dynamics on our economy and more. Around 12 teams from high schools around the state attended the conference.

Public schools report second year of enrollment gains in Montana's K-12 student population
Preliminary enrollment figures released by the Office of Public Instruction Thursday show a slight increase in Montana's K-12 student population this fall - the second consecutive year of gains following a significant dip during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the latest headcount, conducted in public schools across the state on Oct. 3, Montana's statewide enrollment has reached 149,879 students. That's a 681-student increase from OPI's official enrollment count for the 2021-22 school year, and a gain of 4,247 students since the agency reported a dramatic decline in 2020-21. OPI stated in its announcement that the latest total marks the highest public school enrollment in Montana in 19 years. School districts have until Dec. 31 to change or certify their headcounts, meaning this fall's numbers may alter slightly before they're finalized. In a statement accompanying the announcement, state Superintendent Elsie Arntzen tied the increase to her agency's ongoing work revising content standards for math and reading and exploring alternatives to end-of-year standardized tests.

Penny wars
Whitefish Middle School students participated in a "Penny War" run by their student council. Classes compete against each other to raise the most money. Pennies, checks and cash go into their positive total. Kids enjoy sabotaging other classes by putting silver coins in the can, which gets subtracted from their class total. WMS raised over $4,000 for North Valley Food Bank during the fundraiser. Student Council thanks all of the WMS Families for their contributions to this fundraiser. 

Student businesses ready to launch at Blackhawk BIZ Market Day
The Seeley-Swan High School Entrepreneur Class has been talking about Market Day since the first day of school. Now their mini businesses are a reality and will make their debut during the second annual Blackhawk BIZ Market Day from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10, in the SSHS Cafeteria. The high school students are excited to offer their homemade goodies, hand-made crafts, jewelry and apparel, and unique art created from various mediums. With the class size more than doubling from last year's inaugural Entrepreneur class, SSHS is leading the way for Missoula County Public Schools. Teacher Michele Holmes said they are the first school in the MCPS District to offer an entrepreneur class using Empowered, a curriculum sponsored by the Montana Chamber of Commerce. Empowered provides a platform for hands-on, real-life business experience by taking students through the whole entrepreneurial process from brainstorming to starting a mini business in a semester. "Nobody [in MCPS] is using the Empowered platform and curriculum, and I think it adds so much," Holmes said. "The activities are so hands-on, and it is just such a powerful way to learn."

REACH works to build new school in Dayton
The REACH Foundation has announced its plans to build a new school and community center for the town of Dayton in Proctor Valley. Started this year by members of the community, Executive Director Kaci Santos explained that REACH has been in the works for the last couple of years. The conversation got started when parents, seeing the issues of the current school, came together wanting better for their kids. On leased Tribal land, the facility has no room for expansion due to the septic system being at capacity. This means the school district is unable to add school basics such as a gym and a cafeteria for hot lunches. Though the normal process for creating a new public school happens through levies and bonds and a taxpayer vote, Dayton has been unable to pass such a measure over the years. Therefore, the idea of the foundation was born. Spearheaded by school board members and parents, an eight-member board includes a Tribal liaison, a principal, a school teacher, and business owners. Santos said REACH is involving "individuals from many different walks of life to make sure we're getting all the right people engaged to take on a project of this size." Though it's a private organization, the school the REACH foundation intends to build will be a public school leased to the school district. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the foundation simply allows for private money to be used for the school district in lieu of the tax funding they were unable to receive. And since the foundation kicked off in May, Santos said they've received over a million dollars in donations. 

Native American Heritage Day: Polson students study heritage and traditions
Students at Polson Middle School set aside their regular studies Tuesday to learn about the cultural and artistic traditions of Salish and Kootenai people during the seventh annual Native American Heritage Day. D'Arcy Ellis, an artist and teacher, helped students learn about traditional indigenous dress, hair styles and embellishments. Students experimented with different materials and patterns as they adorned paper-doll size cutouts. "We're going around from the beginning of school until lunch learning about Native American heritage," said eighth grader Morgan Delaney as she put finishing touches on a doll. Tim Ryan, department head for the Salish Kootenai College's Culture and Language Studies Department, and John Stevens, also of SKC, taught students how to build a fire (carefully) with a bow, spindle and notched fire board. The room erupted in cheers when someone finally elicited a slender tendril of smoke and flicker of flame. "Keep it going, c'mon, c'mon!"

Two local students awarded scholarships
CONGRATULATIONS to TERS Student Brandi Bigby and RHS student Kaileen Howard! Winners of two, all expenses paid scholarships, to the Intertribal Agriculture Council Youth training in Las Vegas, this December! Each year, my office, the MSU Flathead Reservation Extension Office (FREO) works with the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC) to engage youth in agriculture. One of these sponsored events is the annual Youth Essay Contest. This year the theme for the contest was focused on recognizing, creating, and proposing a work plan that supports Tribal food sovereignty by addressing food nutrition, insecurity, processing, and/or infrastructure. There were 60 full ride scholarships available (any indigenous youth across the U.S. can participate) for youth finalists and one guardian to attend the Intertribal Agriculture Council Youth Track in Vegas every December. This is a Monday – Thursday event filled with training opportunities specifically designed for youth and of course lots of fun along the way.

Laurel High School senior Abigail Nagel honored by Wendy's
There are some students who set the bar. They work harder, show more passion and lead by example-in the classroom, on the field and within the community. Today, Wendy's High School Heisman recognizes Abigail Nagel from Laurel High School and her dedication to never cutting corners by naming her as the school winner."These students are known by their teachers and friends for their commitment to excellence. We are excited and honored that a program like Wendy's High School Heisman is also recognizing their hard work," said Shawnda Zahara, Principal of Laurel High School.

Cut Bank, Browning third-graders receive free books
The Glacier County Library Memorial Foundation and Friends of the Library Committee did their Third Grade Book Giveaway in Cut Bank on Wednesday, Nov 2., and in Browning on Thursday, Nov. 3. Each third grade student was able to select a book from the local Scholastic Book Fair with a value of up to $13.00. This year Cut Bank had 72 third grade students and their selections totaled $685.29. Browning had 140 students and their selections totaled $1,340.69. Austin Castle, Library Director, Vananda Yazzie, Browning Branch Manager, and Linda Luther, Foundation Board Member and Friends of the Library Committee chair were present at the giveaway in Cut Bank to help the children make their book selections.

Big Sandy has incredible schools
Principal Heather Wolery's report was the most important and exciting at the meeting. The student enrollment is elementary 104, Jr. High 29, and High School 63. There are 52 girls and 52 boys in the elementary school. Jr. High has 12 girls and 17 boys. High school breaks down to 34 girls and 29 boys. The Student-Teacher Ration is Elementary 7:1, Jr. High 2:1, and High School 5:1. The Average class size is 15. The average daily attendance is 95.03% in the Elementary, Jr High has 95.89%, and High School is running at 93.53%. The percentage of students involved in Extracurricular Activities is high. The Jr High has 90% of the student participating. High School is 67%. But here it is! The average 1st Quarter GPA for the Jr. High is 3.542, and the high school student's average is 3.574! The Board of Trustees held their regular meeting on November 15th. There was a rather large crowd of wrestling supporters to discuss allowing Kyle Rodewald to volunteer as an extra coach this year in the wrestling program. Tucker Taylor reported they would have up to eight wrestlers this year in the Big Sandy wrestling program. He has the largest number of athletes to wrestle since he has been coaching. He believed this was because of the commitment of Kyle Rodewald. Everyone who spoke was in favor. The board voted to allow Kyle to be a volunteer.

FE Miley Had a New, Creative Thanksgiving Celebration
F.E. Miley Elementary School kicked off a new Thanksgiving tradition last Tuesday before breaking for the holiday weekend. "Friendsgiving" was an opportunity for students to plan their own class meals and share lunchtime with their friends. For "Friendsgiving," the school was divided in half by grades. Kindergarten through third grade planned their own event, while fourth through sixth grade did their own thing. The younger grades prepared class soups and bread for lunch, with each child bringing in a different ingredient. During lunch, classes had the opportunity to choose to eat in the cafeteria with the other grades or in their classrooms. Kindergarten through second opted to eat as a group and mixed into each other's classes. Typically lunch tables are separated by grade, but for Friendsgiving they sat with friends they normally wouldn't be able to have lunch with. The third grade class chose to eat in their classroom, which is a treat normally reserved for special occasions.

Havre schools Native heritage events a success
Today is the last day of Native American Heritage month and Havre Public Schools Indian Education For All Director Jessica Kennedy-Stiffarm said she thinks this year's cultural events, classes and addresses went very well. Kennedy-Stiffarm took the position in October of this year and has since been working to bring more cultural events and education to the district, with the guidance of parents and students. She said she's been conducting surveys and talking to parents and students to see where they think the holes are in the district's education about Native American culture, language and history, and their suggestions are guiding her longterm plans. In the meantime, she said, she's been working on setting up events, classes and speakers at the schools and they had a number of great events throughout November. "I think it went very well," she said. Among the events were a class on horse painting, which has a very important history for Native American communities, and an honor song and drum group for Veterans Day.

Reach Higher Montana Scholarships double to $2,000 this year
When it comes to paying for higher education, the Montana nonprofit Reach Higher Montana knows that every penny counts these days. "Reach Higher Montana is super excited to offer funds to students to pursue their college and career dreams," said Steve Coop, programs manager. "We understand the value of higher education, whether that be the trades, a two-year school or a four-year school." In past years, the nonprofit gave out the same number of scholarships, but they were for $1,000 each. Coop stated that with the rising cost of higher education, the nonprofit's board gave the go-ahead to double the scholarship awards to $2,000 this year. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average annual cost of education has gone up 10% from $8,500 to $9,400 from 2010-11 to 2020-2021 at four-year public institutions. At four-year private nonprofit institutions, the 2020-2021 education cost at $37,600 is 19% higher than in 2010-2011 at $31,700. For two-year public institutions from 2010-2011 to 2020-2021, the cost is 18% higher, going from $3,300 to $3,900.

 Local youths help decorate museum with history in mind
Local youths helped deck the halls of the Northwest Montana History Museum with history in mind in preparation for an open house on Thursday, Dec. 1. Museum volunteer Susan Bradley, who took on Christmas decorating responsibilities this year, was inspired to reach out to students when she thought about decorating the McClaren 1895 Classroom. "I thought we're missing an opportunity to engage kids in the local area," Bradley said and knew it was around the time that teachers would be getting out the art supplies to make ornaments and other holiday decorations. She put out the invitation on social media and got a good response. Bradley was also interested in taking a historical approach to decorating that complemented different exhibits and expanded visitor's knowledge of local history through the lens of Christmas and was delighted to learn Kalispell Middle School eighth-graders in social studies teacher Brynn Willcut's elective history class were studying families like the Conrads and other people and groups such as homesteaders, missionaries and Native Americans in the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

November 2022 Great News

Belgrade Schools offer free Thanksgiving meals
This is the second year the Belgrade School District is offering free Thanksgiving meals after a successful and impactful first year. On Thursday from 1-3 P.M. at Belgrade High School folks can come pick up a full meal that includes turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, green beans, a roll, cranberry sauce and assorted desserts. They will also have pantry items that folks can take as well if they need it.  This is put on by Belgrade School District's ProStart program which is a foodservice industry driven curriculum developed by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. The ProStart course integrates performance-based learning with academics, entrepreneurship and technology skills to prepare students for successful employment in the industry. Topics included in this year-long class include food safety and sanitation, restaurant management, desserts, breads, vegetables, proteins and more. Students will participate in catering events throughout the program, such as this Thanksgiving meal.

Katelyn Gorder selected for educational community service award
The Montana Association for Career and Technical Education announces that Katelyn Gorder, Family and Consumer Sciences teacher at Skyview High School in Billings, has been selected to receive the 2022 Montana Career and Technical Education Community Service Award. Ms. Gorder is this year's award recipient for her work with students in her Family and Consumer Sciences program. Nominated for the award by her fellow FCS teachers of Montana, Ms. Gorder encourages students to work in a team or as individuals on community service projects. Her FCCLA members organize multiple community service events in the Billings area. The Community Service Award is presented to ACTE members who have used CTE to make a significant impact on a community or humanitarian cause through leadership in programs and activities that promote community involvement. This award was named in honor of the late Congressman Carl D. Perkins of Kentucky and is designed to recognize individuals who have demonstrated the same humanitarian concerns exemplified by Congressman Perkins.

Foundation awards more than $25,000 to teachers
Kalispell Education Foundation awarded $25,009 in Great Opportunities grants to help educators fund projects to engage and inspire students in Kalispell Public Schools. The grants will fund 18 projects that are estimated to serve roughly 2,640 students across the district. Every fall, educators are encouraged to apply for up to $2,000 in funding to support projects that are innovative, encourage collaboration and prompte academic excellence, according to the foundation. This year, educators also had the opportunity to apply for mini-grants in amounts up to $300. The new mini-grant program was established to support smaller projects, according to Kalispell Education Foundation Executive Director Dorothy Drury, based on feedback from a teacher survey.

Montana team takes a national win at FFA convention
Sporting traditional blue jackets and winning medals, Shaun Billingsley and Gus Turner of Missoula County Public Schools got a round of applause this month for bringing home a first place award from the national FFA convention - a first for the Missoula FFA team and first Montana win in more than a decade, according to a presentation to trustees. "It's just a wonderful opportunity to teach more kids who grow up in a city like Missoula how they can impact agriculture, even if they don't want to be a farmer," said Billingsley, vice president of the Missoula FFA. Turner, president of the Missoula FFA, said FFA used to stand for Future Farmers of America, but it doesn't anymore because the industry has expanded far beyond tilling land and into food production and growing new leaders, such as the estimated 70,000 other "blue jackets" at the national convention in Indianapolis. "That's just out of proportion for me to even conceptualize," Turner said.

Bozeman elementary students' art to decorate Christmas tree in D.C.
When the National Christmas Tree and its accompanying 58 smaller trees are set up in Washington, D.C., in December, a tree representing Montana will be decorated by ornaments from local elementary school students. Students from a couple of classes at Hyalite Elementary School drew ornaments representing Montana for the 100th annual holiday celebration. The smaller trees surrounding the National Christmas Tree represent states, territories and a handful of schools managed by the Bureau of Indian Education and the Department of Defense Education Activity.

Bigfork Vikings' Jim Benn a coach on and off the field
Jim Benn faced more than his fair share of challenges as the head coach of the Bigfork Vikings football team over the past few seasons. From navigating the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 to helping his players deal with the death of a teammate in 2021 and more, Benn's labors leading his athletes to success on the field have only been rivaled by his efforts guiding them off of it. His core philosophies of love, camaraderie and accountability have helped his players, and those around them, make it through times that would test the toughest of souls. "The last few years have been overwhelming at times, to be perfectly honest. Having the core philosophy we do may not have made things easier, but it gave us something to lean on because we could lean on each other," Benn said. "We had some moments that were very difficult for everyone involved, but I think what has come out of it all has been a closeness and maybe a greater appreciation of why we are doing this. It may be a sport, but it is about people and taking care of each other and loving each other."

People praise Superintendent Mueller at memorial
A memorial was held Saturday morning at Havre High School for Havre Public Schools Superintendent Craig Mueller, who died unexpectedly Oct. 22. A long line of people showed up to the event, where family, friends and colleagues spoke about their time with Mueller and the effect he had on them, their families, the school and the community. Before anyone spoke, however, the Havre High School band played "Come Thou Font of Every Blessing" and Havre High School Assistant Principal Jeremiah Nitz led a prayer. The first to speak was Mueller's sister Dr. Michelle Mueller, who talked about everything that made her brother who he was, a man with a desire to improve the world and a family he loved more than anything.

Havre speech sees success at massive East Helena tournament
Havre High School speech and debate saw some success at a massive, highly competitive tournament Saturday in East Helena. The tournament had competitors from 13 Class A schools, including Havre, coming from around the state. Those included state rivals like Whitefish, Columbia Falls, Laurel, Billings Central, Butte Central, Corvallis, Fergus, Park and Stevensville. Three Class AA and eight BC schools rounded out the competition. Havre took a fairly small team, but had some wins including fourth-year debater Paige Bertelsen, a senior, going 3-1 and ending up in fifth place in Lincoln-Douglas debate out of 25 competitors.

Quick pics: Havre students learn about painting horses
The family of Toby and Elizabeth Werk and Joan Racine blessed the Sunnyside students and Havre Public Schools with traditional horse painting in recognition of Native American Heritage Month. They also took the painted horses to the Lincoln-McKinley and Highland Park schools and paraded them up and down the sidewalk so the young students could see the painted horses and ask questions. The students even got a pet or two in. "In Native American cultures, horses meant power, wealth and survival" a page on Notes from the Frontier said. "To paint a horse for battle or for a buffalo hunt was a sacred act, believed to enhance power for both horse and rider - spiritually and physically. It was serious business and could mean life or death."

Stevi resident receives national Honorary American FFA Degree
Like a lifetime achievement award, the Honorary American FFA Degree is an exclusive award given "to those who advance agricultural education and FFA through outstanding personal commitment." Stevensville resident Jay Meyer received the recognition last month at the 95th National FFA Convention and Expo in Indianapolis, Indiana. Meyer called receiving the award on Oct. 28 an "exciting moment." "It was a complete surprise," he said. "It was quite an honor and a thrill. It was like utopia for being honored in the FFA world of agriculture." According to the FFA materials, "The Honorary American FFA Degree is an opportunity to recognize those who have gone beyond valuable daily contributions to make an extraordinary long-term difference in the lives of students, inspiring confidence in a new generation of agriculturists."

Students get moving with Evergreen Fitness program
The Evergreen Fitness team has been exercising its way through 20 years of fitness and fun. "The objective of the program is to make lifelong healthy individuals," Evergreen Fitness Team founder Darner Ross, who is a health and PE teacher and football and eighth-grade boys basketball coach at Evergreen School District. What started out as a weight training program for seventh- and eighth-grade student-athletes, soon expanded to all students interested in staying fit over summer break, starting in the second grade. "There was a need for the Evergreen community to have kids engaged in a summer program," Ross said. "Because I was highly involved in athletics I came up with a supplemental PE program to keep kids active and engaged throughout the summer." Depending on his availability, the fitness team may also meet during other breaks such as winter break. "Lots of kids just want to stay physically active and do not participate in the athletic program. We make it really fun," he said.

Quick pics: Learning culture during Native American Heritage Month
Havre Middle School student Olivia learns to braid sweet grass at Havre Middle School Tuesday. Havre Public Schools Indian Education for All Coordinator Jessica Kennedy-Stiffarm teaches Havre Middle School students Tuesday how to braid sweet grass. Events are being held across local schools and across the state to celebrate Native American Heritage Month. November is designated as the month to celebrate Indigenous history, culture and tradition.

Helena bus driver starts Bus Box program to make sure kids have hats and gloves
Amid last week's below-freezing temperatures, a Helena school bus driver came up with a warm idea. On Nov. 8 Theresa Loney was driving her morning bus route to Warren Elementary School when she noticed a few students getting on her bus without hats and gloves. "I came home and told my husband that I wanted to get some little gloves, and he said to call Warren school and see if they have some lost and found they can donate that you can keep on my bus. They gave me hats but the hardest thing to get is gloves," said Loney. After talking with Warren, she turned to Facebook to see if the community would be interested in donating hats and gloves for students. Her post in the Facebook group Helena Classifieds, with almost 40,000 members, had almost 800 likes and about 90 comments as of Tuesday. Loney didn't know it then, but this would be the start of what has become the Bus Box program.

HSD's Keystone after-school program is kicks off
Hamilton School District's Keystone after-school program is off and running for the 2022-2023 school year to provide well-rounded academic activities to students after school hours. Keystone's mission is to offer a safe, educational and play-based learning environment to both enrich students' education at Hamilton and help working families. The Keystone program recently added two new educational clubs - STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and Strategy Lab. The STEM club is run by Alexis Wheat, Daly's technology and media specialist. The club runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays and focuses on providing STEM opportunities for students outside of the classroom.

Havre speech sees success in Chester
Havre High School speech and debate took a smaller team to a smaller tournament Saturday, the CJI High School invitational in Chester, and its competitors did well. Junior Trinity Olsen, competing in dramatic oral interpretation of literature at her second tournament, received some good marks from judges, including a second-place mark from one of the three finals judges, to end in third place at CJI. Havre's public forum debate teams, the second-year varsity team of senior Caitlynn "Corbyn" Ehry and junior Carinna Kline and the freshman first-year team of Paige Anderson and Lyvia Little, were the only teams in that event and went three rounds against each other.

North Star speech and drama does well at CJI
The North Star Speech and Drama team traveled to CJI in Chester for its first meet of the year and represented the Knights well. Joshua Campbell placed third in Impromptu, a great job for his first meet. Ecko Fraser took a first place in original oratory and Emily Conner also took a first place, in dramatic interpretation. The team is coached by Linda Lett.  The next meet will be in Malta, Dec. 10.

Great Falls hosts Montana Association of Student Councils
The Montana Association of Student Council 2022 was hosted at the Heritage Inn in Great Falls. Student Council members from around the state of Montana came together reflecting upon their accomplishments along with their needs and goals moving forward. In previous years, the conference only had a couple hundred students, partially due to some challenges in terms of bringing all of the attendees together. Helena High School student Charles Fox said, "we were expecting 200 kids to come to the state conference, and we had nearly 500 show up. It's just the interest is peaking here, the state conference, it's been hard to throw it in the past couple of years with COVID, but our executive team is doing a really good job. Great Falls has done a good job. Now we kind of just threw it together and honestly, it's been super fun over the past couple of days." CMR High School student Abbie Virts stated, "There's about 480 students, which is really quite a lot coming from all over Montana. And so it's really good to have we have 667 schools represented here. And so that's a really diverse area. And so I think it's really good to incorporate everybody and get everybody involved."

East middle-schoolers learn about American flag and history
Dignity. Pride. Sanctuary. Safety. These are all words East middle-schoolers used when asked what the American flag means to them Tuesday morning during the It's My Flag presentation at East Middle School. Election Day was a fitting one for the Butte Exchange Club and Butte's United Veterans Council to visit East to hold the It's My Flag assembly and commemorate the installation of the Freedom Shrine. Doug Rotondi, co-chair of the Butte Exchange Club's It's My Flag and Freedom Shrine programs, led the students in the pledge and explained what each word meant and why it was important. He also explained to them what each fold in the flag means as two members of the United Veterans Council folded the flag onstage in the auditorium, and talked to them about the responsibilities of US citizens. Near the end, he asked the students what America meant to them, what the flag meant to them and a variety of other questions to get their voices in the conversation.

Fairfield gets $2.8 million for electric buses, hopes to spread the wealth
The Fairfield School District, which oversees the education of 360 students 35 miles west of Great Falls, was awarded nearly $2.8 million in federal assistance to purchase up to seven state-of-the-art electric school buses. The announcement came last Wednesday in a release from the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA's Clean School Bus Program has awarded $2.765 million to Fairfield, a small portion of the $965 million the program will award this year to U.S. school districts serving low-income, rural, and Native American communities across the country. Fairfield was one of only 389 school districts nationwide to receive a Clean School Bus award, a part of a highly competitive program that received about 2,000 applications in 2022. Fairfield Superintendent Dustin Gordon said he had low expectations when he applied for the funding last summer, and that his "jaw dropped" when he received the e-mail notifying him of his school district's selection.

Indigenous fashion show at Hardin High aims to instill pride in Native culture
The Hardin High School Crow Language class hosted its first Indigenous fashion show on Friday. Local Crow designers used students to model their clothing with the goal of promoting a positive lifestyle and building self-esteem and confidence in Native culture. Hardin High sits on the northern edge of the Crow reservation, which takes up the majority of Bighorn County. The school's student body is 75% Native. Yolanda GoodVoice one of the four designers brought in for the event drew on emotions to create her pieces. One of her collections the students wore is called "gratitude," aimed at teaching the students how to give thanks for being Native American and for the life they have. This collection consisted of everyday wear such as leggings or jackets that incorporate Crow design patterns and rely on primary colors and symbols seen in Crow Culture. The other is called "live" and teaches the students about living in the moment and being present.

A busy Bruin: Helena's student of the month is Isabel Beasley
High school was among the best two years of Isabel Beasley's life that she can remember. COVID-19 started during Beasley's sophomore year. She blinked and is now a senior at Capital High School. "I very much need to interact with people to survive, (so the isolation of COVID-19) was really difficult. Junior year felt very much like a fresh start," stated Beasley. "I hardly remember anything from my freshman year because Covid just put a dent in it, like nothing before Covid basically happened. It feels so much farther away than it was." Beasley has been nominated by teachers and staff at Capital as October's high school student of the month. Each month, a different high school will have the opportunity to nominate a student to be featured in the Independent Record. "Isabel is active in student council and excels in choir as evidenced by her recent selection to All-State Choir," stated Capital's Principal Brett Zanto on Beasley's nomination. "She is an energetic and positive influence upon Capital High School!"

Hamilton High welding class repairs street light snowflakes ahead of holidays
Cooper Hartless fired up his welder and tested some pieces of scrap metal before fusing a large broken snowflake decoration back together. Sparks flew, looking like magic fairy dust as he repaired the metal holiday display. For decades, the Hamilton Downtown Association has decorated Main Street's street lights with large metal snowflakes as a festive wintry tradition - but this year the snowflakes were needing vast repairs. Hartless and the rest of his Hamilton High School welding class stepped up, providing freshly learned skills to make sure the decorations are ready for display. "This is a great opportunity for our students to engage in community service," said Logan Smith, HHS Welding Instructor. "I think it's a meaningful and beneficial relationship."

Fairfield gets $2.8 million for electric buses, hopes to spread the wealth
The Fairfield School District, which oversees the education of 360 students 35 miles west of Great Falls, was awarded nearly $2.8 million in federal assistance to purchase up to seven state-of-the-art electric school buses. The announcement came last Wednesday in a release from the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA's Clean School Bus Program has awarded $2.765 million to Fairfield, a small portion of the $965 million the program will award this year to U.S. school districts serving low-income, rural, and Native American communities across the country. Fairfield was one of only 389 school districts nationwide to receive a Clean School Bus award, a part of a highly competitive program that received about 2,000 applications in 2022. Fairfield Superintendent Dustin Gordon said he had low expectations when he applied for the funding last summer, and that his "jaw dropped" when he received the e-mail notifying him of his school district's selection.

SHS Speech Drama & Debate Competes In Glasgow
SHS Speech, Drama & Debate Teams travelled to Glasgow for the first meet of the season. Speech & Debate Team took 1st in Class A Sweeps; Extemporaneous Speaking: 1st Oliver Slade, 2nd Kyle Pust; Impromptu Speaking: 2nd Colten Dahl; Lincoln Douglas Debate: 3rd Bronte Bennion. The Drama Team also Won 1st in Class A Sweeps; Dramatic Solo: 1st Emma Cundiff, 2nd Cayla Hanson; Humorous Solo: 2nd Cedar Hovde, 6th Brooke Marie Watson. The teams will travel to Billings next weekend to compete in The Eastern Opener!

October BARK awards
On Tuesday, Ekalaka Elementary School held its October Behavior BARK awards. BARK, a new program this school year implemented by Ekalaka Public Schools Guidance Counselor Carol Spencer, stands for Be Respectable, Act Responsible, Remember Safety and Kindness Matters. Each month the students will work on a specific character trait. During October that trait was respect.

Wick, school board, receive top honors
The Columbia Falls School District 6 board of trustees and superintendent Dave Wick were recently recognized by their peers. The School Administrators of Montana earlier this month recognized the Columbia Falls School board as its 2022 school board of the year. The board was nominated by Wick for the award. Wick and the association noted the current board members, as well as their predecessors, "have consistently and doggedly pursued excellence in providing education for the students of Columbia Falls. In the more than 25 years Mr. Wick has worked with the Board, he has seen them follow their vision of 'creating an atmosphere of excellence, where individuals are valued, differences are respected, and students are prepared for their futures," the association noted. The association also said the longevity of the board members speaks to its lasting commitment to education. Recently retired board members Gail Pauley and Larry Wilson served for 26 and 24 years, while current board members have served 33 years, 26 years, and 18 years. "This stability has led to tremendous community trust, as well as extremely knowledgeable decision making," the association said.

Broadus High School Represents
Broadus High School Music Department is proud to announce Seniors Sophie Irish and Alex Edwards have been selected to represent BHS in University of Montana's All Star Band. The two will have the opportunity to play trumpet and trombone, respectively, with the Grizzly Marching Band and also perform alongside 75 other Montana high school students, from AA, A, B, and C schools, at a concert at U of M on Sunday, November 13th under the direction of guest composer and guest conductor, Frank Ticheli, Professor of Composition at the University of Southern California.

FF Schools receive electric bus grant
The Fairfield Public School system was one of three Montana schools selected to receive funds through the US Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Clean School Bus program. The funding, which came from a bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), will go toward supplying brand new zero-emissions electric school buses and charging stations for school districts of Fairfield, Bigfork and Clinton. The exact dollar amount Fairfield is eligible to receive is a little unclear. The award letter received by the school district on Oct. 25 states that $2,765,000 has been reserved for use from this program to replace seven new electric buses, which is broken down to $2,625,000 for the buses and $140,000 for eligible charging infrastructure. However, a press release from Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, and EPA received by the Choteau Acantha says the Fairfield district is slated to receive $395,000 for one bus.

HHS color guard takes first in competition in Idaho
Havre High Schools' marching band and color guard team competed in the Mountain West Marching Band Festival in Pocatello, Idaho, this past weekend, going up against teams from Idaho, Utah and Montana, with the color guard taking first in their division. Color Guard Team Director Serena Dawson said this is her first year leading the team, but she thinks they did very will this weekend and during their fall season as a whole. "I was very happy with our team," Dawson said. "From the beginning of the season until now. I am very proud of them." She said some of the team members have never done a competition like this before and it was a great learning experience.

Local author donates books to Billings high schools
During a recent visit at West High School to discuss his novel 600 Hours of Edward, Billings-based author Craig Lancaster couldn't help but notice the degrading conditions of the students' copies. Worn out spines and tattered covers were the norm after near constant use since it was added to the school district's curriculum in 2012. "They had seen a lot of action in recent years," Lancaster said. "So I just thought that it was time for a refresher." Soon after the visit, Lancaster checked with his publisher to determine how much it would cost to replace the books in all the high schools and began a GoFundMe campaign without their knowledge or involvement. Not 12 hours later after starting the campaign, Lancaster exceeded $1,100 in donations. His original goal was to raise enough money for 50 new books for each public high school in Billings. Following some input from the schools, he's now personally delivering 40 new paperback copies to each one along with 30 going to the career center.

High schoolers' documentary on state Capitol to hit film festivals
Creating a well-rounded documentary in two weeks may feel like an insurmountable task, but high school students in Helena College's summer bridge program Humanities Through Film this past July accomplished it with "The People's House." "We've heard back from a bunch (of film festivals), and ("The People's House") has gotten into about a dozen film festivals already," said Ari Laskin, the program's director on Thursday during a presentation at the Montana Historical Society. "… We won't hear back from them all until basically a year, but it's done shockingly well." The summer program is part of a three-year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Next summer will be the third and final year for students to participate in filmmaking with this program. "The People's House" focuses on the history of Montana's state Capitol and who's been invited to the metaphorical table since construction began on the building in 1896. Laskin noted that while the Capitol was a wonderful subject, it produced some challenges for teaching.

Bigfork receives grant to purchase electric school bus
Bigfork School District is one of three Montana school districts to receive federal funding to purchase an electric bus. The district received $395,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean School Bus Program to purchase the bus. Clinton and Fairfield school districts also received funding through the federal rebate competition as part of the bipartisan Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act (Infrastructure Law). Bigfork School District Transportation Director Danny Walker said the purchase will replace one of its nine diesel buses. Funding will also cover the necessary infrastructure to charge the bus. Walker anticipates the district will see savings in fuel costs. He said one manufacturer estimated that one of Bigfork's bus routes which typically costs $20 a day in diesel would cost about $6 in electricity. The district's buses log about 5,000 miles a year. Additionally, electric buses have zero tailpipe emissions, which would improve air quality for passengers. Electric buses are also quieter than diesel. District transportation staff, namely the mechanic, will need some training to work on the electric bus. "It's almost identical to a diesel bus. Instead of a diesel engine and transmission you have batteries and an electric motor," he said.

October 2022 Great News

CMR High School teacher named Montana Business Teacher of the Year
A teacher at CMR High School has been named Montana Business Teacher of the Year. Great Falls Public Schools (GFPS) says the Montana Business Education Association named Jessica Goosen their Outstanding Business Teacher of the Year. The following is more on Goosen from GFPS: "Jessica has been teaching at Charles M. Russell High School for 15 years and currently serves as department chair. Her courses include accounting, financial tech skills, introduction to business, and personal finance. Currently, Jessica is serving as the MBEA President-elect and the Montana BPA Region 3 co-coordinator. Jessica hosts the Montana BPA Region 3 Leadership Conference as Charles M. Russell High School each year and this past school year, took 15 students to the Business Professionals of America 2022 National Leadership Conference with students earning first place in both team and individual events."

Troy Public Schools raises money for new track with Halloween Walk
Troy Public Schools is hosting a 5k Halloween Walk fundraiser Saturday evening. The goal is to raise money to turn the school's cinder track into a rubberized track, which is located near the WF Morrison Elementary School in Troy. Organizers have brought in nearly $150,000 getting the school close to the halfway mark. "We've been working on this project since 2019. Really had limited opportunities for fund raising early on just because of Covid, so we tried to get folks out and about," said Shana Bernall, a parent of children who attend Troy Public Schools. "Additionally, we are hoping to get some pretty good grants for the project. "

5 Montana student films make shortlist for national awards
The National Academy for Television Arts and Sciences earlier this month announced nominees for its National High School Student Production awards, and five Montana films made the list out of more than 2,000 entries. The National Academy for Television Arts and Sciences recognizes excellence in television with the Emmy awards, and entries for the student awards were judged and selected by industry professionals. The five Montana films that made the shortlist were produced in collaboration with MAPS Media Institute, a nonprofit that aims to empower youth through professional media arts instruction. In the film, "Waking the Generations," students from the Fort Belknap Reservation highlight hidden details of their ancestral past, and reveal that understanding their heritage can help future generations.

Westward ho: Young pioneers traverse the Oregon Trail
Under the bright afternoon sun, teams of excited Hedges Elementary School third-grade pioneers pulling covered wagons rounded the last bend before Dry Bridge Park, or, using their imaginations, the Oregon Trail, came into view. Stepping onto a curb, the black pavement turned into the dusty trail beneath their feet as the third-graders, left behind the modern-day and tuned their imaginations to the 1800s. Here and there a student donned a bonnet, wide-brimmed hat, apron, plaid or flannel button-up and boots. Their wagons were packed with food, water, tools and extra supplies for the journey ahead. Each group, which represented a family of settlers, had a $500 budget to spend in preparation. "Our only stipulations were you have to buy an ox and you have to buy your wagon," Hedges third-grade teacher Lexie Strouse said, the latter of which consisted of a contemporary children's red wagon, to represent the wagon bed and a PVC pipe framework to represent the bows that held up the canvas cover.

Third Graders Receive Dictionaries
The Whitehall Rotary Club completed their annual distribution in October of dictionary/reference books to local third graders. Third grade students in Harrison, Cardwell and Whitehall receive the books each school year. The books are purchased from The Dictionary Project, a national non-profit that promotes literacy. The books contain a basic dictionary along with sections on the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. states, world countries, the planets, world maps, weights and measures, sign language and the longest word. The favorite every year for most of the students is finding the longest word and asking how to pronounce it.

Trout Creek students learn about safety from locals
The students of Trout Creek School spent last week learning about safety. Students had the chance to learn about different areas of safety from representatives around the county including those from the forest service and Trout Creek Ambulance. Students also received a visit from detective April Phillips of the Sanders County Sheriff's Office. Last Thursday, Students spent the morning learning from members of the Thompson Falls Fire Department. Adam Anakalea, Scott Eldridge and David Eldridge, all volunteer firefighters, were quizzed about fire safety from the inquisitive minds of Trout Creek students. Students also had the chance to learn about two different trucks that were parked out in the school's field, including the department's water tender truck, which can hold up to 4,000 gallons of water.

Local students witness NASA launch
Kids of the Ronan Boys and Girls Club got the opportunity of a lifetime on Oct. 5-9 as they were invited to Florida to witness a NASA rocket launch in person. A new program partnered with NASA and funded by the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics' (AIAA), "Students To Launch" reached out to the spectrUM Discovery Area with the University of Montana back in July. According to the spectrUM Discovery Area Director Jessie Herbert-Meny, the hands-on science center in Missoula had applied for a grant that allowed them to become a NASA Community Anchor this last year to build upon NASA's resources and help share them with the people of Montana. As Students To Launch is still in its first year, it used the list of approximately 20 Community Anchors to choose who to begin working with. SpectrUM ended up one of the first sites they reached out to.Herbert-Meny said they were offered the opportunity to participate in a rocket launching activity that would lead to some kids getting the chance to go see an actual rocket launch. They responded with an enthusiastic yes. From there, spectrUM reached out to their partners at the Boys and Girls Club of the Flathead Reservation to find interested kids and Herbert-Meny said it just grew from there.

Overcoming bullying and being yourself
AJ Douglas Bear, a Mohawk from Six Nations Confederacy, spoke at Two Eagle River School (TERS) about bullying, what she has gone through and is still going through, and the strength it takes to stand up to the prejudice that others aren't afraid to propagate. AJ discussed bullying, suicide, self-harm, infertility, miscarriages, anxiety, and depression, of which she was bullied about or was a result of bullying. "I'm not sure if you guys noticed, but I don't have any hair," Douglas said to the TERS students and others at her presentation.  Douglas suffered such severe bullying that it led to the development of an eating disorder and depression. She eventually started losing her hair in clumps as a result. She decided to shave her head, which is mostly why she wears a hat when she dances. "I wasn't really comfortable with being bald at the time; it's an extremely difficult thing to process, and I'm still learning how to process it," Douglas said. Her sisters, who are also her pillars of support, gathered to make her a hat.

Troy students see how Lincoln County ballots are counted
The Lincoln County Election Department's annual test of its ballot counter provided several Troy High School students a look at part of the process that features one of our country's most important rights. The test, which was held on Friday, Oct. 14 in the Election Center at the county Annex Building on Mineral Avenue in Libby, included 15 test ballots from each of the 14 precincts in the county. Ballots in the test deck were all marked "TEST" in red ink. Choices were made and the ballots were hand counted so when they were run through the machine, the results could be compared to make sure the DS450, a scanner and tabulator manufactured by Election Systems and Software, was operating properly. "Every county has to do the testing and it certifies that the machine is working properly," said county Election Administrator Paula Buff. "We will also run a second test on the morning of the election to make sure it is still operating properly." After overseeing a primary election in June where all the ballots had to be counted by hand because a printing error left the ballots not readable by the machine, Buff said she is happy the first test was a good one.

Middle school, college students reap benefits from mentorship program
A mentorship program between Washington Middle School and Dawson Community College has returned this year, continuing a practice that has already seen impacts in both institutions. The program, which started last year, brings DCC students into the middle school to spend time with the younger students, giving them someone to lean on when life's got them down or they need someone to hang out with. The program started as an idea from WMS Principal Katy Kennedy, who explained that the goal is really multifaceted. Not only does it give the middle school students role models, but it also puts the DCC students in positions of leadership, possibly for the first time for some of them. It also exposes the middle school students to people from a variety of backgrounds, as DCC students come from all over to study at the college. "It's multi-faceted. Of course we want our kids to be exposed to people from different places and who have different backgrounds. Yes, some of the kids from DCC are from (Glendive), but they still have different backgrounds from our kids. So it's just experiencing people who are similar and different," Kennedy said. Having someone to look up to, however, is one of the primary goals of the program. Specifically, giving the kids someone to look up to who is not entirely an adult, someone who is still a student, like themselves.

Flathead County School Districts to Begin Pilot Testing Program
Six Flathead County school districts next month will administer the first set of standardized tests to fifth and seventh graders as a part of the Montana Alternative Student Testing (MAST) Pilot program. The pilot program, which teachers say will more accurately measure and address gaps in students' skill levels, allows educators to give students shorter, more frequent tests in math and reading, rather than a longer summative assessment at the end of the year. Flathead County has the highest MAST participation of any county in the state, with the Kalispell, Whitefish, Bigfork, Evergreen, Kila and Fair-Mont-Egan school districts planning to administer MAST tests. Currently, Montana students in third through eighth grades are assessed on mathematics and reading through the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), a summative exam that requires students to test for a total of 3.5 to 6 hours at the end of the year. Fifth and eighth graders are also required to sit for the one- to two-hour Montana Science Assessment, which brings cumulative state testing hours up to 4.5 to 6 hours for those grades.

Farm To School Park County Sandwich Fundraiser
The Mustang fresh food sandwiches made by Carole Sullivan are back for one week only to raise money for Farm to School of Park County. The program teaches kids about farming, agriculture and plants and also provides local fresh food to Park County schools throughout the year. Carole is the School Meal Advisor for the program and made delicious sandwiches for 25 years at Mustang's. She thought what better way to give back then to make those sandwiches people dearly miss while raising money to help keep kids healthy. The pick up of the sandwiches will be next week daily from November 1-4. You must order them by this Friday, and you can do so at their website here, or on the Farm to School of Park County Facebook and Instagram.

Nearly $4M in grants announced for buses for Montana school districts
The Biden-Harris Administration announced three Montana school districts will receive a combined total of $3,950,000 in grant funding from President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law due to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean School Bus Program rebate competition. The grants will allow Bigfork, Clinton and Fairfield school districts to purchase a total of 10 electric-powered school buses, helping the schools transition to zero-emission vehicles and produce cleaner air for the schools and communities.

Capital and Carroll recognized as Unified Champion Schools by Special Olympics
Special Olympics North America is recognizing Capital High School and Carroll College for their continual work toward inclusivity in their programming for students with and without intellectual disabilities. "Only 166 schools in the entire country were chosen this year for National Banner School recognition," said Jeanette Gray, UCS senior director for Special Olympics Montana. "This is only the second year for schools in Montana to be chosen. This shows the level of commitment and dedication our schools have shown to promote social inclusion where all students are welcome and included." The Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools (UCS) program promotes social inclusion through intentional activities that in turn affect systems-wide change. Capital and Carroll had to complete long application and verification processes that were reviewed at both the state and national board of reviewers level. With Capital and Carroll, there's now three total Unified Champion Schools in Montana that can hang the official UCS banner proudly in their gyms.

GHS choir director achieves career aspiration
Once Nathan Connell stood in the choir classroom risers as a Glacier High School student. Today, he stands at the podium conducting students as the choir director in his fourth year of teaching. "It's awesome. It's crazy. This was kind of a dream of mine that I thought would happen maybe 10 or 15 years into my career," Connell said. After graduating from Morehead State University in Kentucky in 2018, where he double majored in vocal education and percussion performance, he thought he would either attend graduate school or teach abroad. When Connell ultimately decided to start a teaching career in the U.S., he got a text from his high school band teacher-now-colleague, David Barr. "I got a text from Mr. Barr saying I think we're going to be looking for a choir director and I couldn't not apply," Connell said. Despite returning to his alma mater, the first few years were more challenging than he predicted. "I kind of thought I would be immune to the struggles of the new teacher that everybody talks about. I was walking into the program I graduated from. I was teaching at my high school, and so I thought this would be, you know, a perfect fit and it was hard."

Havre High Marching Band wins outstanding performance award
The Havre High School marching band and flag team won an award for outstanding performance at the Montana State University Showcase of Bands over the weekend. The competition included bands from Class A schools Fergus and Park high schools and AA schools Gallatin High School, Bozeman High School, Flathead High School and Belgrade High School. Outstanding performance was the only award given out at the event. HHS Marching Band Director Cullen Hinkle said it was great to be able to show off their skills with other like-minded bands, and he's happy they were able to put on a performance that everyone enjoyed.

Bozeman teacher state finalist for top presidential award
A Bozeman School District teacher was honored as a state finalist for a presidential teaching award. Lisa Moellenkamp is among six Montana finalists for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. She will be in contention for the nationwide competition, which is considered one of the highest honors for U.S. educators teaching math and science in kindergarten through 12th grades. Moellenkamp said she was feeling honored and humbled to be a state finalist. "It doesn't come for just me. There's no way to get this award without sharing it with all the people that share my vision and my excitement to work with children and to bring science to life for them," Moellenkamp said. Cale VanVelkinburgh, principal of Whittier Elementary School, said he wasn't surprised to hear Moellenkamp was a finalist. "She's an excellent human and the more you get to know her and the more you get to see her, she's so committed and dedicated and so creative in these areas," VanVelkinburgh said.

Helena Public Schools, police reach SRO agreement
The Helena City Commission approved a memorandum of understanding with Helena Public Schools during its Monday evening meeting to provide four Helena police officers as school resource officers through Aug. 1, 2025. Per the memorandum, the city will foot half the bill, $166,000 per school year, while the school district will cover the other half and up to an additional $6,000 per school year for SRO training. "I do believe that it is true partnership that we have and not only in support of this (memorandum of understanding), but also moving forward in a relationship," Helena Public Schools Superintendent Rex Weltz told the city commissioners. It represents the first update to the memorandum since 2013, and Weltz said the two biggest changes were a more thorough explanation of SRO duties and insurance. Helena Police Chief Brett Petty said since the program's inception in the late '90s, a formal agreement between the two entities had never been put in place.

Fromberg Schools pull off flood recovery with lots of help and understanding
Torrents of water swelled over the banks of the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River in June, rolling violently across the river valley. It was one of several central Montana rivers overwhelmed by a freakishly rapid release of mountain snow melt. It's not unusual for the normally placid Clarks Fork to feel its oats in the springtime, with mountain runoff slopping over its banks once in awhile. But, not like this. Residents of the small Carbon County farming town of Fromberg were especially hard hit. The flood washed sediment into fields, crumbled culverts, tore apart canal banks, and swept into homes. A few residents have fled and may never return. Among those leaving were families that together had nine children in the tiny school district. The loss of nine students may not seem like much, but it comes in a district with just over 100 kids, a district in which the superintendent knows the name of every single student.

Don 'K' donation benefits Evergreen schools
Don "K" Subaru recently made donations to assist with providing healthy snacks for Evergreen schools. Laurie Barron, superintendent of the Evergreen School District, Melissa Hardman, principal of Evergreen Crossroads School and Sherry Odegard, principal of East Evergreen Elementary, on Oct. 14 accepted the donation of a $2,000 check, an additional $400 from, and a large number of healthy snacks and classroom supply kits from employees of the local Subaru dealership. "We could not be more grateful for the generosity of Don "K" Subaru and the entire team here at the dealership," Barron said. "We will use these funds and supplies to provide healthy snacks for our students to keep their energy high and their mental focus strong during their long school days." "We believe strongly that every child should have the materials and tools they need to be successful," Kevin Kaltschmidt, general manager of the local dealership said. "We are excited to pursue that vision by continuing our Subaru partnership with When we asked Principal Odegard what she needed, she did not hesitate. She told us that her students needed enriching snacks to help them get through their days. We are delighted to help."

Students learn through 'Indian Education For All' program
Pieces of Native American culture and tradition are helping students at Helena Public Schools learn about Montana's Indigenous people. The Indian Education For All program was implemented across Montana many years ago. It works to educate all Montana schoolchildren about Indigenous culture and history. Amanda Walking Child, the Indian Education For All instructional coach for Helena Public Schools, tells MTN that Montana is the only state in the union that has made this Indigenous education mandatory for all public schools. Her job is to go into the schools and teach the teachers about Indigenous education so that they can in turn teach their students. "All students will have the knowledge base of, you know, Montana. Because Montana is native lands, originally," says Walking Child. Currently, in the Helena Public Schools, a tipi is being shared amongst different schools. This tipi is a good way to get a conversation started about Indigenous culture.

'Corgi' Carnival a big success, proceeds going to Hellgate PTA
The corgis are back and better than ever for the Corgi Carnival! Whether it was competing in the costume contest or the new hot dog challenge. Maple, Pumpkin, and some new faces rounded up the crew once again to raise money for our public schools. The Missoula Valley Corgis, now a recognized non-profit, put the carnival together and a portion of the funds made from raffles, contests, and photos were given to Hellgate Elementary's Parent Teacher Association. In the spring, the non-profit did something similar for Missoula's Franklin Elementary, and this time, the corgis are taking home the pumpkins for another win for everyone.

Do good, be good and be kind: Remembering Bozeman High teacher Kelly Fulton
One day last spring, Bozeman High School math teacher Ashley Chilton noticed there were suddenly wooden benches near her colleague's classroom, transforming an overlooked space into a welcoming gathering spot for students during their lunch. The handmade benches had quietly been placed there by math teacher Kelly Fulton. "He had taken the time to go and build benches because kids were sitting outside of his room eating lunch and they deserved somewhere to sit," Chilton said. For those who knew him, the act illustrates how Fulton moved through life - with care, love and dedication to those around him. He was a force for good in constant motion, squeezing the most joy out of each day and focusing on the well-being of students in and out of the classroom. Fulton, 40, died Oct. 9, after he was hit by a car while biking near the intersection of Oak St. and 15th Ave. on Oct. 4. He was taken to a Billings hospital where he died from his injuries.

Bryant fifth graders become honorary Helena College students for the year
"He's got super powers!" A fifth grade student from Bryant Elementary exclaimed this when Dr. John Hartman did one of his chemistry experiments on Thursday. "I'm hoping to plant that seed, get them excited about (science) so hopefully later on, we can turn them into real scientists in the future," said Hartman. Hartman is the chemistry professor at Helena College, where he's been teaching for 14 years. For the past two years, Helena College has adopted the two fifth grade classes of Bryant Elementary School as honorary Helena College students. Once a month, the fifth graders head to campus to experience different departments. "The partnership between Helena College and Bryant Elementary aims to give students a look at what college can be like. By walking across the street once a month they become comfortable spending time on a college campus and more aware of the options they have after high school: college can be fun, accessible, and a way to further explore your interests," wrote Helena College in a press release. "Students leave Bryant to attend middle school after fifth grade, and this program helps them gain confidence as they are transitioning to a new school and beginning to figure out where their interests lie."

Stanford School's 'Beyond the Bell' program begins
The Stanford School started an after school program this week called Beyond the Bell. This program, for any student K2-12, is designed to help children prepare for tests, receive homework help, practice problem areas, and focus on student literacy and math. K1 students are invited to participate on Tuesdays. To find out more about this program and to sign up, please follow this Google Link: In conjunction with the Beyond the Bell program, the school is looking for new or gently used items that may not be needed any longer. The school is looking for games for all ages, building items such as Legos, Kenex, Lincoln Logs, blocks and any craft items for different projects. Items can be dropped off at the office.

Woods Powr-Grip hosts Manufacturing Day activities for Laurel youth
Woods Powr-Grip was full of youthful energy as the local business celebrated National Manufacturing Day on Oct. 6. Laurel High School's Junior class and 8th grade middle-schoolers converged on the location to participate in tours and activities, marking a national day of recognition and education for manufacturing industries worldwide. The National Association of Manufacturers began the outreach program in 2012 in an effort to inspire students to explore careers in manufacturing."There is a shortage of quality laborers," says Woods Powr-Grip Marketing and Communications Liaison Barbara Murphy, "We're trying to get our kids thinking about different careers in industry."

Students at Helena Public Schools learn about Montana's Indigenous people
Pieces of Native American culture and tradition are helping students at Helena Public Schools learn about Montana's Indigenous people. The Indian Education for All initiative is implemented throughout Montana. It works to educate all Montana schoolchildren about Indigenous culture and history. Amanda Walking Child, the Indian Education for All Instructional Coach for Helena Public Schools, tells MTN that Montana is the only state in the union that has made this Indigenous education mandatory for all public schools. Her job is to go into the schools and teach the teachers about Indigenous education so that they can in turn teach their students. "All students will have the knowledge base of, you know, Montana. 'Cause Montana is native lands, originally," says Walking Child. Currently, this fall in the Helena Public Schools, a tipi is being shared amongst different schools. This tipi is a good way to get a conversation started about Indigenous culture.

HHS musicians selected to All-State Festival
Seven Hamilton High School musicians have been selected to participate in the 85th Annual Montana Music Educators Conference to be held in Bozeman, Oct. 19-21. Max Naidl, Em Courchesne, Spencer Cruse, Callie Hill and Fern Stewart have been selected to the Montana All-State Choir; Jonah Wilhelm made the Montana All-State Band; and Haven Osher-Rightsell made the Montana All State Orchestra. The HHS Choir program is under the direction of Ruth Reneau and the HHS Band program is under the direction of Shawn Thacker. Across Montana, students auditioned in February by sending a recording of themselves performing music selected specifically to their musical instrument or vocal range. Each performance was reviewed, evaluated and assigned a numerical rating by the All-State chairperson and selection committee. Students were notified at the beginning of the school year about their selection.

Corvallis Primary students paint mural to honor teacher
Elementary students are painting a 90-foot hallway mural in Corvallis Primary School to honor educator Jen Kozeliski who passed away suddenly in December of 2021. CPS Principal Lisa Nagel said Bozeman artist Gabrielle Lewis came as the artist in residence, Oct. 3-10. "She is working with all of our students K-4," Nagel said. "She is incorporating ideas of the Bitterroot Mountain ranges, native plants and animals of Montana, and flowers and landscapes inspired by former teacher Jen Kozeliski." To fund the project the school organized a fundraising event last spring and received grants from the Corvallis Schools Foundation and Indian Education for All. Lewis said the mural shows Kozeliski's artistry and style. "She painted a lot of flowers and scenery and this mural incorporates a lot of the flowers she loved to paint in the colors she loved," Lewis said. "They sent me some of her paintings and since I'm a different artist than Jen I had to interpret those. It's an homage to her, in my style and the style of the students."

Glacier High grad expands horizons with Navy career
Turning 18 and bopping around the Flathead Valley, Glacier High School graduate Melanie Noble, at that point ruling out the college experience, looked at life at sea instead. "The advertising behind the Navy, it really spoke to me," she said via phone from San Diego last month, a petty officer first class aboard the USS Cowpens and 11 years into her Navy career. "I liked the idea of it. Back in the day, [the slogan] was 'A global force for good.'" Her father, Roger, was - and is - proud of her, Noble recalled. Shawna, her mother, took a little convincing, though. "I think it was a lack of understanding. She didn't know what I was getting myself into and, frankly, neither did I," Noble said, noting that her mother has since come around and wears the "Navy Mom" T-shirts that Noble slips into her closet on trips home. "I was stubborn and bullheaded and said this was what I was going to do." Heading to boot camp, or recruit training, at Naval Station Great Lakes in Illinois, Noble found herself in what she described as a "high stakes" summer camp. She grew up very quickly.

Peterson School experiments with science curriculum
Science is an extension of a child's everyday world, Peterson Elementary Principal Tracy Ketchum told the Kalispell Public Schools board of trustees in September. "Children have a natural curiosity," she said during a presentation on how the staff at Peterson spent about eight weeks developing a science curriculum and establishing what life science, physical science and earth/space science content is taught at each grade level to ensure students engage in deeper learning. Despite the district's continued emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), "We've allowed the arts and sciences to take a backseat" at the elementary level as opposed to middle school and high school, Ketchum said. "And in doing so, [we] have squelched that innate desire to question and explore their world." "All of the money is being poured into middle and high school STEM initiatives," she later noted.

Valier students install visitors kiosk at library The Valier High School Skills USA students are getting involved in community improvement as they construct and erect a new Tourist Information kiosk at the Valier Public Library. The kiosk will house pamphlets and information for passersby and visitors to the area.
The kiosk project was conceived when the community of Valier participated in ReImagining Rural meetings last year hosted by MSU Extension. A group of individuals interested in supporting community projects in Valier participated in the gatherings. The meetings helped the group arrive at a project that would be easily accomplished and make a positive impact.

Students preparing for Missoula Children's Theatre production While many might believe the task of getting over 50 children ready to put on a live production in the course of only five days is impossible, two directors are in town to do just that.
Tour Actor Directors for Missoula Children's Theatre Nina Ballon and Susie Mishkin arrived in Glendive on Monday in their little red pickup that they dubbed "Clifford" to host auditions and begin rehearsals for a two-day live production of "The Little Mermaid" this weekend. They noted that their production is not at all based on the well-known Disney movie.
Ballon and Mishkin's tour stop in Glendive this week marks MCT's first time in Glendive since 2019. They said in an interview on Monday that they are excited to work with local students.

KPS students outperformed the state in yearly standardized tests Kalispell Public Schools third- through eighth-graders surpassed the state as a whole in the percentage of students proficient in English language arts and math for the 2021-22 school year, according to Smarter Balanced Assessment results released by the Montana Office of Public Instruction.
However, the school district experienced decreases in proficiency compared to students who took the state standardized test in the 2020-21 school year. 

'It's like a super power': Code Girls United forges path for STEM careers in Montana
HAMILTON – Six girls sat at tables, typing intently on laptop keyboards, working to program different functions into the cat-themed app they were developing in the Bitterroot Public Library. Last week, the students learned to make the digital cat say different words like "meow," "cheese" and "food" when they tapped the screen. On Tuesday, they were adding a camera function with some frustration as they lined up the code and tested the app on iPhones. "Oh my gosh, it just got to 'picture,'" exclaimed one of the girls. "I did it!"

Law enforcement to host large training at Sacajawea Middle School
Gallatin County's first responder and law enforcement agencies are holding a large training exercise on Wednesday at the Sacajawea Middle School, and the agencies don't want the public to be alarmed. About a dozen emergency response agencies will attend the training to prepare for an "active killer situation." The training will run from 4 to 10 p.m. on the Sacajawea Middle School grounds in Bozeman. School parents and area residents can expect plenty of emergency cars and personnel during the training and should not be worried that there is a real emergency, according to a press release from Gallatin County. The county has been working with the Bozeman School District and Bozeman Police Department to directly inform parents, school staff and neighbors about the training. This exercise aims to train law enforcement and first responders to work as a team when entering scenes where there is still potential threat or an active shooter situation.

Bozeman High exhibits Montana State University's 988 poster designs
A graphic design campaign that started as a Montana State University class project has spread around the state and is now being displayed in a local high school. The MT 988 project was started by MSU art professor Bruce Barnhart and led to 90 student poster designs for the National Suicide Prevention Line. Eleven were chosen by Gov. Greg Gianforte's office to be used for the statewide awareness campaign around the new number. Started in mid-July, the three-digit phone number 988 connects callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a 24/7 line staffed by trained counselors. Barnhart, who led a similar poster project prior to the 988 launch, decided to bring the class project back and invite other professors in the MSU School of Art to participate. Emerson Egloff, a sophomore graphic design student, was enrolled in Barnhart's ideation and creativity class. Egloff's poster design was chosen to be a part of the MT 988 campaign and to help spread awareness of the hotline. Throughout the project, Egloff learned that Montana has consistently had one of the highest suicide rates in the country for reasons including a lack of behavioral health resources, alcoholism, stigma behind depression, vitamin D deficiency and altitude and metabolic stress.

Bozeman Charter School evolving from online-only beginnings
Bozeman School District's charter school has made some changes in the last year but remains focused on competency-based learning and expedition trips, according to administrators. This school year, the Bozeman Charter School, or BoCS, shares a principal and classrooms with Irving Elementary School. While BoCS - originally the Bozeman Online Charter School - was housed in the Willson building last year, only its sixth to eighth grade students remain there. Its elementary students are in two classrooms at Irving, allowing them to take advantage of resources at the school. The school is spreading the word of its changes. "People don't know we exist and we're an option for their family," said Jennifer Westphal, principal of Irving Elementary School and BoCS. The charter school is a permanent offshoot of the online option the district created in 2020 due to the pandemic. It has evolved from its online days and now its students spend mornings in remote school, afternoons at Irving or Willson and take a weekly field trip.

United Way connects seniors to classrooms
Though she was unable to have children of her own, Cindy Harmon spends her days in a West Elementary classroom surrounded by children who know her as Grandma Cindy. Each school day, 25 grandmas go into classrooms across Great Falls, giving teachers a hand and students extra time and attention. In addition to learning that day's lesson, the students also interact with a generation they often don't have much experience with. The Foster Grandparent Program gives seniors a little extra income, but far more valuable is the extra spring in their step from working one-on-one with children and making a difference in their lives. "Being a Foster Grandparent makes me feel good," Grandma Cindy said. "It gives you goosebumps knowing that they do love you, and they realize what you're doing to help them. "We do math, I do reading – just about anything that they need help with. By the end of the year, you can really see the difference you've made with them and that makes you feel really good."

Helena Sun Run raises funds for Bryant Elementary solar project
As is tradition for Helena Sun Run, the nearly 100 participants, there supporting clean energy for public institutions, did so under cloudy skies Saturday morning. The annual event, now in its seventh year, raises funds for clean energy projects such as solar panels at Central and Jim Darcy elementary schools and the Lewis & Clark Library among other projects. Bryant Elementary School will benefit from this year's race, hosted by the Helena Vigilante Runners and Sleeping Giant Citizens Council, a tri-county environmental advocacy group affiliated with Northern Plains Resource Council. Race director, Vigilante Runners board member and SGCC member Joel Harris said Saturday morning's rain storm that soaked the eastern gulch neighborhood streets serving as the 5-kilometer course was almost expected by now. "We've only had one Sun Run out of the seven that was sunny," Harris said with a laugh. "I'm very proud of the people who came out today. They really showed they care about this cause."

'Relevant to their backyard': Helena High biology students collect data at Spring Meadow Lake
Last week, Helena Bengals were released into the wild -- to collect data. "The beginning of the year we met, and we've all been discussing making biology more relevant to them and getting them excited," said biology teacher Jamie O'Malley. " ... I'm just excited because I've been teaching for 15 years, and every year there's a kid who gets a spark and they're like, 'I think I want to be a biologist.'" O'Malley and fellow biology teachers Brandon Day, Missy Sampson, Tyler Hollow and Claire Pichetter arranged the field trip to Spring Meadow Lake State Park for around 200 students. Each biology period went on one of the three days - Sept. 26, 28 or 30. Fish, Wildlife & Parks' Montana WILD educators Corie Rice and Ryan Schmaltz split the students into two groups. One group went with Rice to do some bird watching, and the other went with Schmaltz to head down to the water.

'Be bold!': Educators gather in Missoula for symposium on Indigenous boarding schools
More than 100 educators gathered at the University of Montana on Friday for a symposium on Indigenous boarding schools and trauma-informed learning. The all-day event, which featured Native speakers from across the country, aimed to equip teachers, aspiring educators and others with tools to accurately and thoughtfully integrate the topic of boarding schools into curricula and to meaningfully apply Indian Education for All. From the 1800s to the 1970s, many Native children were forced to attend government-funded Christian boarding schools, where they were emotionally, physically and sexually abused. The explicit mission of these schools was cultural genocide, and tribes have suffered language and culture loss as a result. Historical trauma from these schools persists. Sept. 30 has since been deemed a National Day of Remembrance for the victims and survivors of these schools. Ramey Growing Thunder, director of the Fort Peck Language and Culture Department, shared her research into tribal history as well as photos of present-day youth programming and language instruction.

Victor Eastern Star serves educators
On Tuesday, in a week filled with exciting homecoming activities, Victor Elementary School teachers received over $300 in school supplies from Naomi Chapter 19 in Victor, Order of the Eastern Star.  Worthy Matron and Patron, Syble and Tom Rudd, along with members Kathryn Beaty, Barbara Anderson and Janet Giochia presented the teachers with classroom supplies.  "If there is something in the bag you cannot use, pass it along to someone who can," Syble Rudd said. "We invited you to a potluck in the Masonic Lodge, above the bank, in December. We'll have more supplies for you then."

PEAK program allows students to learn in a different way
The Helena Public Schools program known as PEAK is currently engaged in their outdoor unit known as Blazin' a Trail. MTN caught up with the group to find out more. "These are kids that, they really are in a different educational place. Sometimes they don't quite fit into their grade. They might be highly advanced in some area, or they might be not as advanced in another," says Gifted Specialist for the PEAK Gifted and Talented program, Jeremy Slead. The PEAK Gifted and Talented program has been in existence for more than 20 years. Students are chosen for the program through testing. It's for third graders up through high school, and it meets roughly once a week. Every 6 to 8 weeks they tackle a new unit such as astronomy or theater through hands-on experience with experts. At the end of the unit, students present what they've learned. "We try to give them a huge broad range of experiences through their years here so that they find passion areas for careers, for hobbies, for things that they're going to pursue outside of school," says Slead.

September 2022 GREAT News

GJP Juggling & Tightrope Walking Workshop
Almost a dozen participants learned how to juggle and tightrope walk at the juggling workshop with Russell Davis, brought to Whitehall by Gold Junction Presents (GJP).

Local teacher named Teacher of the Year Finalist
"Teachers were the most intelligent, clever people who were really good at catching mistakes and telling you what you were doing wrong," was the perception Sheila Devins had about teachers while in grade school. "I just knew I would never be a teacher." Currently a kindergarten teacher at Seeley Lake Elementary school, the Office of Public Instruction named Devins one of four 2023 Teacher of the Year Finalists from a record number of 57 nominees across Montana. Despite her lack of confidence in her ability to be "smart enough," others saw potential in Devins from an early age and praised her effort. Following in the footsteps of her Grandmother Bessie Holsinger, Devins became a teacher in the mid-1990s and has taught for 26 years.

Local students headed to Florida to watch SpaceX launch
The spectrUM Discovery Area of the University of Montana, in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Flathead Reservation and Lake County, has been selected to participate in a program that will bring 48 middle school students from the Flathead Reservation to the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, to view the launch of the SpaceX Crew-5 Mission on Monday, Oct. 3. The American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics has announced Students To Launch, a new national science, technology, engineering and math education initiative to engage underserved and underrepresented students in challenges, inspiration and spaceflight opportunities. "As a NASA Community Anchor, the spectrUM Discovery Area was thrilled to be selected to participate as one of the first Students to Launch hub sites," said spectrUM Director Jessie Herbert-Meny. "We are in the business of inspiring Montanans students about higher education and careers in STEM, and this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to connect students from the Boys and Girls Club of the Flathead Reservation with NASA's missions and careers in aerospace."

Laurel High School senior honored by DAR
Gentry Kaye Davidson was selected by staff and faculty of Laurel High School as an outstanding student honored by the Daughters of the American Revolution.Davidson, who is a member of the Class of 2023, is now eligible to compete with other senior students in Montana, and if successful at that level, to compete at the national level. She is the daughter of Kim and Devon Davidson.The DAR is a service group that recognizes students who 1. Represents themselves with Dependability (truthfulness and loyalty) 2. Represents themselves with Service (Cooperation and Consideration of others.)3. Represents themselves with Leadership (Self-Control and Personality).

Dress-up days bring joy to students and staff
The second week of September, students and staff around the Laurel School District came together to celebrate the week of homecoming. Students and staff wore silly costumes that consisted of homemade materials or costumes bought from stores. Monday, September 12 was "Dynamic Duo" day.Leona Goldsberry and Holli Moody, both aides at the high school, chose to be goofy and dress up as tacos with a fun sign that stated "Two for One Tacos." Both said that they were proud to dress up and support their students by participating in this dress up day. 

DCHS Red Devil gets a new look
The Dawson County High School Red Devil has a new look, with the redesigned mascot making a splash during homecoming festivities last week. The design was created by DCHS art teacher Charity Schreibeis and District Facilities Director Rhett Coon. It was approved by the student council last year and made its debut this fall. The new design is a much more detailed version of the mascot compared to its relatively cartoon-ish predecessor and invokes the sense of a comic book superhero. The mascot redesign also includes a secondary logo, a D with a trident through it. Schreibeis noted the superhero aesthetic was a significant aspect of the inspiration for the design, especially as characters from companies such as Marvel and DC Comics have enjoyed renewed and widespread popularity for over a decade. "I think I was just inspired by the direction of the Marvel kind of look. I thought, 'Man you could really have fun with this whole idea.' We presented it to the students and gave them the vision of the whole idea and direction and they were so excited about it," she said. The redesign became a priority when school officials found out several years ago that no one knew who actually owned the previous graphic used to depict the DCHS Red Devil. This issue was discovered by Superintendent Stephen Schreibeis when he was the DCHS assistant principal in 2016. He explained that after coming into that position, he wanted to use the school's mascot on the school's letterhead, but soon discovered that no one possessed the original image. The only image he could find was the Red Devils name inside an oval with a trident, the image that has been widely used on Red Devil merchandise in the past several years. It is unclear where the previous Red Devil mascot design came from, as no one seems to be able to pin down its exact origins.

BHS, Manpower team up for Empowering Blackfeet Youth Cultural Conference
"Vehicular chaos" might describe the scene behind Browning High School on Wednesday, Sept. 21, as golf carts attempted to traverse a narrow alleyway made of traffic cones. A simple feat one might say, but after watching, one would have to conclude that some of the worst drivers ever were "behind the wheel." As it happened, student drivers were first outfitted with a special set of goggles that simulate the visual experience of impairment, whether from alcohol, drugs or simple distraction. "Blackfeet Manpower and Browning High School hosted an Empowering Blackfeet Youth Cultural Conference at BHS," explained Cinnamon Crawford. "They also participated in a driving safety exercise, where students drove golf carts while wearing Drunk Buster Goggles that enabled students to simulate the effects of driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and distracted driving." The event came about as a result of the Blackfeet Manpower program having received a grant from the First Nations Development Institute's Native American Youth Culture Fund.

East Middle School celebrates Character Counts Week
East Middle School is celebrating Character Counts Week with a full slate of activities for students, including daily themes for clothing, daily lessons and training on virtues - kindness, empathy, respect, diversity, honesty, integrity and character - as well as assemblies with motivational speakers, a Mariah's Mile challenge and a community open house. An open house/community night will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, with an assembly, passes to tour the building with scavenger hunt cards with drawings for prizes, community informational booths, and a taco-in-a-bag social. On Friday, Sept. 30, the Character Counts student assembly will feature the EMS band and choir, student council speeches and a key address by Butte-Silver Bow Chief Executive J.P. Gallagher. The week will end with an address from Leo McCarthy, followed by the Mariah's Mile race.

'I just like the country feel': Montana's oldest continually run school gets $112K ARPA grant to upgrade facilities
Next to a bee yard, a field of horses and a solar farm rests Trinity School, Canyon Creek's elementary school, located northwest of Helena. Students from every grade are outside on the playground for a physical education class together surrounded by mountains, hills and quiet Montana charm. Jennifer Kueber teaches second and third grade and has 11 students in her classroom. She's been at Trinity School for 14 years and is now the supervising teacher. "I was interested in a small school. I had taught multi-age grades before. I started when my daughter started kindergarten (at Trinity School) because I stayed with them when my kids were little," said Kueber. "...I just like the country feel and you get to have the kids for so many years that you become part of their family. You love them." Kueber said Trinity School is the "oldest continually run school" in Montana and has been in operation since 1893. Today, the school is the biggest it has ever been physically and in enrollment size.

New faces among the ranks of Helena's school resource officers
School resource officers have been in Helena Public Schools for more than 20 years, but local Sstudents will see a couple of new faces behind the badge this year. At the middle schools, officer Scott Finnicum is in C.R. Anderson and officer Jessica Cornell is in Helena Middle School. At the high schools, officer Jon Pulsifer is in Capital High School and officer Bret Haux is in Helena High School. This is Cornell's and Haux's first year as School Resources Officers (SROs), but Finnicum and Pulsifer both have at least one year of experience in the position.  These officers help out at other Helena schools as well. Haux said their schools are organized into east and west by Last Chance Gulch. The west side is covered by Finnicum (CRA) and Pulsifer (CHS), and the east side is covered by Cornell (HMS) and Haux (HHS).

Holstein Ready to Instill Pride of Craftsmanship in WHS Trojans
To say Rich Holstein has embraced Whitehall High School is an understatement - he's Trojan Pride to the fullest. Holstein, who is the new Industrial Arts teacher at WHS, has always had a "god-given gift" working with his hands and is looking forward to sharing his gift and knowledge with the students in his classes. Holstein has been in and around the Yellowstone area for the last 34 years and only recently settled in Whitehall after taking the IA position - his first teaching position ever. He began thinking about venturing into teaching nine years ago, even taking a teaching position at Rocky Boy in 2013. However, Holstein suffers from an illness hard to pinpoint by doctors. "My bones just break," Holstein said with a hearty smile and a bit of a tear in his eye. " We don't know why - I've been to the University of Washington, Mayo Clinic, Salt Lake City - there are no answers." Holstein said that otherwise, he is a perfectly healthy 52-year-old. His pain levels spike before a break, which is a good warning to him, but otherwise, there's just a snap and a clean break. He's spent nineteen months of the last four and a half years in hospitals.

Visual Thinking with BPSW Education Program
"This is my first time doing this," Said Allyssa Roggow, who was leading Lincoln grade-schoolers to various sculptures as part of the Blackfoot Pathways: Sculpture in the Wild education program . "I'm a musician based in Great Falls, but I've done some things with visual thinking strategies, which is a way of engaging with art that was developed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City."

Backcountry classroom brings outdoor lessons to life
Riding to school got a new meaning for Ovando School's third through eighth grade students Aug. 29 - Sept. 1. Thanks to the Rich Ranch, students and teachers rode nine miles into Leota Park for a backcountry Outdoor Ed trip. Bill and Dena Hooker accompanied the group and stayed with them in camp to provide meals and backcountry lessons. The Ovando School alternates their annual Montana history trip between a museum-based trip and an outdoor education-based trip. This year was the outdoor ed trip. The pack trip opportunity was a perfect fit, said Andrea Tougas, Ovando Head Teacher. Two years ago the Hookers took the Ovando School on a pack trip into the Pintler Mountains.

DCHS Red Devil gets a new look
The Dawson County High School Red Devil has a new look, with the redesigned mascot making a splash during homecoming festivities last week. The design was created by DCHS art teacher Charity Schreibeis and District Facilities Director Rhett Coon. It was approved by the student council last year and made its debut this fall. The new design is a much more detailed version of the mascot compared to its relatively cartoon-ish predecessor and invokes the sense of a comic book superhero. The mascot redesign also includes a secondary logo, a D with a trident through it. Schreibeis noted the superhero aesthetic was a significant aspect of the inspiration for the design, especially as characters from companies such as Marvel and DC Comics have enjoyed renewed and widespread popularity for over a decade. "I think I was just inspired by the direction of the Marvel kind of look. I thought, 'Man you could really have fun with this whole idea.' We presented it to the students and gave them the vision of the whole idea and direction and they were so excited about it," she said.

New teacher promotes passion for agriculture
Agriculture is a passion for the new ag teacher at Baker High School. That is something she wants to bring to her students. It is her first teaching job, but agriculture has played a big role in Abbey Dunn's life for many years. Dunn graduated from the University of Montana at Bozeman in May. "I double-majored in agriculture education and elementary education," she said. Several years earlier, she graduated from Corvallis with a big involvement in 4-H and FFA. "I raised my own cattle when I was in high school and middle school. When I graduated, I decided that I wanted to stay involved. That is why I decided to go into agriculture education because the 4-H and FFA were such big parts of my life growing up."

Olympic champion talks to local students
Havre High School hosted a presentation Tuesday by one of the most famous Native American athletes of all time, winner of the 10,000 meter dash at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, and the only American to win gold in the event to this day. Billy Mills gave inspirational talks at Rocky Boy High School and Stone Child College Monday, then at Havre High Tuesday before heading to Box Elder High School. Mills made it to the NCAA All-American Cross country team three times and was a commissioned officer in the United States Marine Corps, but before that he was raised on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, one of the poorest areas in the U.S. His mother died when he was 8 and his father died when he was 12, and these losses were where he began Tuesday's talk.

Hyalite Elementary teacher named Montana Teacher of the Year
When Catherine Matthews walked into Hyalite Elementary School's auditorium on Tuesday afternoon, she thought the entire school was gathered for a safety seminar. To her surprise, Matthews was presented the award for Montana Teacher of the Year 2023 by Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen. "It's incredibly rewarding and I'm just so thankful," Matthews said after the award presentation. "There are so many teachers who deserve that award and to receive it, I'm receiving it on behalf of many because this is a team effort." Matthews was selected from 57 applicants for the annual award. She will go on to represent Montana in the National Teacher of the Year competition and will have opportunities for professional development and networking in Washington, D.C. "She'll have the opportunity to put Montana forward," Artnzen said. "She'll do professional development with other like minded teachers and bring back wonderful things to Montana teachers."

Legendary Olympic runner Billy Mills relays inspiring message to Box Elder students
Before the day's festivities began, Billy Mills paid a visit to Julie MacDonald's classroom at Box Elder School Tuesday afternoon. Smiles and wide eyes were abound as the 1964 Olympic gold medalist greeted the class. One student proudly showed Mills the Bitmoji character he had created in the likeness of Mills, while several other hands shot up to ask questions. But questions for Mills would have to wait, as Box Elder staff had planned a fitting tribute to a former U.S.- and world-record holding runner: a one-lap jog around the school, with Mills serving as the honorary race starter. One young boy pointed and exclaimed "That's Billy Mills!" just prior to the whistle, while countless others shared smiles and greetings as they jogged by the man that is still the only American athlete to win Olympic gold in the 10,000-meter race.

Code Girls have the spirit
Two teams from Code Girls United were presented with the Spirit of Montana Award by Susan Gianforte, first lady of Montana, on Sept. 15 in Kalispell. The award recognizes Montanans' dedication or service to the community. In July, the Coding Caribous and Tech Trio were named semifinalists in the beginner and senior divisions of the International Technovation Challenge for apps they designed to combat human trafficking and help children make friends through nonverbal communication. Team Tech Trio, whose members include Emma Anderson, Isabelle Ashley, Makayla Davenport, developed "Found," after reading local news reports about human trafficking, specifically in indigenous communities, according to the team's description of the app. The app allows users across the U.S. to send and access information on missing individuals near them. The information includes details such as age, height and last known location. Users may also report suspicious activity directly to the National Human Trafficking Hotline and local law enforcement authorities.

Helena elementary schools get sensory paths and book vending machines
Sensory Pathways first entered Helena Public Schools in the fall of 2021 when a Bryant Elementary School teacher submitted the idea for the Helena Education Foundation's (HEF) Great Ideas Grant. The success of this Sensory Pathway led to the HEF exploring the idea of putting two Sensory Pathways, 22 total, in every Helena elementary school -- one pathway for kindergarten through second grade and one for third through fifth grade students. "(Sensory Pathways) help address situations (teachers and staff) were experiencing with kids having trouble focusing being back in school five days a week and various post variables of COVID emergence," said HEF Executive Director Lisa Cordingley. Anyone can use the Sensory Pathways, or colorful markings on the floor that guide the participant through a series of movements. HEF notes the pathways were created "with developmental growth in mind, designed to provide multi-stage tasks to help develop motor skills, balance, hand-eye coordination, and spatial awareness, as well as provide critical 'brain breaks' to calm and refocus students throughout the school day."

Sentinel High grad works on electric vehicle legislation as state rolls out EV charging plan
Dan West believes the future of transportation in Montana sits in his mother's driveway. West, a Sentinel High School grad, drove a launch-edition Rivian R1S electric sport utility vehicle for his Missoula family visit, and he hopes it marks the dawn of a new era of emissions-free travel, where power cords replace gasoline nozzles. "It's probably the first R1S in the state," he explained. For the past two years, West has worked as the only Washington, D.C.-based in-house federal lobbyist for Rivian, an electric adventure vehicle manufacturer headquartered in California with a plant in Illinois. He worked with the Senate Finance Committee to get an extension of the $7,500 tax credit for electric vehicles into the Inflation Reduction Act passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden earlier this summer. There's also a $4,000 credit on used EVs included in the language of the bill.

Crow journalist-turned-teacher works to expand tribal, high school news
Luella Brien initially wanted to be a school teacher, but never thought she'd be one after taking a different career path. Shortly after graduating high school, she pivoted from education to pursue journalism. Now those paths have converged in her new position as the journalism teacher at Lodge Grass High School. No one was more surprised by the career change than Brien, who was offered the job weeks before the new school year by her predecessor Ben Cloud during a summer audio reporting workshop with students. "Towards the end of the camp he just sort of says to me, 'By the way, I'm retiring. Do you want to teach next year?'" she said with a laugh. Juggling time between working as the tour manager for the Crow Tribe and editor for the online news company Four Point Media, she was initially hesitant to take the position. But, she ultimately accepted it, realizing the opportunity to expand local journalism with her students.

Uniting girls to teach coding
Flathead County fourth- through eighth-grade girls interested in making a difference in their communities through technology are invited to sign up for Code Girls United. Code Girls United is a free after-school program for girls who meet weekly to learn coding basics and develop apps, including one that will tackle an issue in their community. Girls will spend the first half of the year learning computer science basics and will then form teams and choose service projects to develop an app and business plan. Girls will then have opportunities to pitch their projects at state, national and international competitions. As participants continue with Code Girls, they build on the basics to develop more advanced projects. "We want to give girls a foundation to understanding computer science. It's so ubiquitous," Code Girls United Executive Director Marianne Smith said. "It touches every kind of job in the future. We want to encourage girls to see if a career in tech is something they would like to do."

2023 U.S. Senate Youth Program Scholarship application now open
Superintendent Elsie Arntzen is encouraging Junior and Senior high school student leaders to apply for the 2023 United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP) Scholarship. The two students chosen to represent Montana will each receive a $10,000 college scholarship along with a required Washington Week Program, March 4-11, 2023. Applications close on October 3, 2022, and awards will be announced in January 2023. The Washington Week Program may be held online depending on the public health guidance and status of large group access to the government venues traditionally visited. If held in person, all delegates will be required to be fully vaccinated and boosted to attend. All eligible students are encouraged to apply. A final decision regarding the in-person program will be determined in the fall of 2022, with adequate time for students to complete the full vaccination series prior to travel.

Victor kids head back to school; emphasis on community collaboration
Victor School starts on Tuesday, Sept. 7, with plans for stronger communication and community collaboration. Superintendent Diane Woodard is in her fourth year at the helm of Victor School and said her goal is to work more closely with parents and community members. "That's our primary goal from a board lens, an administrative lens, and a teacher lens, just to really collaborate to support our kids," Woodard said. "We're excited to be organized, moving forward again and having some sort of normal. We're excited about the year." To help the school reach out to the community it has selected a lead communications liaison: Victor graduate and kindergarten teacher Kristi Gaul, and two athletic directors: volleyball coach and physical education teacher Amber Kay and track coach Darrell Yount. Four quarterly publications will be sent out to the community with school updates as well.

Deaf and Blind students learn the value of giving back
Core to the philosophy of civics is that citizenship is a two-way street. That in addition to the rights and privileges that citizenship bestows, every citizen also has an obligation to be an active, responsible, and knowledgeable member of the community, and to do what they can to improve the lives of the people they live among. It's a lesson that the students and faculty at the Montana School for the Deaf and Blind embrace and plan to act upon. On Wednesday, Sept. 7, the Montana School for the Deaf and Blind (MSDB) will host a food drive to benefit the Great Falls Food Bank. It's something the visually- and/or hearing-impaired students there have done in the past, but next week's food drive is different in that the students are reaching out trying to become more visible and actively involved in the communities in which they live.

Montana Team Nutrition creates six new recipes to come to schools across the state
Montana Team Nutrition has worked alongside MSU to create some tasty new recipes that will come to schools across the state. Molly Stenberg of Team Nutrition spoke with us about her excitement over the new recipes. "We developed six recipes over a two-year period and it was all funded through a USDA Team Nutrition grant," says Stenberg. The recipes are made with fresh local ingredients such as barley, bison, beets, cherries, and lentils. The recipes are cooked with such ingredients to emphasize the importance of eating locally. These recipes were chosen from a statewide contest and were submitted by school service directors or family consumer science teachers. Several schools even got to test out the meals. "Six schools tested the recipes for us so they taste tested the recipes with students and to make a cut," says Stenberg, "They had to reach 85% Student approval rating, which is pretty high. So we know that 85% of students liked the recipes."

Montana Alternative Student Testing pilot program gets $3M grant
Funding for the Montana Alternative Student Testing (MAST) pilot program has been completed by a $2,967,259 Competitive Grant for State Assessments (CGSA) from the federal government, which was the total amount requested for the four-year pilot. "I am very pleased that the federal government is agreeing with Montana's innovative solution of linking learning and teaching in our state assessments," said Montana's Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen. "This will allow Montana to get back to the basics of Math and Reading while focusing on student and teacher success." This grant along with private resources will provide funding for the following strategies in Montana schools: Stakeholder engagement, test design and deployment, report development and deployment, research and evaluation, professional development and stakeholder communication, said an official at the state Office of Public Instruction (OPI).

Berkram Ready to Tackle High School English
After four years off from teaching, Ceanna Berkram is ready to take on the challenges of High School English at Whitehall Schools. "I wasn't quite ready, I didn't think, to get back into teaching," Berkram explained, who has a three-month-old daughter Oakley)and three-year-old twins, Olive and Ozzie. "But then my husband [Kyle] saw the position open." Berkram's husband was very supportive and actually pushed her to apply. The reason? Small town school and the appeal of "home." Born and raised in Montana, Ceanna grew up in Cutbank and has taught in Billings, as well as in Texas. Kyle recently took a job at NorthWestern Energy in Butte, where the family has settled. "I'm ready to have an identity again," she said with a laugh, noting that Whitehall's appeal lies in the small class sizes, where everyone knows everyone. "I want to build a career here, I want to teach my student's kids someday. We really wanted a small town experience for our kids like we had growing up."

Ashley Shenyer feels at home in Valier Schools
Ashley Shenyer is new to Valier, but she is not new to rural Montana. Growing up in Charlo prepared her for life and teaching in a community like Valier. Shenyer appreciates the opportunities available in a small district. "Growing up in a small town gave me multiple opportunities to volunteer and give back to the programs I grew up in. I would coach little dibblers programs, and volunteer with local 4H groups and the local county fair," she said. "I think it (Charlo) is actually smaller than Valier. I had the opportunity to be both an academic scholar, sports kid, and a rural country kid all at the same time." Education wasn't Shenyer's first choice when she started her college experience. "It only took one professor to take me under their wing and convince me to take an education class, because they thought I made a natural teacher. After taking that course, the rest was history, and I knew teaching was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life."  Shenyer graduated from Montana State University with a degree in elementary education in May. She completed her student teaching in Polson.

Haines named MCA Coach of the Year
Fourth time Coach of the Year recipient Mike Haines, Seeley-Swan High School Track and Field Coach, said "This one is special." Haines was nominated as Montana Coaches Association's Coach of the Year for both Boy's and Girl's Track and Field Coach of the Year and received the Boy's Track and Field award for 2022. The SSHS Boy's Track and Field team won the Class C state title for only the second time in school history. Haines's son Chase was a senior on the team. The first win was in 2000. "For me, it was fun winning with those senior boys who lost out on a year in their high school career," Haines said explaining the 2020 season was canceled due to COVID-19. In addition to Haines's son, Sawyer Shelmerdine and Walker McDonald were also seniors on the team.

Laurel schools kick off a new school year
Laurel students returned to the classroom last week, filling the halls at Laurel's five school buildings. Laurel School Superintendent Matt Torix visited all of the schools twice during the short week, greeting students and staff. The kindergarten classrooms are big with 138 students spread over six classrooms so a seventh kindergarten teacher is being hired so Laurel can keep the class sizes within state standards of no more than 20 students per kindergarten class. The Laurel School Board will hold a special meeting on Thursday at noon to approve the hiring of a new kindergarten teacher and a school bus driver. The Laurel School District continues to recruit bus drivers. Torix said the school year started with five drivers and they would like to hire six or seven additional drivers. "That would allow us to pick up students in town," Torix said.

New 5th grade teacher brings experience
Michelle Wash might have just started her first year teaching at Ekalaka Public Schools, but the new fifth grade teacher brings valuable experience to the district. Wash is in her thirty-seventh year in education. She has taught all grades and subjects during her career, and said she's had almost every school district job there is with the exception of superintendent and CEO. She's served as principal and has spent time at school district's of varying sizes, including a stint where she worked as a K-12 teacher at a small, rural school. Wash has worked at school districts throughout Montana as well as in Alaska and Nevada, the latter of which she spent 20 years. 

New hire's search for small towns brings her to Baker
For Sara Bartholomew, being a paraprofessional with the Baker School District means she sees some of the best in students. Currently, she specializes in teaching some of the students with autism on the Lincoln School campus. "It is very rewarding," she explained. "I get to interact with all the kids." She was a paraprofessional several years ago in Miles City, teaching at Garfield. For Bartholomew, life has been a geographical journey since graduating from high school in Seattle. She went to Montana State University and later Miles Community College. "Right out of high school, I decided I wanted to move east and go to a smaller town. I have progressively moved more east and to smaller and smaller towns," she said, chuckling. "That's how I have ended up in Baker."

Steer-A-Year program seeks donations for 2022-23 academic year
Montana State University's Steer-A-Year program is seeking donations of steers and feed as well as financial support for the 2022- 23 academic year. A student program in MSU's College of Agriculture combining academic courses with hands-on, technical experience, Steer-A-Year involves students in multiple aspects of raising cattle. Students spend the academic year feeding and managing steers, caring for them through the winter and spring, collecting data on feed efficiency and weight gain, and studying livestock marketing. "Steer-A-Year is a valuable program for our students, as it gives them hands-on experience of raising cattle as well as proper preparation for their future careers," said Hannah DelCurto-Wyffels, the program's adviser and an instructor in the Department of Animal and Range Sciences. "There is so much to learn about the cattle industry and providing our students with a hands-on program of this caliber gives them the skills and knowledge needed to succeed. Donated steers are housed at MSU's Bozeman Agriculture Research and Teaching Farm. After being cared for by the students through the academic year, the cattle are sold annually to MSU's Culinary Services, and the meat is served in both on-campus dining halls, Miller and Rendezvous.

Billings middle school club addresses mental health through volunteer program
Concerns over student mental health continue to rise with the COVID-19 pandemic having taken its toll in recent years, so one Billings school club has taken steps to address suicide and mental health by simply showing students they matter and initiating conversations about suicide and other tough topics. Castle Rock Middle School Counselor Shannon Toney and students recently received statewide recognition for their campaign promoting suicide prevention awareness and positive mental outlooks. The initiative, Toney said, came from determining a simple solution to a complex problem. "Mental health, I think, is always going to be present," she said. "Even if it's not a diagnosed issue, I don't know of anyone who hasn't gone through a tough time in their life where they're impacted or stressed or overwhelmed…and I think the biggest thing is for people to remember is that they matter."

Back to school: WEB program introduces Helena's 6th graders to middle school
Every summer's end is a new school year's beginning. Wednesday was the first day of the 2022-23 school year for many grades in the Helena Public Schools. Helena Middle School has about 700 students for the 2022-23 school year. About 238 of those students are going into sixth grade - their first year at a new school. The Where Everybody Belongs (WEB) Program was created to introduce and transition students to middle school. Both Helena middle schools have the program to welcome their sixth graders. Before classes begin for higher grade levels, sixth graders come to the school for an orientation. At HMS, the sixth graders were sorted in 27 groups, and each WEB group had two eighth grade leaders in bright yellow shirts, totaling about 60 eighth graders, who led them through activities, showed them the school, and more.

Helena Education Foundation gifts new books to 600+ first graders
The Helena Education Foundation (HEF) is gifting a new hardcover, age-appropriate book to 600-plus first graders as part of its Fabulous Firsts program. "Generous sponsors and support from Montana Book Company make Fabulous Firsts possible," said Lisa Cordingley, executive director of the Helena Education Foundation. "The program helps show Helena's first graders and their families that the community supports them as they begin their journey of learning and discovery through reading. HEF has been gifting books to first graders since 2003. We are so excited to be able to gather in person for these events this year." In addition to giving books to all first graders in Helena Public Schools, the HEF will also provide the seven book options to all elementary school libraries and Lewis and Clark Library so any interested students have the opportunity to read them all.

Community members pitch in to renovate three GFPS elementary libraries
Chief Joseph, Lincoln, and Whittier elementary libraries have received a complete makeover, all thanks to five families donating through the Great Falls Public School Foundation with these three schools in mind to make it possible. The families that contributed to each school are as follows: Lincoln Elementary Library - Dr. Robert and Jamie Marshall, Jared and Annie Brown Whittier Elementary Library - Dr. Robert and Jamie Marshall, Jared and Annie Brown, Tom and Cindy Duffy Chief Jo Elementary Library - Benny and Karen Brandvold, Joni and Jeff Reicher With plans originally starting back in 2020, progress was delayed due to COVID-19. In total this project took almost two years to complete. While all three libraries are newly renovated, Whittier Elementary was unique in allowing the designs to be more student-led. LPW Architecture in Great Falls donated its time, created designs, and met with students in order to understand what the students at Whittier Elementary would like to see in the library.

August 2022 Great News

Transitional Kindergarten pilot program takes off
Today was the first day of school for select Malmstrom Air Force Base families as the transitional kindergarten pilot program kicked off at the Great Falls Public Schools Early Learning Family Center in Great Falls, Montana. The program is a result of the GFPS district and Malmstrom AFB working together to fill a gap in Montana's education system. Montana is one of the six states in the U.S. that does not fund preschool programs, but Tom Moore, GFPS Systems superintendent, hopes this pilot program will help change that. "This is one of the needs we've identified as an opportunity to make change," he said. "We've opened our Early Learning Family Center for transitional kindergarten and we're excited! We had to reallocate some of our budget and get creative, since the state of Montana doesn't provide funding for pre-K, but we're hoping this program is here to stay." The transitional kindergarten program has 18 Malmstrom AFB families enrolled, replicating the early learning childhood education they would find if stationed in a different state. "As our military families move around and PCS, [this program] provides stability," said Col. Barry Little, 341st Missile Wing commander. "Education is critical to mission readiness because when our kids are taken care of, our families can focus on accomplishing the mission."

'I'm ready for school': Missoula-area schools launch into new year
As incoming kindergartners and their families approached Chief Charlo Elementary School to launch their educations, it was difficult to tell who was more anxious - the parents or the students. Some of the kids kept close to their adult. One girl tugged her mom's arm as she marched to the front door. "I'm ready for school," exclaimed Birdie Welty, skipping ahead of her parents, Arland and Chantel Welty. The Missoula County Public Schools year started on Tuesday for those entering kindergarten, sixth grade and ninth grade. All students will be in class on Wednesday. Classes also began for students at Seeley-Swan High School this week. Families lined up near the entrance to Chief Charlo to snap photos in between the colorful poles that line the school's entryway. Some parents held back tears as their children posed with smiles plastered across their faces.

Community members pitch in to renovate three GFPS elementary libraries
Chief Joseph, Lincoln, and Whittier elementary libraries have received a complete makeover, all thanks to five families donating through the Great Falls Public School Foundation with these three schools in mind to make it possible.

'A great year': Bozeman schools welcome students back
Bozeman School District welcomed students back into its buildings today. "Schools are meant to be filled with kids," said Sacajawea Middle School Principal Gordon Grissom. "It's been wonderful having everybody back." To help with some of the first day nerves, the schools held orientations or schedule pick-ups last week. At Sacajawea, students were able to learn their schedules and walk the halls to get familiar. "The more information we can provide them, the less questions they'll have, the less anxiety," Grissom said. Grissom said he'll often tell students that while he's been doing this for a long time, he still feels nervous on the first day. The middle school also held four town halls to cover the school's three main values: be responsible, respectful and ready, Grissom said. "We really focus on those foundational things on how they can contribute to making this a strong school community," he said.

Columbia Falls High School teacher travels to Belgium to learn about the EU
A historic moment occurred during Columbia Falls High School teacher Jeanette Price's study tour in Belgium. In the neighborhood of the Europa building in Brussels, Price heard helicopters descending. The Europa building is the seat of the European Council and the Council of the European Union. "You could hear all these helicopters coming in and you knew it was all the heads of state coming to the building," Price said. Leaders of the European Council were flying in to attend a summit that resulted in granting Ukraine candidate status for European Union membership in council chambers where Price had visited three days before. While she didn't notice any public stir about the decision, she said the EU's stance strongly condemning the war in Ukraine was reiterated at the start of presentations during the trip. "It was a clear, resounding message to make that stance known. Maybe because it's such a frequently asked question they wanted to get it out of the way at the beginning, but it was very cohesive in terms of the unity they have concerning condemning the war in Ukraine by Russia," Price said.

'She's like an angel': Helena woman spends thousands each year on back-to-school clothes for students
For the past 20 years or so, Elisabeth Danielsen has spent around $3,000-$4,000 of her own money every year on Helena children's back-to-school clothes. Helena's Angel Fund helps set up these donations at an elementary school for children to come pick up any clothes they may need. "When I came over (to America) from Germany at 10 years old, I didn't have much," Danielsen said. "I didn't have the 'right' clothes or the 'right' shoes, and kids called me names and made fun of me all the time. I don't want these kids to have to go through what I had to go through." Wednesday marked the fourth year in a row that the back-to-school clothes donated by Danielsen were given out at Warren Elementary School. It was the first year ever that Danielsen got to attend the event and see all her donations in one place going to grateful families. Everything from coats, socks, shoes, pants and more all laid out in piles, waiting for kids to take them home.

TC School garden offers many lessons
The Trout Creek school has recently implemented a plethora of improvements and the school is starting to grow. "The school seems to be on the upswing," commented Preston Wenz, the school's superintendent. "Last year for the first time in a very long time staff at the school completely renovated the entire kitchen, implemented on-campus hunters education classes, an archery program, and a school garden. The gardening program has been building momentum with students and is already starting to expand," added Wenz. This year the school has also purchased and installed an outdoor greenhouse. The greenhouse is already on the property right next to their handsome and lush outdoor garden. "Soon the school will begin filling the greenhouse with garden beds, fresh soil, quality seeds and even heating equipment," said Wenz

Day of Hope makes back to school easy
The annual back to school block party and health fair, Day of Hope, returned to Polson last weekend, this time with the addition of an entire semitruck load of goods to give away. A combined effort by numerous organizations and nonprofits throughout the valley, including the New Life Church, Tribal Health and county-wide emergency responders, the Day of Hope began as an annual event back in 2019.  "It's kind of like a health fair and a block party meeting each other," Pastor Jason Burrough explained. "That's the goal." This year looked a little different than previous events for a couple of reasons. While Tribal Health still held free health screenings, Lake County Health Department conducted car seat safety checks while local churches and nonprofits gave away shoes, backpacks and other school supplies to make back to school easier for kids and parents alike. A major new addition was the semitruck sent with a load of goods, free of charge, by Convoy of Hope in Springfield, Missouri. An organization with the Assemblies of God, to which New Life Church belongs, has reach across the world. With that, it has both a disaster response wing, which allows them to send resources to natural disasters throughout the U.S., as well as rural compassion events.

Spotlight on the Arts: Elizabeth Patterson
At 15 years of age, Elizabeth Patterson, an eighth-grade student at Noxon School, is multitalented in many forms of art. She is interested in many areas she has yet to experience. When asked to identify her favorite form of art, she provided a list, including many types of visual arts (pen and ink, painting, watercolor, and more). In addition, she aspires to become proficient in photography, acting, ceramics, writing, singing, and other ways to express herself and her emotions in creative ways. Elizabeth began drawing/painting in kindergarten using color markers on a whiteboard. The advantage, she says, was the ability to change her artwork immediately based on both what she saw in terms of color and composition and how she felt about the progress of her work. This early experience led Elizabeth to be brave about exploring many art forms, relishing the creative outlet the arts provided her. She "doodles," representational and abstract images that sometimes lead her toward more complete works of art. Some of her motivating forces including -- art makes people think, see things differently, expand their understanding of life and themselves.

Education scholarships support more Montana students
The start of the 2022-23 school year marks the dawn of new educational opportunities for students across Montana. The Tax Credits for Qualified Education Contributions Program will send its largest ever number of scholarship recipients to high-quality K-12 nonpublic schools this fall. For these students, the start of this school year represents a new beginning- a new chance to succeed academically and pursue their dreams. We are thrilled for these students, and we cannot wait to see what they accomplish. But as state legislators who believe strongly that every Montana student deserves an education that fits his or her unique needs.

Laurel students in good hands with school resource officers
Laurel Middle and High School students will have some new supports in place for the 2022/2023 school year. Two new School Resource Officers will begin their terms patrolling the hallowed halls of learning in Laurel. The SRO program in Laurel schools has come a long way in the years since it's inception, and Laurel police Chief Stan Langve is proud of the program and the impact that it has on Laurel's greatest resource. "This is a qualified success," says Langve. "It's a career where you can have a positive influence. Our kids are an investment." Langve says the need for the program was recognized 23 years ago, when officers working on afternoon shifts were dealing with an inordinate amount of complaints centered around the High and Middle schools. Officers responded to a large number of assault complaints from students and even teachers. "The kids were all over the place. So it was a need. Probably one of the most challenging things I've done in my career, " says Langve. Some students and parents were shocked to encounter police officers in the schools, but support for the program quickly aligned and the department started seeing a decrease in student related complaints. "I'm excited for the challenge of helping the school, " says Officer Ryan Sedgwick. This year, Sedgwick will begin his first assignment as the resource officer in the Laurel Middle School. Sedgwick is a three year veteran of the LPD. Laurel High School will be the scene for Officer Haley Swan's first venture as SRO. Swan is a two-and-a-half year veteran of the LPD. "I was drawn by the role model, teaching, and coaching aspect of it," says Swan. Both officers completed a mandatory 40 hours of specialty training to fill their roles. The SRO program also offers an additional 25 hours of advanced training for officers to expand their skills.

Dress up to mess up the competition
Carter County High School C-Club is inviting community members to dress up for all varsity home games this fall sports season. By dressing up not only will community members show their school spirit, they will also be eligible to enter a prize drawing at a reduced price. All who dress up will be eligible to enter a drawing to win $15 to the Bulldog store (or $15 cash for out of town winners) at the reduced price of $1. Individuals who are not dressed up may enter for $5. C-Club hopes to see several people dressed up and showing their Bulldog spirit at games. Following are dress up themes for each game. Contact J.W. Elmore at 406-939-0479 or Heidi LaBree at 406-775-7001 with questions.

Four local students are among MSU's Hilleman program scholars
Fifty-eight high school graduates from across Montana have been selected for their effort and potential as the seventh class of Montana State University's Hilleman Scholars Program, which is named after Maurice Hilleman, one of the state's most influential, but least known, native sons.  The list includes Caroline Spotted Eagle, Seth Still Smoking and Jade Wippert of Browning and Zander Osborne of Cut Bank. "A scholarship from MSU changed the direction of Maurice Hilleman's life, taking him from a farm in Miles City to medical laboratories where he developed vaccines that have saved millions of lives," said MSU President Waded Cruzado. "The Hilleman program allows new generations of Montana sons and daughters to explore their potential, as Dr. Hilleman did, and we can't wait to see what they achieve." Hilleman was born on a farm near Miles City in 1919. His twin sister died during childbirth, and his mother died two days later. He was raised by an uncle and aunt and, as a child, helped the household make ends meet by raising chickens. Hilleman had planned to work at a local department store, but his brother told him that MSU – then Montana State College – offered scholarships. Hilleman applied, won a scholarship and graduated in 1941.

Juliana Guerrero-Gobert of Browning awarded $2,500 CodeWizardsHQ Educational Scholarship
CodeWizardsHQ, the leading online coding school for kids and teens, awarded their annual $2,500 Educational Scholarship. The scholarship had over 200 applicants this year and supports students in their pursuit of a college education. Juliana Guerrero-Gobert of Browning was chosen for her excellent GPA and commitment to pursuing a career in forensic sciences. She will be attending the University of Montana in fall of this year. Juliana hopes to make a positive impact on her Native American community and is a strong representative for both women and minorities in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) career field. "I think it's important for kids to study STEM topics because it gives you a deeper understanding of the world as in all the important things that make the world run and that need to happen for society to thrive. I also think that diversifying STEM is important, and I hope that young people can look to me or other role models and have the courage to go into those harder topics people normally wouldn't go into."

Corvallis teen collecting food for Haven House
Corvallis High School sophomore Morgan Bisel has had a heart for sharing with the community since she started Morgan's Helping Hands when she was in sixth grade in 2018. She collects warm clothing for the homeless every November and December and donates the items locally. So it's no surprise that Bisel is spending a portion of her summer doing a food drive for Haven House and will be outside of Hamilton Market Place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 28. Bisel said she was inspired to do the food drive in one of her classes last year. Her freshman English class studied the Hunger Games book and collected 7,573 pounds of food. "My freshman class held a competition to see which team could bring in the most food," Bisel said. "We had it all organized to do many weekends in a row. My class won and it was awesome to load up the bus and bring it all here (to the nonprofit food pantry Haven House in Hamilton)."

Hamilton athletes give back during Fall Sports Community Day
Hamilton High School athletes cleaned, weeded, painted, and installed bluebird boxes during the Fall Sports Community Day on Friday. Athletic Director Travis Blome and Chad DeLong organized the event of over 200 athletes giving back to the community. "We have such great community support throughout Hamilton and it is fantastic to see everyone come out and support our kids," Blome said. "We want to give back to them and show we are all in it together. There are 210 athletes in fall sports, a huge portion of our school population, and it is fun to show them off to the community." Bronc Pride spread as the football team cleaned up the downtown by pulling weeds in the alleys.

Flathead teacher gets a glimpse of working in manufacturing
Flathead High School Industrial Arts and Technical Education teacher Ben Butts this summer gained new insight into the manufacturing process through a weeklong externship at Applied Materials. "I saw it as a pretty high-quality experience for a teacher like myself to go into an industry setting and see exactly what employees are doing. Now, when I go back to the classroom and students ask me what it's like to work in that field, or they ask me what do I need to know to do this, I can tell them," Butts said. The externship, which was offered to teachers throughout Montana, was developed through a partnership between Reach Higher Montana and the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center. Both organizations are members of a state work-based learning collaborative that seeks to address Montana's workforce needs by tapping into student potential, according to a Reach Higher Montana. According to the 2021 Montana Manufacturing report, more than 3,900 manufacturing firms are in operation throughout the state.

Missoula County Public Schools band camp prepares students for school year
About 40 students at the Missoula County Public Schools summer band camp sat with their instruments in their laps and their eyes eagerly fixed on their director for the first song in a packed gym at C.S. Porter Middle School. The group took a collective breath as Sam McKenzie, a band director at Meadow Hill Middle School, raised his hands to conduct the song. "I've been listening to these guys all week and it's just a real bright spot to start the school year," said Monte Grise, the arts education director for MCPS. "These guys are energized, they'll be great leaders to start the year and when they go back to their own schools." The district's two-week summer band camp had about 125 students entering grades 5-8 participate this year. MCPS also hosts a summer orchestra camp and an art camp annually in June. Students in the district can begin playing musical instruments in fifth grade. The summer band camp allows beginners an opportunity to get a jump-start on their new instruments, and helps older students bust the rust off of their skills.

Bigfork students go afield for science as interns in Glacier Park
Two Bigfork High School students got the unique opportunity to explore science in Glacier National Park this summer as Nora Kehoe and Tabitha Raymond both served as interns sponsored by the Glacier National Park Conservancy. Both students were given the internships after receiving recommendations from their teachers and got the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the field while learning from scientists studying flora and fauna in the crown of the continent's ecosystem. "I got to talk to all of these amazing people about my future plans and they were able to give me advice. They helped me learn so much about the world in general and the birds and Glacier Park," Kehoe, who served with the park's Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) program, said. "I have always been interested in birds, but I didn't realize just how much until I got this internship. I would have taken anything, but this was too good of an opportunity to pass up."

Darby student shines at national SkillsUSA competition
Darby High School junior Abby Converse placed 11th in the prepared speech competition at the National SkillsUSA leadership competition in Atlanta in June. Converse qualified to attend the national competition by placing first at the Montana challenge for her prepared speech on how welding is going to help her be a better doctor. SkillsUSA is the organization connected to Career and Technical Education (CTE) and the National Leadership & Skills Conference (NLSC) is a showcase of CTE students. "Abby Converse had a very successful year with the SkillsUSA program," said Darby Superintendent Tony Biesiot. Converse joined SkillsUSA, attended a SkillsUSA leadership conference and as a Darby School Chapter representative, was elected as a state officer in April 2021. This spring she earned first place in the state competition.

TC School shows off archery skills
Archery demonstrations put on by Trout Creek School community archery team were a new addition to this year's Huckleberry Festival. Jerry and Becky Doyle, who help coach the archery team, were at the festival to help over the weekend with the students' demonstrations. Lucas Summers, Riley Reum, ShayLyn Stein, Cameron Eaton and Eithan Chambers were some of the students at the festival putting on demonstrations as they shot at targets, balloons and plastic archery animals. "We have 20-plus years of working with kids who want to learn about archery," Jerry said. "We help the kids who are struggling and who don't understand why their arrow isn't shooting straight. We like to volunteer our time to keep kids shooting and keep them outdoors."

Students explore environmental issues in Vietnam
This past July, three Seeley-Swan High School (SSHS) students and graduates visited Vietnam as part of a youth exchange to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Vietnam's bilateral relations on environmental issues facing Vietnam and Montana. Sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam, the exchange included 25 students each from Montana and Vietnam. All students from Montana involved in the exchange were enrolled in Missoula County Public Schools. The SSHS students and graduates who attended included senior Cora Stone and 2022 graduates Crystal Lopez and Will Batchelder. The focus of the program was to share environmental and natural resource issues between the two countries and celebrate the shared interests between American and Vietnamese youth.

UM Leads $10M project to advance Native American STEM education
The National Science Foundation recently awarded $10 million to a six-state collaborative working to boost the underrepresentation of Alaska Native and American Indian (AI/AN) students in STEM disciplines and the workforce. The grant award funds Cultivating Indigenous Research Communities for Leadership in Education, or the CIRCLES Alliance. The alliance is led by principal investigator Aaron Thomas, a University of Montana chemistry professor and director of UM Indigenous Research and STEM Education. Partners include universities and research institutions in Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. UM will receive $1.8 million of the total award to build a network for developing and disseminating science, technology, engineering and math educational resources, as well as implementing longitudinal programming, mentorship and teacher preparation in support of AI/AN student success.

CodeWizardsHQ Awards 2022 Educational Scholarship
CodeWizardsHQ, the leading online coding school for kids and teens, awarded their annual $2,500 Educational Scholarship. The scholarship had over 200 applicants this year and supports students in their pursuit of a college education. Juliana Guerrero-Gobert was chosen for her excellent GPA and commitment to pursuing a career in forensic sciences. She will be attending the University of Montana in fall of this year. Juliana hopes to make a positive impact on her Native American community and is a strong representative for both women and minorities in the STEM career field. "I think it's important for kids to study STEM topics because it gives you a deeper understanding of the world as in .. all the important things that make the world run and that need to happen for society to thrive. I also think that diversifying STEM is important and I hope that young people can look to me or other role models and have the courage to go into those harder topics people normally wouldn't go into."

Tatsey named region's top admin
Toni Bullshoe-Tatsey (Two Bear Woman) was named School Administrator of the Year for the Montana, Pacific Northwest and Mountain Plains Association regions on Aug. 5. The award recognizes outstanding achievement and leadership in the development and promotion of school libraries. "It was a great honor to be nominated by three outstanding individuals - Angela Archeleta, Brandy Bremner and Rebecca Rappold," Tatsey said. She shared the award with her colleagues. As a transformational leader, she acknowledged their strengths and working alongside them to improve their weaknesses. Together, they make a commitment with a purposeful understanding that children are precious resources. "At KW-Vina Elementary, they lead from the heart, value life, family, and know the children are 'Sacred-Beings,'" she added. "They are as valuable as the air we breathe, the water we drink and the ground we walk on."

Big Sandy Booster Club is preparing for the new school year
Booster Club is looking for new members and volunteers to help promote our high school student athletes and activities. We are always open to new ideas and are looking for volunteers to help with upcoming projects. All community members are welcome to help, you do not need to be a member. We won't be holding monthly meetings this year, but instead meetings will be held at the start of each sport season and as needed so that parents can become involved in supporting the sports in which their kids participate. As you can tell they are worth becoming involved. Fall Kick-Off is August 23 with the meal to be served at 6:00. They are asking that football parents bring cookies/dessert and volleyball parents bring salads. Hamburgers, hotdogs, chips, baked beans, and water will be provided.

New teacher sees Baker as perfect fit
Kolleen Gustad sees being raised on a Montana homestead as a great way to grow up near Kinsey. It is a small farming community near Miles City just north of Interstate 94. "It is very small – just an elementary school and a post office," she said. Now, she says she has found just what she was looking for in Baker – a small town – but still close to family. She recently moved into an apartment in Baker and admits she is still learning about the community. But, the new English teacher in the Baker School District is looking forward to both teaching and learning in the classroom in a few weeks. After graduating from Rosebud High School, she attended college in Wyoming, getting an associates of arts degree (theater) in Sheridan before graduating from the University of Wyoming with a bachelor's degree in English and minors in public relations and theater.

Helena's Salvation Army partners with law enforcement to provide back-to-school clothing
With the current economy, many parents aren't sure if they can afford new clothes for their children for the upcoming school year, but the Salvation Army in Helena is more than ready to help. The Salvation Army partnered with the Helena Police Department and the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff's Office to host the "Shop with a Cop" School Clothes Shopping Spree Wednesday morning at Old Navy. "Parents hit hard by inflation are having to make difficult decisions, like whether to put gas in their car, or buy needed school supplies for their kids. The Salvation Army helps by meeting a family's back-to-school needs," wrote the Salvation Army in a press release. "Providing new clothing and necessary school supplies allows kids to focus on their education, so they do better and feel more confident as they learn and grow."

Jack Fisher Jr. Memorial Garden welcomes volunteers for 'sprucing' before school starts
The Jack Fisher Jr. Memorial Sculpture Garden will be receiving some TLC to have the garden looking its best as GFPS enters the 2022-2023 academic year. All are welcome to help on Tuesday, August 16 at 8 a.m. at Great Falls High School. Volunteers are asked to wear appropriate clothing for the work and weather, bring gloves, water, and tools such as rakes, shovels, and wheelbarrows. A limited number of tools will be provided for the project. If you are interested in joining, email Cortni Harant at for a head count. Harant's email stated, "We will start early, but welcome volunteers at any point until we are done.  Even if you can drop by for moral support or drop off a snack for the crew would be appreciated."

Hamilton Envirothon team is national champion in oral presentation
The Hamilton High School Envirothon Team became the 2022 National Champion in Oral Presentation and placed ninth overall at the National Envirothon competition held at Miami University in Ohio, July 23–30. Coaches Birch Fett and Marie Antonioli said the victory is exciting. "It is so thrilling, it was just amazing," Antonioli said. "This is the highest placement that a Montana team has ever achieved at the National Envirothon." The HHS team included seniors Sam Duerr, Sydney Greek, Andrew Searle, and Ava Lilienthal, and freshman Chloe Greek. The traveling group included coaches Antonioli and Fett, Tom Schmit (chaperone), Cole Kimzey (alternate), Andrew Searle (forestry), Sydney Greek (range science/current issue), Chloe Greek (soil science), Taylor Bratvold (alternate), Dawson Berglund (alternate), Ava Lilienthal (wildlife) and Sam Duerr (aquatics and team captain) and Vanessa Stavish (chaperone).

Montana team of girls make it to semi-finals of international coding competition
Several Montana girls are making a big splash on a national stage. They're semi-finalists in an international coding competition all for their work on an app. It's a very impressive feat, especially since the industry is male-dominated. Maryn Hobby and Evangeline McCormick like to hang out with friends, play with their pets, and do the typical things kids their age love to do. However, unlike most girls their age, they also both love to code. "My mom told me that there was this coding group, and she asked if I wanted to join and I said, heck yeah," 10-year-old McCormick said on Wednesday. Both girls, along with Kalispell residents Peyton Norris and Kiara Van Slayke, are part of a team called the Coding Caribous through the nonprofit organization, Code Girls United. This means they spend a lot of time telling computers what to do.

Flathead High grad lent helping hand to Afghan refugees
On Aug. 30, 2021 the United States military pulled out of Afghanistan, officially putting an end to the longest war in American history. A humanitarian catastrophe followed. The country fell back into the hands of the Taliban and hundreds of thousands of refugees who fled their homeland were left without food, shelter and clean water. Many were flown out of the country to be taken to makeshift camps and emergency processing centers in faraway places such as Spain, Germany, Qatar and Uzbekistan. Thousands suddenly were experiencing one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent memory, people desperate for aid and support as well as direction and structure. Enter Maj. Chad Everett, a 2006 graduate of Flathead High School and an active duty Air Force officer tapped to help organize processing efforts on what became one of the largest refugee camps in the world: the Ramstein Air Base in Ramstein, Germany. Everett says that, although military training equipped him with most of the skills needed to guide and instruct large groups of people at once, the task he was called upon to perform still proved incredibly daunting.

Students hand-build AAI youth scholarship fund
The last week of school, six Seeley-Swan High School industrial art students gathered around the back of Carrie Darrah's vehicle after being treated to lunch. Their faces lit up as Darrah carefully handed them their finished pottery bowls that would be sold filled with huckleberry ice cream at the Alpine Artisans, Inc.'s Loon and Fish Festival Aug. 19 and Aug. 20. "The look on their faces was the best for me – they were all excited, talking to each other... That was the most excited I've seen those guys since we started this," Darrah said.

Potomac teacher receives First Rural Educator Stipend
BroadbandMT (dba, the Montana Telecommunications Association-MTA) awarded its first annual rural educator stipend to Abby Stitt, fourth/fifth grade teacher at Potomac Elementary School. Stitt will receive $1,500 annually from the MTA's Rural Education Fund for three years. Additionally, Blackfoot Communications is matching MTA's stipend for Stitt for a total of $9,000. MTA represents locally owned, community-based broadband providers serving rural Montana. "MTA's member companies understand the importance of maintaining vibrant schools in rural Montana. These companies have been committed for decades not only to investing in telecommunications infrastructure and quality jobs but maintaining the vitality of the communities they serve," said Charlotte Lauerman, Operations Manager of MTA, in a press release. "The rural educator stipend is designed to enhance the quality of life for rural educators and the students and communities they serve."

Laurel High's exciting upcoming school year
As the beginning of school nears, Laurel High is ecstatic to have students back in the building! The school district and teachers are implementing new programs and are looking forward to having school without as many COVID protocols. The seven-year principal of Laurel High School, Shawnda Zahara-Harris stated that "As a high school, we want to create a welcoming environment for students and families where they feel safe and successful-a place where they feel like they belong."Zahara-Harris said that staff last year were making many changes, in order to better serve their students and achieve this goal.

1,964 notebooks and more: United Way Stuff the Bus to help local kids kick off new school year
On Thursday, United Way of Cascade County held their 13th annual Stuff the Bus event. Donations were collected at the parking lot of Target, 2000 10th Ave. S., the north side Walmart, 701 Smelter Ave. NE, and the east side Walmart, 5320 10th Ave. S. between 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. United Way marketing director Kim Skornogoski told the Tribune the event collected a total of 13,961 items at the Stuff the Bus, including 400 backpacks, 1,964 notebooks, 1,294 packs of pens and pencils and 2,798 boxes of crayons, markers and colored pencils. This year's total items collected has passed last year by more than 10,000 items collected.

PEO Chapter G awards scholarships
PEO Chapter G has awarded $500 scholarships to Carley Jane Trefts and Teagan Kennis, recent Butte High School graduates. Trefts plans to attend Montana State University and major in civil engineering while Teagan will go to Montana Tech and pursue a nursing degree. Trefts' parents are Tim and Valerie Trefts. Kennis is the daughter of John and KD Kennis. Philanthropic Education Organization (PEO) is committed to helping women pursue higher education and motivating them to achieve their highest potential. Founded in 1869, in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, there are now over 6,000 chapters in the USA and Canada, which breaks down to 230,000 members. There are five PEO chapters in Butte.

Photos: Back to school Shop With a Cop on Sunday morning
The first back to school Shop With a Cop started at MetraPark Sunday morning with a parade to Scheels. Children participating in the program rode in police cars and shopped with Billings police, Montana Highway Patrol, Yellowstone County Sheriff's, Billings Fire Department, Laurel Police Department and MSU-Billings police to their shopping trip. Each child was given a backpack with schools supplies, a $450 clothing gift card, haircuts and lunch provided by a group of volunteers.

Indian Ed for All's Jordann Lankford named Montana History Teacher of the Year
Jordann Lankford, an Indian Education for All Instructional coach at Great Falls Public Schools, was named the 2022 Montana History Teacher of the Year. Lankford, who is Aaniiih and Anishinaabe, said she was humbled by the recognition. "It was a happy surprise to see this, but an even happier surprise to know that my students and colleagues took time to nominate me," she said. Lankford will receive $1,000 honorarium and a core archive of American history books and educational materials. She will also become one of 53 finalists for the 2022 National History Teacher of the Year award, the winner of which will be announced in October. Lankford said her work would not be possible without Stan, Carol and Denise Juneau who all worked at the state level to advocate for Indian Education for All.

Darby Schools to hold 'Dreamin' for Darby' fundraiser
The Darby School District will be hosting a benefit concert fundraiser featuring Texas country star Harry Luge on Saturday, August 6 at the Richard Cromwell Memorial Rodeo Grounds in Darby. This family-friendly event, "Dreamin' for Darby," is open to the public with a suggested donation of $25 per family at the door. All proceeds from the evening will benefit Darby school infrastructure upgrades and the Darby Schools Excellence Fund (DSEF), which was established in 2003 with parallel goals of providing students and staff with the financial support needed to enhance classroom achievement. An advisor or representative from any school club, class, group, or organization may apply for financial support for various projects throughout the year.

Dream big: LHS grad finds ways to share cultural stories, artifacts
There was that moment in her Laurel High School world history class when Michaela Shifley decided she wanted to be an anthropologist.Drawn to those long class discussions about cultures around the world, Shifley began to wonder, "What would it take to become an anthropologist?"She found out. Ten years after she enrolled at Rocky Mountain College and six years after she started working on her doctorate degree from the University of Montana, Shifley became Michaela Shifley, Ph.D, in May.Along the way, she became interested in finding ways to connect communities with ancestral objects, and the question arose.

Dream big: LHS grad finds ways to share cultural stories, artifacts
There was that moment in her Laurel High School world history class when Michaela Shifley decided she wanted to be an anthropologist.Drawn to those long class discussions about cultures around the world, Shifley began to wonder, "What would it take to become an anthropologist?"She found out. Ten years after she enrolled at Rocky Mountain College and six years after she started working on her doctorate degree from the University of Montana, Shifley became Michaela Shifley, Ph.D, in May.Along the way, she became interested in finding ways to connect communities with ancestral objects, and the question arose. 

BHS Summer School explores social solutions
The 2022 Browning High School Summer School Program took a project-based approach to learning. Students examined problems and - through primary and secondary research - determined a solution to the problems. The first week included the theme of substance abuse and alcoholism. Guest lecturers came into the school to assist students with their projects. Here are samples of student work. I was raised in Browning. I know the effects of alcohol because I lost my uncle, and if my other uncle doesn't stop drinking, I'll lose him too. He is doing better now because he went to treatment. Hearing this lady talk today about alcohol made me realize how lucky I am not to have been raised around alcohol. My mom didn't want me and my sister to live that kind of life. I'm not going to drink because somebody wants me to. There are a lot of kids in Browning who had a hard life because of their parents' drinking. I've lost a lot of people in my life because of drugs and alcohol. I even lost my dad.

Rural Montana Teachers Strengthen Science Skills with MSU Summer Research Program
As a teacher in a small town an hour's drive south of Billings, Alex Knows His Gun wanted to expand learning horizons for her students. So she jumped on a chance to come to Montana State University to work in research laboratories alongside other teachers from around the state. "I thought this would be a good way to get out of my comfort zone," said Knows His Gun, who teaches a combined class of a dozen third- and fourth-graders in Belfry. As MSU's six-week Research Experience for Teachers program wrapped up last week, she said she's inspired to bring what she has learned back to her classroom.

Beating the odds: How the power of positivity helped Tristyn Gilliam walk again
If it wasn't for the power of positivity, Tristyn Gilliam might still be in a wheelchair. During a single car accident on May 16, 2020, Gilliam, a student and three-sport athlete at Helena Capital, suffered numerous injuries including a broken back. There were injuries to his vertebrae, nerves, and discs, as well as his spinal cord. In their initial diagnosis, doctor's painted a grim picture. "They said I'd have about a 3% chance to ever walk again," Tristyn recounted. "It wasn't fun to hear. But we just talked, me and my dad, about how it wasn't going to be that way. Every day he would tell me, that wasn't going to be the last time I was going to walk." 

Evegreen administrator honored for work in special education
Evergreen School District Director of Special Services Mary Meehan has been named the 2022 "Outstanding Administrator of Special Education," by the Montana Council of Administrators for Special Education. The 2022-23 school year marks Meehan's 13th year with Evergreen School District. In addition to special education programming, Meehan oversees the Flathead Crossroads Program, which is a specialized academic and behavior intervention school housed at Evergreen and is open to eligible students across the valley. She is also contracted to provide special services for Helena Flats School. About 1,000 students and 200 staff members across the valley are served by Meehan, according to Evergreen School District Superintendent Laurie Barron, who nominated her. "An award like this is not for the work that you've personally done," Meehan said. "It's for the work of the people you supervise, the organization you work for, the commitment of the individuals to continue to do the work even in the face of failure." Barron described Meehan as a dedicated employee whom staff and parents seek support from in finding success for students when other avenues have not worked.

Thrive summer camp helps middle school girls form connections
A summer camp hosted by a local nonprofit aims to help middle school girls build their confidence, form connections, and learn to express themselves. The weeklong camp, held this past week at Hawthorne Elementary School, was for girls entering sixth to eighth grades. The program Girls' Stories, Girls' Voices was first developed in 1999 by Nancy Nelson when she lived in Madison, Wisconsin. She launched the Bozeman program eight years ago when she moved back to her hometown. "One of my favorite aspects is how they come in, not knowing each other, very quiet, and then really form this connection between each other," said Maria Malloy, youth programs manager at Thrive. Nelson holds two Girls' Stories, Girls' Voices camps a year, one in Bozeman and one in Madison. "Nancy has worked with middle school age group for a lot of her career and has a real interest and passion in helping them grow and learn," Malloy said. Each summer, the camp has a different theme, with this year's being Girls are Fearless Trailblazers. While registration is typically limited to 20 students, there are seven middle schoolers participating in this year's camp, according to Molloy.

July 2022 Great News

Norby named to MHSA Student Advisory Committee
Ella Norby, incoming Junior at Sidney High School, has been chosen to be a part of the MHSA Student Advisory Committee. She is serving with 11 other students from across the state: Avery Carlson, KayJay First That Walk, Kourtney Grossman, Hank Jagodzinkski, Ayla Janzen, Clayton Jassen, Annika Nehring, Charity Nieskens, Max Romney, Gage Sliter and Elijah Tonasket. "It was exciting to discover that I had been chosen for the committee," said Norby. As a member of the Student Advisory Committee, Norby will have input on rules and regulations that MHSA currently has in place, along with introducing new ideas or rules that have the potential of being put in place. These new ideas will come from feedback she receives from students in her school, Sidney High School, along with opinions of students from around the state. "We are the students' voice for Montana. We help let MHSA know what works and what doesn't from a student's perspective. I'd like to gather input from student athletes to help improve and make Montana's activities the best it can be.

Hot Springs teacher wins grueling 100-mile race
Lots of people don't even like to drive 100 miles. Not the case with Hot Springs High School teacher Andrew Leichtnam. A long-distance running enthusiast and high school coach, Leichtnam did recently what most folks can only imagine when he won the Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run through the mountains of western/central Washington. Run, as in by foot, as in beat a large international field of long-distance runners, as in 100 miles. And as one might imagine, not just competing in but winning a running race of that distance requires dedication and training. "I keep a steady base mileage of about 40 miles per week (running) through most of the year," he said after his win in mid-July. "In June, leading up to the race, I ran the mileage for each date of the month, 465 miles in the month." That comes out to approximately 15.5 miles per day.

Hardin Cheerleaders sending two of their own to Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
Two of Hardin High School's Cheerleaders, Juniors Lacey Wells and Valeria Vizcarra, will travel to New York to participate in this year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, after successfully auditioning to Spirit of America Productions -- the company that produces the dance and cheerleading shows at the parade. 

Helena High student Bethany Young awarded prestigious exchange scholarship
"Guten tag" from Helena High School student Bethany Young. Young, who's from Boulder, has been awarded the prestigious Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Scholarship (CBYX). "Each year, as a U.S. Department of State partner, ASSE International awards the fully funded CBYX scholarships to 50 high-achieving high school students from 10 states, allowing youth from a diverse array of communities to participate in a full cultural immersion experience," stated ASSE International in a press release. Young is one of the 250 American high school students across the nation to receive the CBYX scholarship for the 2022-2023 academic year. These students will be traveling from August 2022 to June 2023 in a bilateral exchange program co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and the German Bundestag (parliament). As a CBYX recipient, Young will experience German life firsthand and attend a German high school. Students in this program will also have the opportunity to meet with both U.S. congressional representatives and German Bundestag members.

North Star graduate only Montana college student to take gold at national competition
A graduate of North Star High School in Rudyard was the only college student in Montana to take the gold at the national SkillsUSA competition in Atlanta this summer. Dylan Miller of Gildford, who graduated this spring from Montana State University's City College, took the gold medal in automotive refinishing in Atlanta. Miller said it was a great experience. "It was kind of cool, meeting kids from different states, seeing what products and techniques they use," he said. He said the competition took eight hours on one day and included two written tests, priming and painting a scratch and mixing paint to match colors. SkillsUSA is a national program recognizing students in fields of trade and industry. The national competition in Atlanta brought more than 12,000 high school and college students together from across the country. "It is a great accomplishment just to get to go to Atlanta," said Steve Wodrich, instructor for autobody technology at City College. "For Dylan Miller to take first place in his field is truly amazing. The students that compete at SkillsUSA have already beat hundreds of other students for the chance to compete, so whoever wins is absolutely the best of the best."

Capital High students win statewide finance competition
Capital High juniors Evan Coble, Ethan Hull and Paul Mousel were crowned state champions in the Montana Personal Finance Challenge in April. The boys all participated in the challenge as part of their money management course, an elective class option at Capital High School. The challenge – hosted by the Montana Council for Economic Education – was a personal finance test and students competed in teams. Each person took the test individually, and the highest combined score won. Dax Scheiffer, the council's president, said Montana had 320 competitors across 10 schools in the state. "We didn't really have any expectations going in," said Mathew Reyant, the boys' money management teacher. "This is the first year we've done this specific challenge, so we didn't know where the scores would be." Reyant said the challenge came to his attention when his co-worker, Hailey Selch, suggested they have their money management students compete. According to Reyant, this was the first year Capital High students had competed in the Personal Finance Challenge.

Community celebrates life of a 'fighter'
Hundreds gathered in Helena's mansion district Thursday evening for the funeral of Eric Feaver. Billed as a celebration of Feaver's life, or "Feaver Fest" as Montana Federation of Public Employees President Amanda Curtis put it, the ceremony was held in the backyard of CWG Architecture's palatial offices. Feaver, 77, died June 22 of natural causes. He was a longtime state employee union leader and educator and was serving as a Helena city commissioner at the time of his death.  Longtime Helena Public Schools educator and administrator Ken Price spoke of Feaver's compassionate and caring attentiveness to public school employees and his fierce advocacy on their behalf. Price also talked about the man's love of fly fishing and the many hours they spent together in a trout stream. He reassured those in attendance that Feaver will see them again "down the road."

Helena's Janelle Mickelson named 2022 Outstanding School Business Official of the Year
Janelle Mickelson was named the "Outstanding School Business Official of the Year" at the Montana Association of School Business Officials June conference held in Butte. Mickelson has served as the business services administrator for Helena Public Schools for the past six years. She has worked in similar roles for over 25 years total in several different districts around the state as well as the Office of Public Instruction. Mickelson was nominated by Helena Public Schools Superintendent Rex Weltz, and board of trustees members Luke Muszkiewicz and Siobhan Hathhorn. All three noted Mickelson's "passion, professionalism, and dedication to the students, staff, and community of Helena," stated officials in an email. She was selected by a group of her peers and will be celebrated at the Montana Conference of Educational Leaders in October 2022.

Sparrow's Nest manager aims to be positive influence for teens
Katie Hawes is hoping to serve as a positive adult influence in the lives of the homeless teens who land at the Sparrow's Nest of Northwest Montana. Hawes joined the Sparrow's Nest in December as the new program manager. "One of my favorite parts about working here is that I'm just doing life with a bunch of teenagers. I tell people that's kind of my job," Hawes said, smiling. Sparrow's Nest aims to provide safe housing, support and resources for unaccompanied, homeless high school students in the Flathead Valley while they work toward graduation or completing the HiSET, a high school equivalency test. Once they graduate, the hope is that the teens will take flight into young adulthood as productive members of the community. "I'm kind of in charge of all things kids in a way and taking care of house needs. A lot comes up with that," Hawes said, explaining more of the work entailed. "We're also licensed with the state of Montana - so making sure we're up to par with licensing requirements, making sure kids' files are up to date."

Former HHS student honors teacher with symphonic composition, concert tonight
A former Hamilton High School Band student wrote a symphonic composition to honor his former band director, the concert is tonight in Bonner Park, Missoula. "Sunrise Over Angler's Roost" is a symphony composed by Hamilton native Frank Felice to honor Scott Southwick. Southwick taught band at Hamilton High School from 1975 to 1994. Felice graduated from Hamilton in 1980 and continued his music studies, earning his Ph.D., and is now a professor of composition at Butler University. He was commissioned to compose music for Butler University's 100th Anniversary of the Butler Bands which premiered at Butler University on Oct. 3, 2021. Felice and Southwick said they are grateful to Missoula City Band director Gary Gillette. Gillette, the retired chair of the Music Department at Sentinel High School, heard the symphonic composition posted on Southwick's Facebook page, contacted Felice and received permission to perform "Sunrise Over Angler's Roost."

Troy graduate honored for hostage rescue in Africa
They used to call him "Gump" but now they can call him an American hero. Kris Goyen, 37, is a graduate of Troy High School. He and his family moved from Oregon when he was 2. He is currently a Technical Sgt. in the U.S. Air Force and was recently honored for his actions in the 2020 rescue of an American citizen taken hostage by armed kidnappers in Niger, a country located in West Africa. Goyen recently received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his work in the rescue effort. According to the Distinguished Flying Cross Society, it has a little more than 6,200 members who have received the medal. Goyen was part of an elite Special Forces team that rescued Philipe Nathan Walton on Oct. 31, 2020.

Helena Public Schools' Camp Ascension returns for the summer
Usually, teachers are off during summer break, but not Stacy Elton, a third grade teacher at Bryant Elementary School. This summer, Elton was hired to teach fourth graders at Camp Ascension, the Helena Public Schools' summer school program for elementary students. She said she signed up to help out because she misses her students during the summer. "The kids are finding that learning can be fun," Elton said. "That's apparent in all the kids, and it makes teaching pretty fun too." Camp Ascension was piloted by Helena Public Schools last year. The funding for it came from ESSER funds – COVID-19 emergency relief money – according to Brian Cummings, the district's elementary school assistant superintendent. The camp is offered at three school locations during the summer: Central, Bryant and Jim Darcy.

DA Davidson welcomes two recent high school graduates as new hires
DA Davidson and Great Falls Public Schools recently hosted a Signing Day for two recent graduates and new hires to the company as well as four summer interns. These future business professionals were celebrated with their own signing day at the DA Davidson Liberty Center where these young professional received certificates. This event was held in a similar fashion to sports signing day for college. In the press release by GFPS, "Not every future pro will wear a ball glove or cleats or carry a racket. Some will wear a stethoscope, don a welder's helmet, begin their career in business or carry a micrometer."

June 2022 GREAT NEWS

Corvallis FFA raising money to attend national competition
Corvallis High School FFA is raising funds by selling fireworks through July 5 in Lolo, has had a great season with competition success, and is gearing up for national competition.
Fundraising is key as the chapter has taken a trip to Washington, D.C., for a leadership conference and is saving to attend national competition in Indianapolis, Indiana, Oct. 26-29, for a total cost of around $38,000.

Masons award scholarships to area students
Butte Masonic Lodge No. 22 recently awarded $7,000 in scholarships to area students at its Education Night held last month at the Masonic Temple. Each student received a $1,000 scholarship to continue their education.

Helena Public Schools' Camp Ascension returns for the summer
Usually, teachers are off during summer break, but not Stacy Elton, a third grade teacher at Bryant Elementary School.This summer, Elton was hired to teach fourth graders at Camp Ascension, the Helena Public Schools' summer school program for elementary students. She said she signed up to help out because she misses her students during the summer.

Empowering native youth through grassland restoration on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation
Haile Chase-The Boy stands in ankle-high, green and yellow grasses beneath a cloudless sky on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation on a hot, dry morning last summer. "These native grasses were supposed to be gone," said Chase-The Boy. "But we're still here. These grasses are still here. And so that's how I find it empowering."

KMS Science Clubearns state award for studying microplastics in Foy
The Kalispell Middle School Science Club recently won a statewide award for its work regarding microplastics in local lakes. The club, made up of sixth- through eighth-graders, was a winner in the Montana Department of Environmental Quality's Saving Money and Resources Today (SMART) Schools Challenge and was awarded $2,000. 

Student from Zurich wins top prize at NASA Lunabotics Competition in Cape Canaveral
Montana Technological University's Robotic Mining Club, which includes a student from the Hi-Line, took home the top mining award at the NASA Lunabotics Competition at the Kennedy Space Center recently. The competition saw 38 universities competing for the top honors. Chinook High School 2021 graduate Garrett Pruttis of Zurich, a computer science major at Tech, was on the team. The competition involved designing and building a robot to dig through simulated lunar surface to deposit as much gravel simulant as possible in two 15-minute runs. Two teams, Montana Technological University and the University of Alabama, qualified for the on-site mining award. Montana Tech took home the top award. "Despite our on-site issues, we were able to eek out the win and take home the top honor," said advisor Bryce Hill of the Electrical Engineering Department. Montana Tech sent five students to the competition in Cape Canaveral. Each team was given two competition runs. During Montana Tech's first run, tragedy struck when the robot, named "She's A BUTTE," failed to move due to a communication error.  On the second run, the robot performed admirably and deposited significant amounts of lunar gravel into the deposit area. "Even with the communication issues, the robot drove beautifully," Hill said. 

Superior graduate to work as firefighter before attending University of Montana
Recent Superior High School graduate Cassie Green is diving head-first into her love of science by working as a firefighter with the U.S. Forest Service this summer. Green's teachers helped foster her interest in science through chemistry, physics, wilderness science classes and many others. She also previously worked for the Forest Service for two periods a day during her senior year.

Riverview, Whittier schools to get new playgrounds, asphalt
The asphalt at the Riverview and Whittier elementary school playgrounds is in very poor condition and has been identified as needing to be replaced. During the school board meeting Monday night, the board voted unanimously to accept the lowest-priced qualified bidder to build the playgrounds.

Kline awarded PEO scholarship
Keylee Kline, is the 2022-2023 recipient of the Havre High School/Montana State University-Northern $500 P.E.O. Chapter V Scholarship. Keylee will be attending MSU-Northern in the fall of 2022, with plans of pursuing a business degree. Chapter V is proud of our efforts to support the International philanthropies, while also being able to support Havre High School and MSU-Northern through scholarship opportunities. Local P.E.O. chapter fundraisers and individual chapter donations support our philanthropies. Cumulatively, P.E.O. has given over $398 million in financial assistance to more than 119,000 women.

Missoula Online Academy celebrates second and final school year of K-12 instruction
Teachers, students and their parents in the Missoula Online Academy celebrated the end of the school year with plenty of pizza, cornhole and bubbles to go around on Thursday at a party at Southside Lions Park. The conclusion of their school year also marks the end of the online program being offered to K-5 students. Next year, the MOA will be operated through Washington Middle School for grades 7-8 and Willard Alternative High School for grades 9-12. Missoula County Public Schools operated the online academy for students of all ages for two years amid the tumultuous COVID pandemic. "Kids are having a great time just being kids," said Ike Wallace, a teacher with the MOA. "A lot of classmates that they previously saw through a screen or teachers that they saw through a screen - they're getting to connect with in person today. It's really powerful and I think it's been a really positive experience." Prior to the pandemic, Wallace taught at Rattlesnake Elementary. As a teacher, he appreciated the district's continuation of online instruction because the in-person, traditional model wasn't the right fit for every student or educator.

Hundreds of hands create tile mural at Kalispell Middle School
Created by the hands of hundreds of sixth- through eighth-graders of different abilities, a new colorful mural made up of 300 ceramic tiles is now a part of Kalispell Middle School. The intention of the project was to foster inclusion within the middle school. Depicted in the mural, which is down the hallway leading to the Life Skills classroom, is a multicolored hand reaching out, palm open, appearing to release waves of yellow, orange, blue, red, pink and purple that flow across the length of the piece. The colorful waves, set against a backdrop of blue sky and clouds, an orange and yellow sun, green grass, a field of flowers and dark mountains are interspersed with the black outline of butterflies where the words, "brave" and "kind" are written. To come up with a design, students with special needs in teacher Liz Cumming's Life Skills class learned about murals and with a few peer partners (student helpers) taking trips to KALICO to learn about the art center and talk about the concept of inclusion and illustrate it through art. "We explored the idea of inclusion at Kalispell Middle School. Then, we drew what inclusion looked like and felt like," Cummings said.

'Next level': 7 Montana student films win regional awards
Seven films produced by Montana students received regional awards at the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences annual ceremony last week. The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences is a nonprofit organization that recognizes outstanding achievement, and the regional Northwest Chapter has a category for emerging filmmakers. MAPS Media Institute, a Montana nonprofit that provides free professional media arts instruction to students, submitted eight student films, seven of which won awards.  "Having seven wins is next level," said Clare Ann Harff, MAPS executive director, adding that this marks the eighth year that MAPS student films have won regional awards. "These awards not only celebrate students' dedication and skill, but they also garner a wider audience and spotlight the students who will become the backbone of Montana's growing film and media industries." 

Koenig Awarded Department of Defense Patriot Award
Whitehall School District Principal Kurtis Koenig was awarded a Department of Defense Patriot Award in recognition of the extraordinary support of his employee serving in the United Air Force Reserve Colonel Donna Loomis. The Patriot Award was developed by Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), a program of the Department of Defense, to publicly recognize civilian employees serving in the guard or reserve. Without supportive employers, the strength and readiness of the nation's Guard and Reserve units cannot be maintained. The nomination from Colonel Loomis reads, "Principal Koenig is very supportive of my military service in the Air Force Reserves. During his tenure as Principal of Whitehall Elementary, he has been understanding when I have been called up to support hurricanes, the COVID response, Medical Readiness Team augmentation for our state, and to participate in state, regional, and national preparedness training. He recognizes the value of the training I have received as a member of the military and the experience I bring to the school district. He draws on my military training in assigning me to leadership teams and committees."

 Kids summer sports camps at Whitefish High School
Whitefish High School is promoting four youth athletic camps this summer, several are hosted by Whitefish coaches. WHS will host a football, volleyball and softball camp, while Carroll College is hosting a youth basketball satellite camp in the WHS gym. The volleyball camp hosted by WHS volleyball head coach Addy Connelly will run from June 13-15. The camp will break down the game of volleyball working on key skills. There will be alternating time blocks separated by age for youth in third grade through 12th grade. The football camp hosted by WHS football head coach Brett Bollweg will take place on the Whitefish High School practice field Aug. 1-3 from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Players will receive instruction in all offensive, defensive and special team positions. The camp is for third- through eighth-grade aged athletes. The softball camp hosted by WHS softball coach Dave Bennetts will be July 26-28. WHS coaching staff encourages youth ages 6 to 14 to come learn the fundamentals of softball.

Shelby schools honor Teacher of the Year and Classified Staff Member of the Year
Final grades have been entered into the grade book, lockers are cleaned out and summer break for Shelby Public Schools has begun! Prior to the final bell ringing, Shelby Public Schools hosted its 2022 Staff Awards and Recognition Reception at the Marias Valley Golf Course Clubhouse on Tuesday, May 31. It was during this time that many were recognized for their dedication to education. Superintendent Elliott Crump got things underway with first recognizing those receiving years of service pins. These pins are given out in five-year increments. Kristen Ewing and Jessica Ruff received their five-year pins, Ron Buck, Guy Knickerbocker and Janet Kuntz received 10-year pins, Jennifer Mosley and Jeanne Wigen were awarded 15-year pins, Kristin Wiederrick received her 20-year pin and Tom Reynolds received his for 25 years of dedication. It was during this ceremony that a fond farewell was bid to Filipino teachers, Mr. Ben and Ms. Manda. After teaching at Shelby Schools for the past few years both are now homeward bound.

Seniors receive scholarships, awards
Eight seniors at Seeley-Swan High School received scholarships from organizations within the Seeley Lake community and beyond for their outstanding academic performances, athletic achievements and participation in extracurricular activities. Some local businesses and organizations that funded the scholarships include Alpine Artisans, Inc., Loving Hearts Thrift Store, Grizzly Claw Trading Company, The Seeley Lake Rural Fire Department and the Seeley Lake Lions Club.

Local schools combine for year-end concert
Seeley Lake Elementary School with Seeley-Swan High School band and choir students combined efforts with Swan Valley Elementary to put on an end-of-the-year concerts for the communities. The concert on May 31 was performed at SSHS auditorium. SLE/SSHS music teacher Janet Morgenstern and SVE Music Teacher/Principal Aaron Morgenstern led the students who performed music from Disney productions. Disney was the theme for the evening with music from the Avengers, Pirates of the Caribbean, Lion King, Frozen, Encanto and Moana performed by the combined band and chorale groups. "Baba Yetu," a song that was planned for the winter concert, was the only music not part of a Disney production.

SSHS grads look to the future
With a turn of their tassels and some parting words from Dr. Seuss, 30 Seeley-Swan High School seniors closed a chapter of their academic careers at the school's graduation ceremony Sunday, June 5. The commencement featured some inspirational speeches, a presentation of roses and a senior slideshow. After SSHS senior Sara Stevenson performed the Star Spangled Banner, senior Chase Haines thanked SSHS faculty and encouraged his peers to keep pursuing their dreams during the 2022 Student Address.

Supaman visits Crow Agency Public Schoo
Christian Parrish Takes the Gun, better known as "Supaman" visited the Crow Agency Public School on the first of June to speak and perform for students before the end of the school year.The award-winning artist had attended Crow Agency Public School, and graduated from the Hardin school district.

Underpass Mural Nears Completion
Glasgow's underpass mural project, helmed by local artist Cat McIntyre, is nearing completion – just in time for the Glasgow High School All Class Reunion this month. 

Brittney Wagner among UM's Presidential Leadership Scholars
The Davidson Honors College at the University of Montana recently announced recipients of the 2022 Presidential Leadership Scholarship, the University's most prestigious academic recognition for incoming students. The list of recipients includes Browning resident Brittney Wagner. Brittney Wagner (Blackfeet name: Mountain Snow Woman) is from Browning and graduated at the top of her high school class. She and her family have been active with the Blackfeet Tribe and at UM. Wagner golfed at the state tournament three times and was involved in 4-H, the Niipoo-makiis cultural society, Diversity Leadership Group and Girl Scouts as a robotics mentor. She is interested in exploring journalism, sports journalism, criminology, athletic training and sports medicine. Her culture is very important to her, and Wagner tries her hardest to represent her tribe, family and town in the best way possible. The 24 Presidential Leadership Scholars were chosen from the DHC's largest-ever cohort of applicants from across the country and represent the pinnacle of academic excellence and service to the community. Presidential Leadership Scholars will enroll in UM's Davidson Honors College in addition to their chosen undergraduate disciplines. At UM they will contribute to academic innovation, garner personal and professional development opportunities and enhance their leadership skills. 

Big Sandy Elementary year end Extravaganza
F.E. Miley Elementary School wrapped up the school year with their annual open house extravaganza. The well-loved tradition is an opportunity for parents and folks from the community to visit the classrooms and see the things the kids have been learning and working on all year. Heather Wolery, the principal, explained: "The extravaganza has been going on for a long time. Every classroom does a big project, and then they share it with the community. It's a pretty big deal at the end of the year, a chance to get to show off all this cool stuff they're doing." My first stop for extravaganza was Mrs. Moore's 3rd Grade class, which was decked out in Minion themes all year. In keeping with the theme, each child had made their own minion model. They had also written and bound their own books. The project put the kids' growing vocabulary and writing skills on display.

Glacier High students take first and second in state math contest
Glacier High School students Leif Kruse and Alexandra Houseworth captured first and second place, respectively, at the state Trig-Star math competition. Kruse's first-place win earned him a $650 cash prize, a TI-84 Plus graphing calculator and a $1,250 college scholarship. Kruse advances to the national level for a chance to win up to $2,000. Houseworth received $100 and a $1,000 college scholarship for her second-place state win. For the competition, students have 60 minutes to complete the test and the student with the highest score in the least amount of time is the winner. At state, Kruse's and Housewoth's scores were compared against 200 other competitors' statewide. Kruse achieved a score of 100 in 44 minutes and 50 seconds. Houseworth had a score of 99 within 42 minutes and 40 seconds. In order to advance to state, the students were among 52 who competed at the local level this year, which included participation from Columbia Falls and Whitefish high schools. The goal of Trig-Star is to recognize and challenge students and acquaint them with the use and practical applications of mathematics in professions such as land surveying, according to a press release from the northwest chapter of the Montana Association of Registered Land Surveyors, which proctored tests at the local level.

Flathead and Glacier students participate in state music festival
Glacier and Flathead High School music students participated in the Western State Solo and Ensemble Festival in Helena in May. Qualified music specialists listened to and judged each performance, providing comments to help students improve. Students were also rated on the following scale: 1 (superior), 2 (excellent), 3 (good), 4 (fair) and 5 (poor). Following are solo and ensemble results in band, orchestra and choir for the two high schools.

Great Falls history teacher named Montana History Teacher of the Year
Eric Chaon, Sophomore teacher at Great Falls High School in Great Falls, Mt. is the winner of the Montana Statehood Centennial Bell Award honoring the Montana History Teacher of the Year for 2021-2022. Chosen by a panel of Montana History advocates, Eric is the 33rd winner of the award. Montana History teachers at the 7th- 12th grade level are chosen on even numbered years. Montana History teachers at the 4th-6th grade levels are chosen on uneven years. Born and raised in Great Falls, Mt., Eric is a 2006 graduate of Great Falls High School and a 2010 graduate of Montana State University in Bozeman with a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary Education, a Social Studies Broadfield and a minor in History. In 2016 he received a master of education Degree in curriculum and instruction from MSU. He is married to Hayley Chaon and they have two children, a daughter Lola, and a son Bryson. Eric enjoys camping, fishing, skiing, sports events and spending time with family across Montana.

Florence softball coach Maurice Craun named Coach of the Year
The Montana Coaches Association has selected Florence-Carlton's Maurice Craun as the 2022 Softball Coach of the Year Class B/C. Craun said it was due to the right support, great athletes and a bit of luck. "I am very lucky to have some really good softball players and I've got a really good coaching staff," he said. "Our girls love playing softball and the coaches spend a lot of time getting them ready to be as good of softball players as they can be. We've been very successful at it." The win on May 28 was FCHS's 12th state softball title since 2000. "Florence has had the luxury of having very good coaches for a very long time," Craun said. "The Florence administration has done a good job of getting quality coaches which keeps that program playing at a very high level. You put really good athletes together with really good coaches and it makes my job easy."

Ronan student's photo picked for show at L.A. museum
A Ronan high-schooler's portrait of her younger sister in a jingle dress is heading to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Katie Medicine Bull, a sophomore at Two Eagle River School, entered portraits in a nationwide open call for teenage photographers called "Reconnecting With," between Getty Unshuttered and Amplifier, a nonprofit art and activism organization. It needed to be a portrait, the 16-year-old said. The subject could be "reconnecting with your life after COVID, or with your culture," she said. And it was "such a time crunch," she said. They only had about a month to take pictures. Medicine Bull wanted to emphasize the "culture aspect," she said, and reconnecting. "I just recently moved up here about a year and a half ago," she said. "We came up here and we didn't really know our Salish family's culture or anything like that. So I really wanted to use this as an opportunity to get some culture out of it."

Glacier High School senior isn't 'waiting on the world to change'
Throughout her years at Glacier High School, Opal Besaw has found joy and fulfillment in helping others through her thoughtfulness, humor, kindness, determination and writing. With graduation Saturday, Besaw will begin the next chapter in her life with goals to become a children's author, social worker and continue her efforts as a disability rights advocate. She's in her second year serving on the state Office of Public Instruction Special Education Advisory Panel. "Everyone deserves a chance to have their voices and their ideas heard by someone and I want to be that person for people," Besaw said. She graduates with a 4.0 GPA and plans to attend Flathead Valley Community College for a year and then transfer to the University of Montana. Part of what has shaped her passions and aspirations has been living with cerebral palsy. "I was born with cerebral palsy, which means the part of my brain that controls my physical movements, and to some extent, cognitive development, although only slightly, was damaged sometime before, during, or after birth," Besaw said.

Shop students spruce-up fairgrounds
Some big improvements have been taking place out at the Marias Fairgrounds thanks to some hard work put in by Shelby Junior High and High School shop students in Mr. Thad White's class. These young volunteers have been busy tearing down some of the old porches and stairs at the Mercantile Building while also cleaning up leaves and removing some low-hanging branches. They also went into the old schoolhouse and cleaned up the rooms. "Since we are hosting MT Range Days this summer at the fairgrounds we worked through the barter system," explained White. "We offered to work on some small projects they've been meaning to do and, in return, we could use the fairgrounds for the event." The junior high students got started on the demolition end of things on May 17. Some rainy weather delayed the start of construction but that was able to get underway on May 23. "It's a challenge to pick the perfect day to work in May and balance end-of-year school activities. That is the biggest challenge," shared White. "We have some more work to do, but we probably won't be able to complete it until school is out. Jeff Wray, one of our maintenance staff, was very instrumental in helping with this project."

Local students earn Montana University System scholarships
The Montana University System has awarded the prestigious Montana University System Honor Scholarship to students out of Polson High School: Jazlyn Dalbey, Ryan Dupuis, and Taleah Hernández. The MUS Honor Scholarship is a renewable scholarship offered by the Montana Board of Regents that waives undergraduate tuition for up to eight semesters at any campus of the Montana University System or Dawson, Flathead Valley, or Miles community colleges. The scholarship's average value is $20,000. It is the most prestigious scholarship offered centrally by the Montana University System. Students offered this scholarship must be graduates of an accredited Montana high school with a minimum grade point average of 3.4 at the end of their seventh semester in high school, take either the ACT or SAT standardized test, meet college core requirements, and attend an eligible Montana campus.

Two Eagle River School powwow send students off for summer
Two Eagle River School celebrated the end of the school year with a powwow on Wednesday May 25. Families, friends, and students came to celebrate with them. The TERS student powwow committee organized and led the powwow celebration. TERS staff applauded the student group for stepping up to the plate and arranging the powwow. "First and foremost, we are Indian before anything else," said TERS Culture advisor Arleen Adams. "It's my job to help show and educate them that." Adams expressed her joy in TERS students hosting the powwow and thanks everyone who contributed to its success. Emcees for the powwow were Cael Burke, Dustry Mad Plume, and Joey Mahkuk.

Ronan High School seniors look to the future after graduation
Seniors from Ronan High School graduated on Sunday, May 29 at the RHS football field. Families and friends packed the stands as graduates bid farewell to high school and hello to independence. The class faced numerous challenges yet never gave up hope. The emphasis at RHS graduation was on appreciating life and making the most difficult, but correct, decisions as they embarked on the rest of their lives. "None of us have the right to this life we live, our lives can be taken from us in an instant," said Salutatorian Kambrie Rubel. "You can't focus on the what ifs or I cant's because you can do it, you can be whoever you want to be, as long you have the determination and strength to pursue that one dream of yours." "When it comes to the mistakes you have made in your life, they should never get the right to define who you are going to be," Rubel said. Life goes so quickly, and it's all about savoring every moment, she said, and appreciating all the simple pleasures in life the world has to give. "Never forget to make the most of what you have to work with and never let anything stop you from achieving your biggest dream."

Music Through the Decades
Lincoln Elementary School students sang their way through the decades during their annual spring concert at the Lincoln School gym Thursday, May 19. The concert featured songs ranging from the turn of the 20th century through today. A planned performance of 'Ghostbusters' by the preschool class had to be scrapped due to a stomach bug that kept most of the class home, so the kindergartners kicked off the show with a rendition of the classic 'I've been working on the Railroad" and the more modern "Dancing Gummy Bear." Although Lincoln school is currently without a music teacher, Superintendent Jen Packer, fifth grade teacher Stacey Mannix and para-professional Jen Dailey worked with the kids to pull the successful concert together.

Local Libby Students Take Home 1st Place at Music in the Parks Festival
A perfect score. Two community children's choirs, under the direction of Mrs. Lorraine Braun, competed in Coeur d'alene, Idaho on May 14, as part of the Music in the Parks Festival, which is a national-based program. The Libby Children's Choir received a perfect score of 100, which the festival rarely sees. The Libby Honors Choir received an average of 95/100 which placed them in first place in their category (school size). An added special award also went to Sammy Evans who sang a solo during one of the songs. Both choirs include students who attend public school, private school and are homeschooled. She did an awesome job. "I am proud of these kids. Not only did they prove themselves musically, and worked well as a team, they represented our community in a very positive light. Kudos to them all." 

Student completes mural
The school year came to a serendipitous end for one local student as she completed a large art project on the last day of school. Starr Larsen, an 8th grade student at Washington Middle School, applied the final strokes of paint to an original mural in the school on Thursday. Beginning the project on Feb. 4 of this year, Larsen noted it took longer than anticipated due to sports and other school related responsibilities. According to WMS Principal Katy Kennedy, Larsen did whatever was necessary in order to complete the mural. "She's been trying to work around that schedule and been working hard on it (by) staying after school (at times)," Kennedy said. The idea to paint a mural did not come without thought as Larsen started with smaller works of art that she gave to each of the principals in the Glendive school district. "I started creating paintings for them (last year) that showed them school spirit," Larsen said. The idea for a larger scale art project came after those smaller ones she gave to the principals in an effort to encourage more school spirit from her teachers and fellow students. "The school colors were one of the big things," Larsen said, adding she also wanted to effectively portray the WMS mascot - the demons - and make all of the elements in her design "pop."

Wax On
Sacagawea (Jersey Sallee) stands ready to welcome visitors to the Wax Museum, courtesy of Hinsdale's fifth and sixth grade classes, May 25. Hinsdale's fifth and sixth grade classes hosted a Wax Museum May 25 under the guidance of Connie Mogan. The culmination of weeks of work delighted visitors who learned the history of significant Americans. Each student chose their own notable leader to represent. Ryan Jones chose Anne Frank and Isabelle Jones represented Harriet Tubman. Lilly Earls (who was not in attendance) chose Colonel Sanders and Reese Bowman presented Abraham Lincoln.

Beloved school district figures retire
When the final bell rings this Friday, it will signal the end of the 2021-2022 Cut Bank school year. It will also signal the beginning of retirement for three Cut Bank School District employees. Linda Rideout has been working for the School District for 32 years. She is currently a member of the group referred to as the lunch bunch. When asked what she is going to miss the most, she said, "The kids of course, and my co-workers. They are all great ladies and I learned a lot from them." She enjoyed, "Seeing the kids starting kindergarten and watching them grow up." In addition to missing the kids and her co-workers, Linda said she will miss "The Beast" (the work truck she has been driving for 31 of her 32 years). "It's been very dependable and has gotten me through a lot of tough snow days," Linda shared. Debbie Ehlert has worked for the school district for over 29 years. She spent 10 years as the Cut Bank Middle School Office Aide and has been the H.C. Davis Elementary School Secretary for the last 19 years. When asked what she is going to miss the most, Debbie also said the kids. "Getting to be 'Grandma' to the students. Fixing up their cuts and scrapes, handing out ice packs – it is amazing what wonders a band-aid or ice pack can take care of. I will also miss time spent with my co-workers."

At high school, new cabinets showcase academics
Columbia Falls High School has a new cabinet showcasing the academic achievements of its students thanks to the efforts of the Columbia Falls Academic Endowment Fund, Nolan's Cabinetry and the Scott Emmerich family. The new display will showcase past and present academic achievements at the school. The cabinet is in honor of the late Scott Emmerich, a former school board member and supporter of academics at the school. Emmerich served on the board for seven years. Emmerich was also a longtime North Fork District Ranger in Glacier National Park and in 2010 the recipient of the Harry Yount Award for excellence in rangering. Emmerich retired in 2014 and died after a 2-1/2-year-long battle with brain cancer in 2018. He was 61. His wife, Jan Knox, said the family was proud to support the endowment fund with a donation in his honor each year. "I think it's important to recognize students at all levels," she said, in reference to academics, the arts, music and theater. The Endowment supports all of those programs, funding them above and beyond what the school district does. It also helps fund equipment for classrooms, like microscopes as well as field trips and other academic endeavors.

CHS students become blood donors
Inspired by stories of her grandmother, Choteau High School senior Amy McKenzie has donated blood, plasma and platelets since turning 16 and organized the first Red Cross blood drive to be held at Choteau High School in at least 10 years. McKenzie never met her parental grandmother LaDonna McKenzie from Lewistown but heard plenty of stories of her donating blood over her lifetime. "I don't recall how much she donated but it was a crazy amount," McKenzie said. "She died before I was born but my dad told stories about her and she became a role model to me." The daughter of Larry McKenzie and Jannie Munoz, McKenzie began donating as soon as she was eligible. The March 26 blood drive at the school was the eighth time she has donated. She also do-nates plasma and platelets in Great Falls as often as possible. With the shortage of blood and having O negative blood type, a blood that is more in demand for being the "universal donor," McKenzie gives as often as she can.

Beams signed in traditional ceremony
The skies were sunny and the temperatures warm when a pair of steel beams parked outside Browning High School. Colter Dahlstrom, project manager for Sletten Construction, drove the flatbed trailer carrying the beams as part of a cross-Montana trip. They are the final pieces of an 84,000 square foot addition to the Montana Heritage Center and will be placed at 1 p.m. on May 17 in a "topping out" ceremony. Students from around Montana have been signing their names on the beams as they make their way to various schools, to be a permanent part of the new museum. At BHS, all the Blackfeet Native Studies students as well as all the seniors were asked to come out for the ceremonies, and a Blackfeet language immersion class from Browning Middle School also took part. Bundle holders Darnell and Smokey Rides At The Door welcomed the travelers as the latter prayed and smudged the beams. A singing group from BMS offered honor and flag songs during the blessing, and afterward Darnell passed out the permanent markers. She encouraged the students to include their Indian names along with their signatures.

Three Broadus Teachers Retire
A group of Broadus teachers including Roma Rogge, Connie Barnhart, and Paulie Isaak packed up their teaching supplies and looked towards their future retirements. The three teachers combine for 124 years of teaching experience, having all taught for at least 40 years. We sat down with each of the teachers to try and gain some insight into their longevity. Paulie Isaak began teaching Broadus Kindergarteners in 1983, welcoming anxious youngsters to the public school system with her characteristic cheerfulness ever since. While attending a going away party for Isaak and Rogge last week, we heard how Paulie came to Broadus to interview for a teaching position, dressed up and prepared for a sit down, serious interview. When she arrived, she was met by a school administrator who was busy working in his garden. Shaking her hand with a grubby gardening hand, the administrator gave her a tour of the school, and promptly hired Paulie on the spot. The interview class she had paid to attend prior to coming to Broadus was apparently not of much use in the relaxed atmosphere of Southeast Montana.

Mr. Thornton retires after 49 years
After the final day of school this year, the Big Sandy Schools Facebook Page posted a short video of "Mr. T's last walk out the door after 49 years." Kids cheered on and accompanied the well-loved teacher as he headed down the front walk for the last time. Mr. T has worked part time for the last several years in the library and helping kids one-on-one with school work. Much of the reason for his long tenure has been his love for teaching kids and for our little town. Dick Thornton started teaching at FE Miley Elementary School in the fall of 1972. He initially set out to take a job in Great Falls, his home town. "When I first was trying to get a job after I got out of the Navy, I started going up to see the superintendent who was in charge of hiring in Great Falls. I'd go up there every Tuesday. I did that for about six weeks. He gave me about 10 or 15 minutes, and we chatted. He always had told me that if you ever go someplace, stay at least two years."

Butte High valedictorians excited for next chapter
After four years of hard work, Butte High School graduates Morgan Immel and Cein Cunningham have achieved their dreams of being valedictorians. This year, Butte High has 33 valedictorians, which is a little more the usual, said principal John Metz. He said Immel and Cunningham stand out to him because not only are they hard working, like all the valedictorians are, but they're well-respected among their classmates and humble. "They've both just worked extremely hard to get where they are," Metz said. Although both students are successful and were born and raised in Butte, they have different mindsets about their successes. Immel, for her part, works hard and strives for good grades, but doesn't let those goals define her. "Coming into freshman year, I really wanted to be a valedictorian," Immel said. "But it wasn't something for me where if I got a B, I would die. It was just, if I continue to get straight A's, then I got straight A's, and if not, that was fine."

High school taught Madison Wallack how to overcome
Madison Wallack sucks in a deep breath as she thinks back on her high school career. Freshman year at Flathead High School went well, she says, smooth even. Then the pandemic hit. After that it got hard. "It was a rough ride," she recalls. "Sophomore year was the hardest, because Covid shut down the schools. Online classes were pretty difficult for me; I'm an in-person learner." Falling in with the wrong crowd didn't help much. Neither did getting into trouble. But things began turning around during her junior year. Wallack spent the first half of 2021 not in Kalispell, but Dillon, where she was enrolled in the Montana Youth Challenge Academy. A structured, residential program for at-risk teenagers on the campus of the University of Montana Western, the academy touts its high-stress, high-tempo approach to getting students back on track. Now, a little more than a year later, Wallack holds a high school diploma, having graduated from Flathead High School a semester ahead of most of her peers, and has begun taking classes at Flathead Valley Community College when she's not working.

Five Butte High School students to attend Girls State
Five high school students from Butte were chosen to attend 2022 Girls State June 12-18 at Carroll College in Helena. The following girls will attend the program: Taylor Bushman, daughter of Tori and Chad Bushman, Emma Harper, daughter of Stacey and David Harper, Ireland Johnston, daughter of Erin and Kurt Johnston, Alexandria Kovnesky, daughter of Heather and Jake Kovnesky, Emmarie Richards, daughter of Traci and Tom Richards. Girls State is a unique and exciting government-in-action learning program that education and training in the functional aspects of citizenship. All five delegates are from Butte High. No girls from Butte Central chose to be involved. The girls enrolled will be citizens of a state created especially for them, where they will learn the fundamental principles of American government through actual practice and control of state offices during their session at Girls State.

Music is a necessary passion for Butte High grad
Many love affairs burn with intensity when first sparked but then fade away to embers and ash. Russell Romine fell in love with music in the ninth grade. His devotion continues. His necessary passion for playing and performing has only intensified with time, even though this embrace has been isolating at times in a sports-centric community. Romine, 18, contemplated other life paths as a student at Butte High School but kept returning to the lodestone that has provided salve, salvation and joy. "I was forced to the conclusion that I can't live without music," Romine said during a recent interview. "Every time I tried to do something different, there was a point to it. But there was no beauty in it." The Butte native, described as gifted by his piano teacher, plans to pursue a bachelor's degree in music in piano performance this fall at Concordia College in Minnesota.

Dillon youths show videos in 'Red Carpet Project'
Beaverhead County young filmmakers walked the red-carpet Saturday as their short videos, targeting healthy, drug-free youth, premiered at Big Sky Cinema in Dillon, part of the second annual Beaverhead County Red Carpet Video Project. The Be the Change 406 Coalition, which targets reducing underage substance use, sponsored the event. Videos, created on cell phones and laptops, were shown to the filmmakers, parents, and interested community members. Six student teams from Beaverhead County High School, Dillon Middle School, and the Lima School District created and directed their individualized interpretation of the Red Ribbon Week theme: "Drug Free Looks Like Me." BCHS "Beavers" team" juniors and twin sisters Jo and Co Niglio took home the top prize of $1,000 for their haunting, thought-provoking submission. The winning Middle School "TEM Time'' team of DMS sixth-graders, Marissah Stoddard, Madison Sampson, and Tilly Kreiner used humor and an original rap song to make their video stand out and receive $500. Red carpet video judges considered content, originality, videography interest, clarity, and the use of references and credits for each submission.

C-Falls senior takes a hands-on approach to life
Haily Mundel loves working with her hands. The Columbia Falls High School senior, who will graduate later this week, has always enjoyed being creative, but the metals and ceramics classes she took as a senior have truly unlocked her creativity. "I like working with my hands and being able to create things," she said. "Being able to take something in your head and actually make it is so much fun. I enjoy ceramics because you are given a project, but you get to create it however you want to. You get to put a lot of yourself into it. I enjoy metals class as well, but you have to do things a certain way." While three double-knee surgeries in junior high and another during her freshman year in high school kept her out of sports, Mundel says the experience made her tougher and more stubborn.


Flathead Valley's high school students set to graduate
The high school Class of 2022 will be graduating from six high schools in the valley. Commencement ceremonies for Linderman Education Center and Whitefish Independent High School graduates will be held Thursday, June 2. Whitefish Independent's commencement ceremony begins at 1 p.m. on the south lawn of Whitefish High School, 1143 E. Fourth St. In case of inclement weather, the ceremony will move indoors to the Black Box Theater. Linderman's ceremony starts at 7 p.m. Ninety-two students are set to graduate. Linderman is located at 124 Third Ave. E., Kalispell. Commencement ceremonies at Flathead High School and Stillwater Christian School are scheduled for Friday, June 3. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. for Flathead's ceremony which starts at 7 p.m. in the main gym. No tickets are required. About 349 students are expected to graduate. Flathead is located at 644 Fourth Ave. W., Kalispell. Stillwater's ceremony begins at 6:30 p.m. at the school located at 255 FFA Dr., Kalispell. Sixteen students will be graduating. Bigfork, Columbia Falls, Glacier and Whitefish high schools will hold commencement ceremonies Saturday, June 4.

WHS senior sets sights on advocating for others
Even as a youngster Emma Trieweiler wanted to be a lawyer, but an experience in high school focused that goal into working toward becoming a civil rights attorney. Part of a trio of Whitefish High School students who approached the Whitefish School Board in the summer of 2020 asking that the district boost the integration of diversity studies in the schools, Trieweiler became part of an advisory committee that made suggestions for improving the district's curriculum. Trieweiler, who graduates Saturday with the school's Class of 2022, says the pitch to the board came in the wake of the death of George Floyd and as the Black Lives Matter movement spread, including to protests in downtown Whitefish. "A group of students I started talking with had been at a lot of the protests and all the things that were happening was opening their eyes to things they had never thought about partly because of where we live because there isn't much diversity in our town and in our school," she said. She noted that those conversations led students to notice what they saw as lacking in their school lessons in terms of presenting diverse perspectives in literature and history. "I spoke about the experiences I had and the lack of sensitivity in knowing how to talk about these subjects because they've never needed to learn how to talk about these subjects appropriately," she said. "But also what was missing in learning about different backgrounds and cultures. We took it to the school board and they thought it was a great idea."

Class of 2022 Academic All-Stars: Olivia Reifenberger of Great Falls High School
Olivia Reifenberger is the daughter of John and Brenda Reifenberger. The Great Falls High senior enjoys being outdoors whether it's hiking, kayaking, swimming, fishing, boating, and so on. Reifenberger also enjoys spending her weekends at her grandma's house playing games, gardening, baking or watching movies. Volunteering has been something she has enjoyed over the past few years as well. Moving to Great Falls her freshman year, she began getting involved in the community through Key Club, Leadership High, and National Honors Society.

Ashton Blake chosen as Class of 2022 Academic All Star for CMR
Ashton Blake, son of Rodney and Anamarie Blake, has participated in a various organizations in leadership positions during his time at C.M. Russell. He enjoys reading, playing board games, and staying up to date on political news. During all four years at CMR, Blake played percussion in the Symphonic Band for four years and actively participated in the school pep band and drumline. Additionally, he has been on the speech and debate team (three years), ran cross country (four years), serving as boys' team captain this year. He stated that student government is also a passion of his and has been able to serve, currently serving as class vice president. He is currently the National Honor Society president and participated in the Leadership High School Program.

Bozeman student chosen for Carnegie Hall concert
Carnegie Hall will feature a Bozeman performer next month - alto saxophone player and eighth-grader Kei Braun. Braun, who attends Bozeman's Chief Joseph Middle School, will travel to New York City and spend five days rehearsing and sightseeing, culminating in a performance on June 18 with the National Middle School Honor Band in Carnegie's biggest auditorium. "Honestly, I still can't believe I made it in," Braun said. "I didn't think I would get in whatsoever." There are student performers from 39 states and Canada playing with the National Honor Band, which will be performing classical music. According to his parents, Braun is the only student chosen from Montana this year.

GFPS students help create 'Safety Town' for kids
Thursday saw a special delivery to the Skyline Early Learning Center. Students from Great Falls High School unloaded two buildings and several street signs for what will eventually be turned into a miniature town called "Safety Town." One of the buildings was modeled after the Milwaukee Station depot near downtown Great Falls. "I've been waiting for this today for a long time," said Bison sophomore Houston Waddell. "My class built one of 'em and a different class built the other one. We all worked together and it was just a good learning experience for all of us." Starting in June, Skyline will host a series of camps where children entering kindergarten can learn how to be safe pedestrians and drivers in the mini-village. They will ride their tricycles through the streets of "Safety Town," learning about stop signs, cross walks, and traffic safety.

Great Falls teen gets a jump on college and a career through apprenticeship
A Montana Department of Labor program is helping Great Falls High School student Madison Hewitt get a jump start on college - as well as her career, as her love for childcare is paving the way for her future. "I've always had a connection with kids and I've always liked working with kids," said Madison, who graduates this weekend from GFHS. If you spend time watching Madison, or Madi as she likes to be called, interact with kids at St. Thomas Child and Family Center, its apparent she's on the right path. She took early childhood development classes as a freshman. In her sophomore year, she committed to a rigorous early childhood apprenticeship program through the Department of Labor, Family Connections, and GFPS.

Area students win statewide and divisional awards for wildfire prevention artwork
A Columbia Falls High School sophomore's art was selected as the statewide winner of a wildfire prevention art contest. Sophomore Madysen Martin's art encouraging Montana residents to do their part received first-place in Keep Montana Green Association's 61st annual wildfire prevention contest. She will receive a cash award. Second and third place were awarded to students in Plains High School and Lewis and Clark Elementary. The top three entries were chosen from among more than 600 submissions from Montana students in grades K-12, according to a press release. The art contest is a time for educators, such as Columbia Falls High School art teacher Kate Daniels, to teach students about wildfire safety, prevention and conservation. "Fire prevention is such an important topic to our area," Daniels said. The contest is meant to increase public awareness of the dangers of uncontrolled wildland fires, reminding people to be careful with fire-causing hazards while enjoying Montana's forests, campgrounds and rangelands. "It's art with a message," said Daniels.

West Elementary students learn that kindness 'rocks'
When word spread that hate flyers were found in the yards of several residents living on Butte's westside, staff and students at West Elementary decided to do something. The flyers were discovered Monday in baggies, which included rocks. In the last couple of days, each student has been working diligently to do his or her part to counteract hate. Whether it be through a kindness card with words of encouragement, a craft item, or a painted rock, they all contributed. On Friday, those same residents will be getting an entirely different bag. Enclosed in each will be positive notes, crafts and painted rocks, and all will be delivered by the school's fifth- and sixth-grade students.

21 graduating high-schoolers awarded 2022 Mariah's Challenge Scholarship
After two years of COVID-19 restrictions, 21 high school seniors who committed to abstaining from illegal drug use and underage drinking were honored at an in-person Mariah's Challenge Scholarship Ceremony on Wednesday in the Montana Tech Library's auditorium. Mariah's Challenge was officially launched on Feb. 2, 2008, in honor of Mariah Daye McCarthy, a 14-year-old girl who was hit and killed on Oct. 28, 2007, by a 20-year-old man driving under the influence of alcohol. She was walking with two friends to her house for a sleepover at the time. Her friends lived through their injuries. Leo McCarthy, Mariah's father, founded Mariah's Challenge to educate kids and their parents about the dangers of drinking and to foster a change in Butte, a town with a long history of alcohol use and abuse. "Mariah's Challenge is something that has, in my opinion, changed our community, I think, top to bottom," said emcee Paul Panisko at the ceremony. "I think kids growing through it have changed, I think adults have taken their consequences a little bit more seriously and changed."

Capital High welding students craft new benches for Mount Helena
Capital High School welding students recently completed a project that gave them a chance to develop their skills while helping trail users on Mount Helena. For the last few weeks, about 15 students in Tom Kain's welding 1 class spent about an hour a day constructing two steel park benches that will be installed along Ambrose Trail in June. City of Helena officials said one will be installed near the trail's junction with Mike Cormier Trail and the other will go near the junction with Daisy Hill Trail.  "It's just cool to get to do something like that in class to benefit the community and also do some welding," said Brody Romano, a junior in the class. Kain said his students previously completed several smaller-scale projects for schools and individuals, but "this is probably the biggest thing we've done." Tombstone Kiwanis Club in Helena provided funding for the project, which also included sandblasting and powder coating completed by third-party vendors. The total cost of the project came out to about $1,600, member Chuck Amdahl said.

Ruby Valley rotary club awards 2022 scholarships
The Rotary Club of Twin Bridges / Ruby Valley awarded scholarships of $1,000 each to four Ruby Valley students based on academic achievement, probability of success, service to school, community and public services and financial need. The Rotary Club awards two scholarships to two graduating seniors from each high school annually. One scholarship is for students attending a Montana college in a four-year curriculum. The other scholarship is intended for students attending a college of technology, two-year curriculum in any state. Following are the Rotary Club of Twin Bridges / Ruby Valley 2022 scholarships recipients.

Seniors conduct "Graduation Walks" at Great Falls elementary schools
As graduating high school seniors in Great Falls prepare to walk the stage and receive their diplomas, they first took a quick trip down memory lane. "Graduation Walks" are a six-year-old tradition in Great Falls, and seniors from both Great Falls High School and CMR High School were excited to walk the halls of their old elementary schools one last time before throwing their caps. "It's so surreal," said Jordan Belote, a soon-to-be CMR graduate. "It's crazy that not long ago, we were going to school here and now we're back while ending a whole entire era of our lives." Teachers also felt the nostalgia by seeing some of their students come back. "In a way, it's just kind of an honor to see them grow up and make those accomplishments and yeah, I'm ecstatic to see them walk. It's really going to be fun." said Dennis Hogan, a fourth-grade teacher at Riverview Elementary School.

Capital High seniors celebrate their success through a "grad walk"
Fifteen Capital High school graduates are taking a step back in their past by walking in their old elementary schools in preparation for graduation. For graduate Emma Hopkins, seeing her elementary school teachers was a happy moment. "It's a little surreal, there is a lot that is changed, I do not know. I am just excited to see everyone. It is really cool seeing my old teachers," said Hopkins. After graduation Hopkins will be going to Western Washington. University for computer science and says she is nervous but excited for the future. "A little nervous for it, but I do not know but it is exciting. I am not counting it down, I am just trying to live my days in high school out," said Hopkins. For Jacob Curry, he had an exciting time walking along the Kessler School playground high-fiving the elementary school students.

2022 elementary out-of-school-time scholarships available
The Montana Early Childhood and Family Support Division recognizes that the need for summer care and summer programming for school-age children is important for a child's development and to the economic viability of Montana. The scholarship is for children entering kindergarten through fifth grade in the fall of 2022. Parents must be employed, attending school or have special circumstances. Families must demonstrate they are paying for summer care - summer/sports camps, Boys & Girls Club, babysitters, nannies, and such - by providing a receipt or letter of acknowledgement. Parents have the option to choose a grant amount of either $1,500 or $2,500 per child.

1975 Montana champ from Helena recalls lessons from National Spelling Bee
In 1975, Marie Grose Campbell - then a 14-year-old eighth-grader at C.R. Anderson School in Helena - won the Treasure State Spelling Bee and a trip to the 48th annual National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. She represented Lee Newspapers of Montana. Now, 47 years after winning the state bee and going to the National Spelling Bee, Campbell is a third-grade instructor at Basha Elementary School in Chandler, Arizona. "I tell my students that spelling is important because people need to be able to read what you've written, and your writing is also judged on spelling and handwriting when it is on display," she said. Winning a seat in the National Spelling Bee "taught me the importance of education, of working hard and being determined, of setting goals and working to achieve them." Those are words of wisdom for eighth-grader Ellette Whitcomb from Sussex School in Missoula, who won this year's Treasure State Spelling Bee in March.

Busy Big Sky senior sets sights on Georgia Tech to pursue computer science
Taking advantage of any opportunity that presents itself and making the most of it might be Ben Carter's secret to success. The Big Sky High School senior's resume includes high marks in the Health Occupation Students of America, hours of service with Key Club and highest ranking cadet of the Civil Air Patrol. All of that and more he juggled with rigorous academics through the school's Health Science Academy, topped with a number of International Baccalaureate and other dual-enrollment classes, while also being a three-sport athlete. "He handles all these myriad of activities with diligence and grace and a maturity beyond his years," wrote Heather Williams, Carter's high school counselor of three years. Though much of his time in high school was spent in classes related to health careers, his true passion lies in computer science. Carter didn't have a personal computer or a cellphone until he began high school. His dad was a software engineer for a time.

Beethoven goes back to school: Bozeman Symphony performs for local fourth graders
The Willson Auditorium filled with pre-concert bustle Friday as the performers of the Bozeman Symphony came in from the spring snow. The symphony's audience that day was 900-some fourth graders. Conducted by Norman Huynh, the Bozeman Symphony performed the final movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, "Ode to Joy." Seventeen local schools and 15 home-schooled students attended, according to Andrew Loftus, director of fine arts for Bozeman Public Schools. This was the latest of the Symphony's annual performances for fourth graders, who can choose to join their school orchestra, band, or chorus when they enter fifth grade.

Hamilton Middle School presents 'How to Eat Like a Child' May 26, 27
Hamilton Middle School is producing "How to Eat Like a Child" on May 26 and 27 in the HMS Auditorium.  Director Faylee Favara said the production is a wonderful musical written by Delia Ephron with music by John Forster. "This musical romp through the joys and sorrows of being a child is hilarious," Favara said. "Children give 23 lessons in such subjects as how to beg for a dog, how to torture your sister, and how to act after being sent to your room. The pace is fast, the tone subversive, and the recognition is instant."

Quieter than a mouse sewing':  Montana kids describe their town in poetry
Drummond is where you can know everyone," the poem goes. "Drummond is 15 trains a day," and it's "always going to smell like dried grass." No, this isn't Richard Hugo. These young writers are fond of their hometowns. By their reckoning, "Drummond is like a scoop of ice cream," and "where my family moved because it is perfect." Each line in this poem was written by a Drummond fourth or fifth grader with the guidance of April Cypher, their poet/instructor from the Missoula Writing Collaborative.

Cayuse Prairie administrator selected as superintendent of the year for Northwest Montana
Cayuse Prairie School Superintendent and Principal Amy Piazzola has been chosen by her peers as the 2021-22 Superintendent of the Year for the Northwest Montana region. "I feel very humbled by it because I know the great work that everybody does in the valley and beyond in Northwest Montana," Piazzola said.

Darby High School students heading to national SkillsUSA competition
Darby High School students are heading to the National SkillsUSA competition after placing at the state conference in Helena with the theme "United As One." DHS Chapter advisors are Mikey Meves, shop teacher, and Courtney Bennett, career specialist. "We're pretty excited," Bennett said. "The kids did so great." DHS Principal Christopher Mothorn said is it a worthy program for Darby. "SkillsUSA is a great opportunity for our students to compete with other students in real-world skills that will help them in the job market and life," Mothorn said. "This is our first year participating in the program and our students are excited to see the program grow next year and in the future. We are excited to be sending students to compete at the national competition in Atlanta this June"

Jefferson High students offer welcoming sign to MHP
Many folks just bring flowers, champagne or a casserole when they want to welcome a new neighbor. Some Jefferson High School students said hello to some new neighbors, the Montana Highway Patrol, with a metal sign. Students from Dave Heimann's welding and drafting class made a 42-inch by 38-inch sign that was unveiled Monday in front of the MHP's new headquarters in Boulder. The sign, which was donated from the school, says "Montana Highway Patrol" and it includes a U.S. flag in the shape of the state of Montana sitting atop some mountains and next to some tall trees. At the bottom of the sign is "3-7-77," reflecting the first organized law enforcement in Montana and part of the MHP trooper's patch since 1956. Heimann, a vocational trades teacher, said the idea came from above: Tim Norbeck, the school's superintendent. "Mr. Norbeck said we should make a sign for our neighbors and we took it from there," he said. A quick unveiling ceremony was held Monday at the MHP administration building, along with Attorney General Austin Knudsen and Col. Steve Lavin. The school is just down the road from Jefferson High School.

Work gets started Monday on Baxendale Schoolhouse
Work got started Monday on the Baxendale Schoolhouse, which is now being relocated on land leased from the Archie Bray Foundation. The school, which Preserve Montana adopted and moved in 2019, will be placed onto a foundation this summer at 2965 Country Club Road. Built in 1890, the school is one of the best-preserved rural schools in the Helena area, Preserve Montana officials said. It originally served the mining settlement of Baxendale west of Helena, and later moved to Highway 12 West to keep serving as a school and then a community center. The total cost of the project, including the moving and restoration, will be about $200,000.

Flathead High awards its first varsity letters in science
Three students recently received the first varsity letters awarded for excellence in Science Club at Flathead High School. FHS junior Kenna Anderson and sophomores Dyson Linden and Keanu Ng were awarded the varsity letters during an awards ceremony May 2. "We wanted to award these because we think it's important to recognize academics as much as athletics so that's why these letters are really important to us because we really value the studying, the learning - and all the work that you did to learn more about science this year," said Lynette Johnson, Flathead Science Club co-adviser and science department leader. To receive a varsity letter, Science Club members earn points based on meeting attendance and participation, offices held, volunteer efforts and the number of science fairs they compete in and place in, among other criteria. "The science fair season starts in October and it really doesn't ramp up until March. It's probably the longest season of any team event we have," said Renee Cordes, Flathead Science Club co-adviser and International Baccalaureate teacher.

Photo: Former NATO commander Wesley Clark visits Helena school
Former Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO Wesley Clark, center, poses for photos with Helena's Project for Alternative Learning students and faculty Wednesday morning. Students and faculty, from left, Asa Drake, Trenton Houde, Principal Matt Carey (back row), Charles McLaren (behind Clark), True Hooft, and Kaleb Dullum got to meet the former presidential candidate and ask him questions. Student Tucker Anderson is not pictured. PAL faculty member Ryan Cooney, bottom right, said Clark was in Helena for a breakfast fundraiser for the World Affairs Council before making a stop at the school.

HHS Envirothon teams place first and second at Montana competition
Hamilton High School's Envirothon team earned their second consecutive state championship title and a second HHS team took second at the Montana competition in Great Falls at the end of April. The coaches were Marie Antonioli and Birch Fett. Antonioli said it is unprecedented for one school to take the top two spots at the state competition. "It was amazing, it was phenomenal, we are doing so great in all these science competitions," she said. "It is a testament to the smart kids we grow in this community. Bronc Envirothon teams earned first place in every test, first in the oral presentation and first in the written tests, which is incredible. The kids were so amazed, elated and proud of all their efforts." It is HHS's fourth state championship, but only their second in a row. HHS has two varsity teams. 

Two Bozeman private schools to study climate change in Alaska
Audrey Keith is excited to see whales, Rosemary Davidson is looking forward to exploring glaciers up close, and Lillian Williamson is glad she gets to experience it all alongside her classmates. Students from two Bozeman area field schools - Peak Potential Academy and Bozeman Field School - are anticipating their upcoming expedition trip to get hands-on experience studying the effects of coastal climate change in Southeast Alaska. Tongass National Forest and Glacier Bay National Park are on the agenda, where students will have the chance to study glaciers, chat with experts in the field and search for whales, sea otters and other wildlife. Peak Potential - a fourth through eighth grade school - and Bozeman Field School - a ninth through 12th grade school - have partnered for an eight day trip on the National Geographic research vessel Sea Lion with Lindblad Expeditions. The students, along with teachers and a handful of parent chaperones, depart on May 13. "Climate change is a big, difficult and complicated subject. When you see it right up in front of you, when you're seeing glaciers up close and personal, the effects of climate change make sense," said Rab Cummings, co-founder of Peak Potential. "… We believe in having kids get their feet muddy and their hands dirty." 

17,000 donuts are on their way to school district 2 students
The Education Foundation for Billings Public Schools will surprise students across School District 2 this week when a huge contingent of volunteers work together to distribute 17,000 donuts to students on May 10, 11 and 12. Over the course of three mornings, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, more than 35 volunteers will descend on the schools between 7:15 and 8:30 a.m. to hand out donuts to all the students. Volunteers will also have gluten free options for kids with allergies. "We've done one small gesture of thanks to all the teachers and support staff each month this school year, and we wanted to take a moment to also thank the students," explains Kelly Edwards, appreciation committee chair and foundation board member. "These kids have been put through the ringer the last two years as well, so this is a small way for us to say thank you." The Education Foundation, thanks to the support of generous donors including Century Gaming and H2 Lawn and Snow, is working with Krispy Kreme to purchase and distribute the donuts. Given the high volume needed, Krispy Kreme is working overtime over the course of several days to have all the donuts needed.

Riverview Elementary students sign beams for Montana Museum
On Wednesday morning outside of Riverview Elementary School, fourth grade students lined up to sign beams that will be used in building the Montana Museum. Brandi Voss from Sletten Construction brought the beam on a trailer, with signatures of other students from across the state. "It's a major part of history, especially since these beams will be exposed for the entirety of the building, unless its tore down," said Voss. Schools from Billings, Livingston, Polson, Bonner, Boulder, Wolf Point, Glasgow, Browning, Riverview, Shelby, Cascade, Helena, and East Helena are the schools that Sletten have chosen for the signing. Helena will be the last trip on the signing tour before the topping out ceremony on May 17. The governor and the Washington family will also have a opportunity to sign.

'Topping Out' ceremony is May 17 for new Montana Heritage Center in Helena
The Montana Historical Society is hosting a "Topping Out" ceremony at 1 p.m. May 17 in celebration of the completion of the steel framing of the $81 million Montana Heritage Center in Helena. The public is invited to join Montana Historical Society Director Molly Kruckenberg, Gov. Greg Gianforte, Contractor Erik Sletten and Dennis and Phyllis Washington, whose foundation donated $25 million to the project for the event at 225 N Roberts St., Helena. "Topping Out ceremonies are held to celebrate a major milestone in a construction project," Kruckenberg said. "The steel beams, which will be put in place during the ceremony, will signify that the highest point of the new Montana Heritage Center has been constructed." The center will be home to an expanded Montana Historical Society, in which visitors can learn about Montana's history, stretching back 14,000 years to the days of the woolly mammoths, through the present day, officials said. 

Filmmaker who graduated from Helena High returns for special presentation
Helena native and filmmaker Bryan Ferriter returned to the Helena High School classroom this week to share his expertise with students of Geoff Proctor's college literature class. Ferriter, who graduated from Helena High School in 2005, showed rough film cuts from his upcoming movie, "Hamlet," with the class on Tuesday and Wednesday. He stars and directs in the film. "It was just really special for my students," Proctor said Thursday in a telephone interview. "They were pretty enthralled." Proctor called "Hamlet" a play that was "timeless." He said Ferriter, who is also a Carroll College graduate, is finishing up filming "Hamlet," adding that some scenes were filmed in the Cathedral of St. Helena. He said Hamlet will be Ferriter's fifth film. His fourth finished film, "Wuthering Heights," will air in a special presentation at The Myrna Loy on June 16.

Valley Credit Union awards high school entrepreneur $5,000
Danielle Brower, an entrepreneur from Skyview High School, won $5,000 during an event called The Hive. Kylie Swanton, also a Skyview student, took the second-place $2,500 prize for her business (Kylie's Calligraphy), and Caden Dekievet, Career Center, took home the $1,000 third prize with his clothing line business. Six high school entrepreneurs pitched their business ideas in a competition called The Hive that took place at the Babcock Theatre last Wednesday. This is an amazing opportunity for students to present their companies and encourage small business in Billings. "I created this business using my art tactics and a solution to a problem of losing your lip balm holder all the time," Brower said. "So, I created lip balm holders and eco-friendly sustainable stickers." Her business, Nellie Nicole Designs, has been running for two years. "Don't shy away from the challenge, don't shy away from your problems," Dekievet said. "I want people to improve and change and be passionate about something. I also want them to be comfortable and confident because confidence is the main thing and they both go hand in hand. And that's the need that Don't Shy Away fulfills." Dekievet has a clothing line called "Don't Shy Away" that encourages people to be confident.

MCPS adds another elementary school to zero waste initiative
Missoula County Public Schools is partnering with community organizations on a zero-waste cafeteria initiative. The program expanded into Lewis and Clark Elementary school on Thursday. "Back in 2019, at Jeannette Rankin Elementary, before we launched their program we sorted through their trash for a couple of days," Strategy Zero Waste Solutions principal Jeremy Drake said. "What we found in the cafeteria trash was that 20% of everything that was being thrown away was unopened edible food that could be sanitized and served again. More than half was compostable." In 2019, Drake and Strategy Zero Waste Solutions began working with MCPS to offset their waste.

Flathead High student named Presidential Scholar semifinalist
Jillian Wynne of Flathead High School is one of six students in Montana and about 650 candidates nationwide to reach semifinalist status in the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program. Semifinalists were evaluated based on academic achievement, personal characteristics, leadership and service activities and essays. The White House Commision of Presidential Scholars, a group of citizens from across the country appointed by the President, will review semifinalists and select up to 161 Presidential Scholars in May. The program was established in 1964 to honor distinguished graduating high school seniors, according to the U.S. Department of Education. It was later expanded to honor students in the arts and career and technical education. Application is by invitation only. Other local scholar program candidates included: Whitefish High School students Willem R. Gray, Jacob M. Henson, Niko G. Hunter and Josie Schneider; Flathead High School student Evan J. Sevaly; Glacier High School student Finnegan Davidson; Stillwater Christian School student Taylor D. Gray and home-school student Nicholas L. Starring.

Today's Achievers, Tomorrow's Leaders: Flathead student is self-starter motivated by helping people in need
Jillian Wynne is a self-starter when it comes to applying her talents to help out the community and take on leadership roles. The Flathead High School senior was recently honored as a Today's Achiever, Tomorrow's Leader honoree. "Truly exceptional in so many ways, Jillian is the kind of student you encounter only a few times in a career. She has incredible natural academic talent, and she is a gifted learner at all times and in all situations," FHS Career Center Director Mike Kelly stated in his nomination letter. Academically, he describes her as a strong writer, a creative and critical thinker and a talented communicator. He also noted how Wynne excels in math and currently takes calculus through the University of Montana. She is also an International Baccalaureate student and golfer. "Jillian holds herself to an incredibly high standard," Kelly continued. This high standard has resulted in her achieving National Merit semifinalist status in 2021, among other accolades. Most recently, she was named a U.S. Presidential Scholar semifinalist.

A return to normalcy: Vigilante Day Parade is back after COVID disruptions
The last nails are pounded while final coats of paint are brushed on. Cowboy hats and pioneer skirts are laid out. Trailers sit loaded down in driveways with an assortment of historical props. Helena-area high school students are busy putting the final touches on their floats in preparation for the 98th Annual Vigilante Day Parade on Friday. This year marks the parade's return to its traditional format running through downtown Helena. In 2021 a "Reverse Parade" was held as people drove by floats that were set up at the Lewis and Clark County Fairgrounds to better comply with COVID-19 restrictions. While last year's format ensured the continuation of the parade, students are ready for the return to normalcy. "We've seen an increase in students wanting to get involved in things - everything from clubs to the Vigilante Parade," said Brett Zanto, Capital High School principal. "Students are wanting to get back to normal."

'Every child deserves to learn how to read': Inside Bozeman School District's revamped literacy programs
Sitting on an alphabet rug in a circle, the group of preschool students trace the arc of an imaginary diver with their right hand, until it lands in their left. Throughout their diver's journey, they sound out the word "hot", until they reach the end, where a chorus of children make the T sound around the rug. For the next word – sun – the students start sounding out the word at the top of their diver's arc until it lands in their left hand with the soft thud of the n sound. Megan Roth, an early literacy teacher with Bozeman School District, leads the group of children at the Hawk's Nest daycare through that exercise and others designed to introduce students to the phonics, or the sounds, of reading.

Joliet 'Code Girls' win 2nd place in congressional app competition
Middle school students from Joliet Public Schools will be recognized for their work in creating an app that earned them second place at the national level in Code Girls United's Congressional App Challenge. Entries are judged on platform, functionality, content suitability, and originality. Kevin Kriskovich and his team of four girls, Bailey Shettel, Linden Schenk, Kaidence Jensen, and Madigan Sullivan created the GreenFitness app. The app gives users the opportunity to create reminders to exercise and drink water enabling them to be healthier. The students were combatting the concern that students spend too much time on their phones not being active and hydrated. Kriskovich stated, "the girls have put in an incredible amount of work, about 2.5 hours a week since January. Seeing these students utilize teamwork skills to overcome challenges and grow has been fun to watch."

Havre Middle School student places 10th at state spelling bee
Havre Middle School eighth grader Lyvia Little, after placing first in the Hill County Spelling Bee, placed 10th in the Treasure State Spelling Bee earlier this year. "It was pretty nerve-racking, but more exciting," Little said. "... It was a good experience." She said the event was more or less normal this year, with no COVID-19 protocols after being canceled in 2020 and administered as a proctored test in 2021. Little made it through many rounds during this year's bee without trouble, saying each word she was given was one she was confident she could spell perfectly.

Flathead teacher realizes dream of career in classroom
When Pat Reilly lost his job during the last economic recession, he returned to college as a nontraditional student earning his teaching degree. Now after 10 years in the classroom at Flathead High School he's preparing to retire. "The best thing I ever did was get my degree," he said. "When I looked back I would have regretted never accomplishing that." Reilly had a long journey to finally realizing his early goal of becoming a teacher. He teaches history and government at FHS. Growing up in Washington, he earned a football scholarship to the University of Idaho, and was working on his degree but then he got an offer to work at the Hanford Atomic Nuclear Reservation in Richland, Washington. "You don't reject that kind of money," he said. "I figured I could always go back to school to teach, but four kids later and that kind of put a damper on that." Roughly every two years he switched jobs. He was a carpenter, a surveyor, a facilities planner and managed a photography studio. He also spent 40 years as a football coach at Flathead and elsewhere.

Flathead High School band marches toward new uniforms after 50 years
At Flathead High School, band director David Johnke unzips a black garment bag to reveal a flash of brilliant orange appearing on the left side of the school's new marching band uniform jacket, contrasting against gray and black. Diagonal stripes of silver jut out from the edge of the orange, which takes the shape of an "F," a detail repeated on the hat. 

GFPS Annual Art Show announces Zach Culliton Merit of Distinction in the Arts award
Great Falls Public Schools Annual Student Art Exhibition is now on display for the community until May 19, 2022. Visiting hours at The Square are Tuesday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sunday/Monday closed. The exhibition is a K-12 student Art Exhibition for GFPS. In 1977, educators, artists, and community activists were able to renovate and reopen the former high school as Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art. Paris Gibson Education Center's Hannah Davis has been announced as the 2022 recipient of Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art's Zach Culliton Merit of Distinction in the Arts for her "Gonna Be Okay" logo design.

Hamilton Science Olympiad team wins state title for fourth year in a row
The Hamilton High School Science Olympiad team earned the state champion title for the fourth year in a row at the annual tournament held at Montana State University in Bozeman on Friday, April 15. In Montana, Science Olympiad is one of the largest science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) competitions. Each year hundreds of students participate in events covering life sciences, chemistry, engineering and other topics. HHS Head Coach Vanessa Haflich said HHS had 15 students on the varsity team competing in 14 different events and the victory was exciting. "Every single varsity student medalled in at least one of their events," Haflich said. "Which means they got first, second, or third in the whole state, which was pretty cool to see. I couldn't have asked for more from this talented and dedicated team of students. I am so proud of them and excited to see them represent the state of Montana at nationals."

Gov. Gianforte visits Sunnyside school in Havre
Gov. Greg Gianforte visited Sunnyside Intermediate School Thursday, where he met with educators and administrators, visited a few classrooms of students and answered some of their questions. After being greeted by the student body Gianforte sat down with some Sunnyside teachers and discussed the TEACH Act, which incentivized school districts to raise starting teacher pay, which Havre Public Schools, as well many other schools, have done. Two HPS school board members, Garrit Ophus and Cindy Erickson, attended and when Gianforte asked them why they decided to take advantage of the TEACH Act, they said it was a "no-brainer." Later during the visit Gianforte said an interaction he had with a young rural Montana teacher was the motivator behind the TEACH Act. 

Helena Public School students plant trees for Arbor Day
April 29 marks Arbor Day in Helena. For the occasion, the Helena School District and Growing Friends of Helena planted 16 trees on the two high school campuses. Although it was a rainy and gloomy start to the day, Growing Friends of Helena Member Ben Brouwer says it was perfect for the trees. "It's a great day for planting trees. The trees love this kind of weather, so we're happy for it," said Brouwer. Brouwer says the trees that lined Brady Street by Capital High needed a facelift.

April 2022 GREAT NEWS

Montana Teacher of the Year from Arlee visits White House
It's not every day that a high school science teacher from Arlee, gets to be in the same room as the president. But on Wednesday, that's exactly what happened. Montana Teacher of the Year, Bill Stockton, traveled to Washington D.C. this week for the National Teacher of the Year Program's annual Washington week, along with 54 other teachers from across the country. "I got an invitation this week, via email to go to the White House, and it just seems so surreal right now," Stockton said. "But I'm really excited to represent the state of Montana, and I'm really excited to represent all of the teachers in the state."

Whitehall Band/Choir Students on to State Festival
The WHS Band and Choir traveled to District Music Festival in Deer Lodge over the weekend and had a strong showing of talent. The WHS Band brought home a II rating of Excellent, while the Choir earned an I rating of Superior. The Golden Quartet, which is comprised of Kyra Oliverson, Payton DuBois, Gabriel Popalis, and Emerson Bourbanis-Carter earned a II rating. Superior ratings were earned by the following students: Kyra Oliverson (vocal), Emerson Bourbanis-Carter (vocal), Emily Smith (flute), Gabriel Popalis (vocal), Marissa Ellison (baritone), and Zoey Crain (baritone).

Shelby FFA seniors honored
The National FFA Organization is set up to continually encourage kids to achieve and perform at a high level in leadership and agricultural experience. Starting in seventh grade, FFA members aspire to first earn their greenhand degree by the end of ninth grade. The greenhand degree gives rise to a chapter degree and the MT State FFA Degree. The MT State FFA Degree journey takes most FFA members three to four years to accomplish. Requirements of the MT State Degree include: earning or investing $1,000 into a member's Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE), working 450 hours at their SAE, contributing 25 hours of community service, completing 360 hours of agriculture class and participating in five FFA activities above the chapter level, among other requirements. Two Shelby FFA members recently completed their journey to the coveted degree. Aidan Torgerson and Harold Miller were recognized at the 94th annual State FFA Convention in Bozeman at MSU at the beginning of April.

County Superintendent Hall receives state award
Lake County Superintendent of Schools Carolyn Hall received the state's County Superintendent of the Year award last weekend at Lewistown. Hall is in her seventh year in the position, which has financial oversight over every school district in Lake County, including three rural districts - Dayton, Valley View, Salmon Prairie - that have no local administration. School Administrators of Montana Executive Director Kirk Miller presented the award. Lake County Commissioner Gale Decker attended the ceremony as well. Hall said constituent letters of nomination, primarily from parents, clerks and trustees, are sent to the County Superintendent Committee, which names the award winner each year. "I don't do this job alone," she said Monday. "It's all of the administrators, the teachers, the superintendents. We all do this together." Hall said she was humbled by the award, but "felt like an imposter. I'm the one who gets all the praise. I'll just accept it on behalf of all the county superintendents who all do this job, or have done it."

St. Ignatius chosen for Farm to School program
St. Ignatius School District is one of three districts across Montana selected to participate in a one-year program offered by the Montana Farm to School Institute, which is intended to ignite, grow and sustain farm to school action within Montana schools and communities by providing training and support and by facilitating team building and action planning. The Montana Farm to School Institute is hosted by the Montana Team Nutrition Program at Montana State University, the Montana Office of Public Instruction and other program partners. Power Public Schools and the Hamilton School District also were chosen to participate. The program will kick off with a three-day summer retreat, where the three school district teams will develop one-year farm to school action plans to be implemented during the 2022-2023 school year. Action plans will encompass goals, activities, roles and timelines focused on the three core elements of farm to school: local procurement, education and school gardens/farms. Each team, ranging from four to eight members of the school community, will be assigned a Farm to School coach who will support the team with development and implementation of the action plan. "The Montana Farm to School Institute is a great opportunity for our Montana school districts to grow their farm to school programs," Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen said. "The continued partnership between MSU, my office and Montana school districts, with focus on our Montana agriculture producers, provides our students with a unique learning experience. Utilizing pathways to fresh locally grown foods benefits our Montana schools, students, farmers and ranchers."

French students experience the Flathead Reservation
On April 21, 20 students from Troyes, France, aged 14 to 17 and two adults visited the Flathead Indian Reservation as part of the Corvallis Hosting Program. Every two years, French students visit and reside with host families in Corvallis. Craig Clairmont, a French studies teacher at Corvallis Middle School, established The Corvallis Hosting Program in 1995; this was the 13th hosting. The program's goal is to bring the French language and culture to Corvallis and make it an unforgettable and educational experience for all. On the last day of their two-week adventure, they spent it beading with Aggie Incashola at Three Chiefs Culture Center.

St. Regis graduate interns with Sen. Daines
The closest the average citizen gets involved with democratic processes of America is usually earning their "I voted" sticker each election year. And for most Montanans, the ins and outs of government and representatives is unchartered territory. But for one young Mineral County native, he's just returning home to the Treasure State after spending the last four months in Washington D.C., working on Sen. Steve Daines' internship team. A 2018 St. Regis graduate, Connor Dunlap shared, "As you could imagine life in D.C. is a lot different from the town I grew up in. People end up being taken back when I tell them I graduated in a class of eight people." And after leaving the small town of St. Regis, Dunlap enrolled at the University of Montana where he is majoring in political science with a minor in philosophy. "Moving to Missoula for college and living in Seattle for a short time in high school made me a bit more prepared for life in the big city. I am still not an expert with the metro system here but I have managed very well since I arrived and have enjoyed living in the beautiful city immensely," he said.

Two Eagle River School student receives national recognition
A photography student at Two Eagle River School, Katie Medicine Bull, was selected as one of 20 students nationwide to have her art featured in a show at the acclaimed Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Part of an open call for the joint "Reconnecting With" program between the community-focused organization Amplifier and Getty, "Unshuttered" meant to give teens a positive creative outlet during the challenges of the 2020s. Medicine Bull said the project came together rapidly. "It was a short, but also kind of long process," Medicine Bull laughed. "It's surreal… it all happened so fast." Photography teacher and Our Community Record program developer David Spear had heard about the open call back in January, and in April decided to put a student forward who he felt had been working steadily. So, he said, he approached Medicine Bull.  According to her mother Tracy, Medicine Bull had always been very creative, but as she was a new student Spear said this was his first opportunity to see it.

School approves baseball for 2023; Swimming will see school funding
The Columbia Falls School Board last week voted unanimously to support a new high school baseball team. The team, under an agreement with the school, would be privately funded through the newly-formed Columbia Falls Baseball Association. About 20 members of the public attended the meeting to support a baseball program. The Montana High School Association approved baseball as a high school sport earlier this year. Prior to that, baseball in Montana was primarily through Babe Ruth leagues or Legion baseball. Montana was one of the last states in the union to approve high school baseball. Wyoming and South Dakota don't have it. Games would be played at the Sapa-Johnsrud field, which is owned by the state, but leased by the Babe Ruth league. The season would start next spring.

Stevensville School will host an open house on Thursday
Stevensville School District is hosting a grand reopening on Thursday to show the new construction, remodels, and expansions that have taken place over the last 24 months at the primary and high schools. Stevensville Public Schools Superintendent Bob Moore, Ed. D., said the project has been a major focus for the past 24 months. "It's not totally complete but we're ready to show it off," Moore said. "We're extremely proud of the construction team of MMW Architects, Quality Construction and the school district. We're proud of the work we've been able to accomplish in the last 24 months." The community is invited to the open house and walking tour from 4 – 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 28. The school will open the entrance doors at the parking loop, south of the elementary school and the east door into the main lobby at the high school. Tours will begin in the high school lobby and then walk through to the elementary school.

Ramsay student receives accolades for science fair project
Ramsay School sixth-grader Adelaide Thomson won a gold ribbon at the 67th Annual Montana State Science Fair March 28 for her project "Dirty Pipes." But that's not all. She also won the Peterson Grand Award for sixth grade physical science and was nominated to compete in the 2022 Broadcom MASTERS, a national middle school STEM competition put on by the Society for Science. MASTERS stands for Math, Applied Science, Technology, and Engineering for Rising Stars. When asked how she felt about earning these awards, Thomson said, "I didn't really think about that. I just had a lot of fun." The inspiration behind Thomson's project came from her noticing the water from the modules, where the sixth- through eighth-graders go to class, tasted "different" than the water in the main building. Thomson said that some of her friends also thought the water in the modules tasted soapy, like chemicals or left a lingering nausea headache after drinking it. When her school science fair came around, she thought it would be a great opportunity to get to the bottom of why the water from the modules tasted different than the water in the main building.

Students learn about bison's importance to Native culture
Students from Great Falls recently took a field trip to learn about the importance of bison to Native American history and culture. The event took place on a ranch outside of Choteau and was hosted by the Great Falls Public School's Indigenous Education program. About 30 students from middle schools and high schools participated in the event, learning how bison were used for food, clothing, and weapons.

'Every child deserves to learn how to read': Inside Bozeman School District's revamped literacy programs
Sitting on an alphabet rug in a circle, the group of preschool students trace the arc of an imaginary diver with their right hand, until it lands in their left. Throughout their diver's journey, they sound out the word "hot", until they reach the end, where a chorus of children make the T sound around the rug. For the next word – sun – the students start sounding out the word at the top of their diver's arc until it lands in their left hand with the soft thud of the n sound. Megan Roth, an early literacy teacher with Bozeman School District, leads the group of children at the Hawk's Nest daycare through that exercise and others designed to introduce students to the phonics, or the sounds, of reading.

Victor students organizing Alumni Prom Night on April 29
The Victor High School junior class is organizing an Alumni Prom Night on April 29, the night before their prom, and have invited all "oldsters" to enjoy the venue, the night and their decorating efforts. VHS class co-advisors Laurie Wildey and Nathan Beckwith said the juniors are responsible for this Alumni Prom. "The idea came about that normally we have a middle school dance but they decided not to do that," Wildey said. "One of the juniors said, 'When my mom went here her class had a parent prom.' The juniors thought that was a good idea and here we are." The number of adults who will attend is unknown. Tickets cost $10 each or $15 per couple and can be purchased in the Victor High School office ahead of the event or at the door that night.

Governor visits Terry
Gov. Greg Gianforte served as an evangelist for entrepreneurship when he visited Friday with about two dozen Terry Career and Technical Education students.

Hot Springs students revive local museum
A group of high school students in Hot Springs were awarded a $5,000 grant on April 14 from the Montana History Foundation for their upcoming work on the LaRue Hot Springs Museum.

Youth traverse media journey by following MAPS as a guide
Since 2004, Media Arts in the Public Schools (MAPS) Media Institute has provided professional media arts education to Montana students who have an interest, talent, or skill in the field of media art. 

Park High School to unveil solar panels at Friday event
Members of Park High School's Green Initiative have been busy celebrating Earth Week and it will culminate Friday on Earth Day with the unveiling of the school's new solar panels.

DCHS Key Club earns honors and awards at District Convention
Dawson County High School Key Club students attended the organization's annual District Convention recently where several officers received awards.

GMS Student Makes It To State In Spelling
Glasgow Middle School seventh-grader Karsyn Sillerud represented Valley County during the 57th Annual Treasure State Spelling Bee in Bozeman on March 12.

Two Win Bronze Medals at Science Olympiad
Two teams from Chinook Junior/Senior High School (CHS) traveled to Bozeman on April 14 in order to compete in the 37th Montana Science Olympiad. From the Division C team competing in Dynamic Planet, Liam Edwards and his brother Quentin won bronze medals.

French students visit Montana through CMS hosting program
The French hosting program is underway through Corvallis Middle School where families host visitors providing a Montana experience. The program lasts for two weeks with 20 students ages 14 to 17 and two adults from Troyes, France, which is 60 miles southeast of Paris. Some of the kids are older as they missed the opportunity to travel in 2020 due to COVID. Rather than cancel, their trip was postponed. CMS educator Craig Clairmont said the program was started in 1995 and continued every other year, taking a break in 2020. "The program brings culture to our kids, families and community," Clairmont said. "It is a good diplomacy program that is very rewarding. I enjoy seeing the reactions, communication and lifelong relationships that are developed with students, families and French students."

Butte High's All-Night Chemical Free graduation party set for June 2
The parents of the 2022 Butte High graduating class are planning this year's All-Night Chemical Free Party from 10:30 p.m. Thursday, June 2, to 5 a.m. Friday, June 3, in the Butte High Gym. Approximately 277 will graduate this year. Tickets are $20 and will be sold at Butte High School from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, May 4-5, and again on May 11-12 in front of the Butte High Commons.  The last chance to purchase a ticket will be at the graduation rehearsal on Thursday, June 2, at the Butte Civic Center. Butte business owners who would like to make a tax-deductible donation toward the party can contact Angie Poole at 406-565-0305. Banners representing graduates will again be on display in Uptown Butte. Parents can contact Kristen Manson at 406-560-5363 if they haven't yet purchased banners for their students. Banners are $45. The next planning meeting for the chemical-free party is at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 21, in the Butte High Commons.  All parents of seniors are welcome to attend.

Helena-area high schoolers invited to event promoting health care careers
Through a partnership between Carroll College and Helena WINS, local high school students and their families are invited to an upcoming event that will highlight the pathways and programs available for those interested in the health care field. The Healthcare Pathways event is scheduled for 8:30-11:30 a.m. April 23 in the lower Campus Center at Carroll College. Everyone is welcome, and snacks and beverages will be provided. Following presentations from Carroll College and Helena College, area employers will discuss the opportunities available in Helena. There will be an intermission time for students and families to visit one-on-one with faculty and employers, as well as at the end of the event, in addition to optional tours. According to a press release from Helena WINS (Workforce Innovation Networks), health care is one of the fastest growing industries in Helena and one of the largest private industries in Lewis and Clark County. 

HHS senior organizing concert to combat human trafficking
Hamilton High School senior Lauren Roberts is working with the Bitterroot Performing Arts Council to organize a benefit concert featuring the Mark O'Connor Duo with Maggie O'Connor on Friday, May 20. All proceeds from the concert will go to Unchained, a nonprofit group working to find missing and murdered Indigenous persons (MMIP). Roberts said she's fulfilling her goal of using music to provide service. "I always dreamed of working with Mark O'Connor and human trafficking is a really big issue," she said. "It means a lot to me that something is done about it as nobody is talking about it. I thought a concert would be a good idea to get people to help because all they have to do is sit and listen to great music."

Sunnyside trade fair sees triumphant return
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused plenty of changes through the past two years. The ramifications of it have even been seen on a smaller scale such as the absence of the Sunnyside Intermediate School's trade fair in 2020. The fair was then delayed from the fall of 2021. But Tuesday night, at the Sunnyside Gymnasium, the trade fair finally made its return.  "We're just really excited to have it this year," Sunnyside Principal Pax Haslem said. "It's nice to have it back and it's nice to have our parents back in the building. Our kids did a really good job, and we're really proud of it."

Hamilton teens selected for Special Olympics Youth Leadership Experience
Special, inclusive and fun. Special Olympian Claire Carmody and her unified partner Fern Stewart will attend the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games, Youth Leadership Experience, June 5-12, in Orlando, Florida. Carmody graduated from Hamilton High School in 2021 and Stewart is a junior at HHS this year. Carmody said she is excited to go to Disney World in Florida and has been far from home, but never without her parents. "I'll have Fern, I'll be fine," she said. "I cannot wait. Hopefully, I will have fun. It's okay if celebrities are there or not but I hope there will be a surprise. I'm excited and nervous. It will be eight days and I'll be busy but hopefully, I'll get a break or two." Stewart said she hadn't seen a schedule yet.

Townsend named first Purple Star School District in state
Gov. Greg Gianforte and Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen joined military-connected students, teachers and staff at Broadwater School and Community Library on Monday to honor Townsend School District being named the first Purple Star School District in Montana. The award recognizes schools that go above and beyond in supporting the children and families of service members. While other districts in Montana have Purple Star schools, Townsend, which has 680 students in its three schools, is the first district to get the honor. The designation was made by the Montana Military Interstate Children's Compact Commission, which was adopted by the Montana Legislature through Senate Bill 203 in 2013. The commission aims to remove barriers to educational success faced by children of military families in which key educational transition issues are addressed. During the visit to Townsend, the governor signed a proclamation establishing April as Month of the Military Child and Tuesday as Purple Up! Day in Montana to support the children and families of service members.

Havre Middle School's Students of the Month
Havre Middle School's Sixth-Grade Student of the Month for March is Ava Bitz. Ava is the daughter of Wade and Holly Bitz. She has one sister, Emma Bitz. At the middle school, Ava strives to maintain a high GPA. She also plays tuba in the HMS band. In her free time, Ava sings in the community choir, helps on her family's farm and enjoys reading. Ava is an extremely polite and kindhearted student at HMS. She is always willing to lend a helping hand and sparks others to follow in a positive direction. Her personality lights up the middle school and makes it a great place for everyone. In the future, Ava plans to pursue a career in farming, become an author or photographer. March's Seventh-Grade Student of the Month at HMS is Signe Riggin. Signe is the daughter of Aaron and Hillary Riggin. She has one sister, Willow Riggin. Signe plays the clarinet in Havre Middle School's band. Outside of school, she enjoys swimming and spending time with family.

Montana students strut their skills at SkillsUSA conference in Helena
Peyton Seymour seems to have welding in his blood. The 16-year-old sophomore from Butte can rattle off the names of one relative or another who are skilled welders. He is taking classes now that he hopes will someday lead him to be an underwater welder. Emma Edwards may surprise you. The 16-year-old Great Falls High School student is taking welding as well. She said she also drives race cars, Midwest Modifieds, in her spare time. They were among the 254 students from throughout Montana who were in Helena this week as part of the SkillsUSA Annual State Leadership and Skills Conference at Helena College's airport campus. SkillsUSA serves middle school, high school and college post-secondary students preparing for careers in trade, technical and skilled-service occupations. It involves more than 333,527 students and instructors annually. It's the first time the event was held in Helena. It had been held at Montana State University Northern for nearly 45 years, said Mary Heller, the state director for Skills USA, a nonprofit formerly known as VICA (the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America).

Florence student wins scholarship for sticker design
Allison Streekstra, a Florence-Carlton High School student, will receive a $1,000 scholarship for winning third place in Reach Higher Montana's Design-A-Sticker, Win-A-Scholarship competition. In addition, the art program at Florence-Carlton High School will receive a $250 donation from Reach Higher Montana to purchase supplies for the program. Streekstra's design is titled "Find Your Path."  Over 350 sticker designs were submitted from students throughout Montana. The top 20 designs were voted on by the public, and Streekstra's design received the third-highest number of votes. The top six sticker designs will be used by Reach Higher Montana to encourage and inspire students to find their paths to their future careers. In addition, Streekstra's design will be featured next fall in Reach Higher Montana's Stick with Scholarships campaign, encouraging students to explore and pursue scholarship opportunities as part of their funding strategy for continuing their education beyond high school.

Hellgate High School students release rainbow trout into Silver's Lagoon
Two-inch long rainbow trout fry swam around the confines of a white bucket just off the shore of Silver's Lagoon at McCormack Park, unaware of the new habitat they were about to be released into this week. Laurie Lane with the WestSlope Chapter of Trout Unlimited carefully exchanged old water from the bucket with new water from the pond multiple times to help the fish get acclimated before being turned loose. "Okay you sweet little babies," Lane said gently while standing over the bucket. "This is your taste of wildlife here. "Freedom, in a contained pond anyway," she continued. On Wednesday and Thursday, students from Hellgate High School walked to Silver's Lagoon to release the trout they helped raise through the school's first ever Trout in the Classroom program.

Flathead High School students test their business acumen at state
The Flathead High School Business Professionals of America (BPA) team tested their knowledge recently at the state leadership conference in Billings with several advancing to nationals. At state, students may compete in events in the areas of finance and accounting, business administration, management information systems, digital communication and design, management, marketing and communication and health administration, according to bpa.og. First-place finishers included Dylan Turcotte in Computer Security and Gabe Wendt in Device Configuration and Troubleshooting. Wendt, Turcotte and Wendt qualify to compete at the BPA National Leadership Conference in May in addition to Simon Gugler, Baylanna Brash and Alaura Olszewski. BPA is a Career and Technical Student Organization where students develop leadership, professionalism, career and community service skills.

Glacier High School French program wins national award
Glacier High School's French program was recently honored with a top distinction by the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF). The Glacier High School French language program was one of five in the nation designated with the AATF Exemplary Program with Honors distinction, according to a press release. French teacher Stephanie Hill said this is the third time the program has received the distinction, which honors the outstanding quality of high school programs around the nation. The school offers Advanced Placement classes and, at the middle school level, early language learning opportunities. Glacier's French program also participates in the association's National French Contest and offers numerous cultural activities outside the classroom. Over the years, enrollment in French classes has increased with many students maintaining high grades to be inducted into the National French Honor Society annually. Hill's and fellow French teacher Adam Harbaugh's dedication to the program and commitment to professional development was also recognized. "Strong language programs make a difference in not only our local community but also our global one," Hill said. "In our program, students learn another language but they are also taught to embrace kindness, curiosity, and a dedication to a greater good. I'm proud to work in a valley that values these attributes and am so thankful of the enormous support our community has provided to our students within the program."

Reading event gets a running start
For nearly 40 years, students at Thompson Falls Elementary have participated in the school's Running Start Program. A program geared toward encouraging students to read for fun. On Friday morning, Elementary Principal Len Dorscher gathered students in K-6 for the traditional run around the basketball court to symbolize the start of the program. "I've been leading the run for all nine years I've been here," Dorscher said. "This is the longest running program of any sort we've done at this school." Students have the month of April to get as much reading done as possible. To help students with their reading journey, Thompson Falls Woman's Club (TFWC) and First Security Bank teamed up and donated $700 in Scholastic Books to the school. "We donated 386 books this year," said Karen Gustavsen with TFWC. "That's enough to give every child a book plus extra for the classrooms and the library."

Kindergarten teacher recognized as Early Childhood Champion
During the Week of the Young Child April 2 – 8, Healthy Start Missoula recognized Seeley Lake Elementary Kindergarten Teacher Sheila Devins during the Early Childhood Champion Award Celebration. Devins was among five recipients this year who were honored for their excellence in supporting young children and their families working in direct service (child care providers, home visitors, etc.), as advocates, as volunteers, or as an entire organization. For the past five years, Healthy Start Missoula has recognized community members that have gone above and beyond to help children in their early years with the Early Childhood Advocate Award, Early Childhood Direct Service Award, Early Childhood Volunteer Award and Exceptional Early Childhood Organization Award. "[We realize] that people that work with young children don't often get recognized and it takes a lot of skill to do it well," said Anna Semple, coordinator with Healthy Start Missoula, an early childhood coalition through the Missoula City-County Health Department. "We want to elevate the profession and really honor the excellent people we have in the community."

MSU student from St. Ignatius wins prestigious Goldwater scholarship
Two students who have contributed to research in zoonotic diseases and optical sensing for detection of algal bloom in waterways are the two most recent Montana State University recipients of prestigious national Goldwater scholarships honoring undergraduate academic and research excellence in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Brooklin Hunt, a junior majoring in microbiology and biotechnology from St. Ignatius, and Shannon Hamp, a junior majoring in electrical and computer engineering from Broomfield, Colorado, are MSU's two newest winners of the scholarship given by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation. The foundation announced last week that 417 undergraduates received the competitive scholarships honoring the top undergraduates in the country pursuing research in STEM fields. The scholarship comes with an award of up to $7,500 per year for tuition, books and room and board. MSU is one of the top colleges and universities nationally in the number of students who have received the prestigious awards with a total of 84 since the scholarship was established in 1989.

Freezeout Lake Field Trip Awes Lincoln High School Students
March 24 was a school day "on the bus" for Lincoln High School students. A field trip to Freezeout Lake, between Fairfield and Choteau, was originally scheduled only for Nancy Schwalm's Wildlife Biology class, but when word leaked out about the adventure, the administration decided that all students in grades 9-12 would go. Have you ever tried to get a teenager out of bed at 4 a.m.? Everyone had to be present at the school at 5 a.m. for a bus departure that would get the group to Freezeout Lake before dawn to watch the thousands of snow geese as they took off from the lake to feed on the grain in the surrounding barley fields. This incredible sight is a once-in-a-lifetime experience never to be forgotten.

Reach Higher Montana is celebrating the Class of 2022
Reach Higher Montana is celebrating the Montana high school class of 2022 with a Senior Send-off event on May 6th.This year's event will again see more than $30,000 in the form of scholarships, tool/ equipment packages, laptops, iPads, and AirPods given to participating high school seniors. "We want to know what the class of 2022 is going to do after high school, whether that is college, military, apprenticeship, or straight into a career field" says Kelly Cresswell, RHM Executive Director.

GHS Presents Freaky Friday
For the first time in two years, Glasgow High School students will once again grace the stage and put on a production for an audience. This year's show, Freaky Friday, is the musical adaptation of the Disney Channel original movie about a mother and her teenage daughter who experience the biggest freak-out ever when they magically swap bodies. By spending a day in each other's shows, Katherine and Ellie come to appreciate one another in a way they could never imagined. In the end, both learn the true power of love and the strength of the bond between a mother and daughter.

State degrees

Last weekend, the local FFA chapter traveled to Bozeman for the 92nd State FFA Convention. The chapter competed in Livestock Judging, Farm Business Management, Sales & Service, Mechanics and Extemporaneous Speaking. Along with attending sessions, workshops, and delegate meetings, Kenzie Tooke (right) and Darin Schallenberger (left) received their State Degrees. 

Beaverhead FFA earns impressive returns at state
The Beaverhead FFA Chapter won an impressive fifth straight State Star Chapter award, 17 members of the Dillon group attained their Montana State FFA degrees and Theo Van Daren won first place in the Agriscience contest and four members teamed to claim first place in the Vet Science competition at the 92nd Montana State FFA Convention on the campus of Montana State in Bozeman over the weekend."It went about as good as you could hope for," said Beaverhead FFA advisor Caleb Igo.

CHS students become blood donors
Inspired by stories of her grandmother, Choteau High School senior Amy McKenzie has donated blood, plasma and platelets since turning 16 and organized the first Red Cross blood drive to be held at Choteau High School in at least 10 years. McKenzie never met her parental grandmother LaDonna McKenzie from Lewistown but heard plenty of stories of her donating blood over her lifetime. "I don't recall how much she donated but it was a crazy amount," McKenzie said. "She died before I was born but my dad told stories about her and she became a role model to me." The daughter of Larry McKenzie and Jannie Munoz, McKenzie began donating as soon as she was eligible. The March 26 blood drive at the school was the eighth time she has donated. She also do-nates plasma and platelets in Great Falls as often as possible. With the shortage of blood and having O negative blood type, a blood that is more in demand for being the "universal donor," McKenzie gives as often as she can.

The Wizards
The Wizards Claire Pfeifle, Grace Toeckes and Jessica Toeckes are all smiles during their scene at one of the two performances on April 2 of the MCT production "Rumpelstiltskin Synopsis" at the Power School.

Broadus FFA Competes At State Competitions
Congratulations to the Broadus FFA members who competed at the Montana FFA CDE Days competition March 21 and 22 in Miles City, and the Montana FFA State Convention, held March 30th through April 2nd in Bozeman. Both events consisted of state-level competitions. Here are the results. At CDE Days, our Tractor Operation Team placed 6th, with Kaydin Trent placing as the 8th high individual. The team consisted of Alex Edwards, Aidan Kenelly, and Kaydin Trent. Our Horse Evaluation, Meats Evaluation, and Food Science Teams all placed at or near the top half of the state. The Horse Evaluation Team consisted of Alex Edwards, Mia Mader, and April Wood. The Meats Evaluation Team consisted of Aidan Kenelly, Seth McDowell, and Kaydin Trent. Finally, the Food Science Team consisted of Becca Aye, Oliveah Schaffer, and Rheanna Schroeder.

Swinging for the seats in Louisville: Speech standouts heading to national tourney

Practice and more practice plus commitment. And more practice yet. That describes Adam Williams' formula for chasing success in speech and debate competitions. "With practice comes more realistic and more entertaining content," he said. "It becomes more lifelike and enjoyable." He should know. Williams, 17, and three other speech and debate standouts at Butte High School have qualified to participate in June in the National Speech and Debate Tournament in Louisville, Kentucky. The other qualifiers are Mack Williams, 14, a freshman (and Adam's brother); Garrett Monson, 18, a senior; and, James Hadley Jr., 17, a junior. Now, practice and commitment must shake hands with fund-raising. The young men and team supervisors calculate that each student will need to raise about $3,500 to get to Louisville and back, claim a hotel bed and have a few meals.

Billings school board advances plan to extend education for all 19-year-olds
Billings' West High junior Emily Pennington is one step closer to attending her senior year. The school board passed the first reading of a change to policy that will allow all students up to age 20 to enroll in high school. The change was prompted by Pennington, who has Down syndrome, and her parents' intense efforts to persuade the district to enroll Emily for her senior year, and let her graduate with her class. The change will affect students whether they are special-needs or are not. Policy 2050 had barred any student who turned 19 before Sept. 10 from enrolling in school. The new policy changes 19 to 20, and allows for students meeting certain special-needs criteria to enroll, provided they do not turn 21 before the Sept. 10 deadline. Pennington is 18 years old and turns 19 in July. The policy will be read a second time at the regular board meeting on April 18 and the members will vote on it again.

Bozeman High graduate organizes fundraiser, raffle to benefit food bank program
A fundraiser and raffle organized by a recent Bozeman High School graduate aims to raise money and awareness around food insecurity for students in Gallatin County. The fundraiser is organized by the Bozeman Schools Foundation, with gift card baskets being raffled off online and Urban Kitchen donating a portion of its sales to a program that feeds students when they're not in school. Nina Romano, 18, graduated from Bozeman High School a semester early in January, and has spent the last few months interning with the Bozeman Schools Foundation. Romano, whose parents Joe and Megan own Nina's Tacos and Urban Kitchen, organized the fundraiser and raffle to benefit the KidsPack program.

PEO program helps Polson girls reach educational goals
P.E.O. Chapter CA, Polson, presented its Ready? Set-Goals! program to Polson's eighth-grade girls March 17 at the Polson Middle School. RSG is a program designed specifically to assist today's young women in preparing for their future educational goals. There were 20 girls in attendance along with their parents. The students who attended were Innocent Arnold, Becca Robertson, Mara Ramirez, Alexia Wilson, Lilly Brush, Grace Brush, Vivian Grainey, Phoenix Schreckendgust, Aria Tyler, Lauren Rauch, Madison Lake, Josie Henriksen, Ariella Mihara, Violet Humble, Carissa Fanning, Liliana Ramos, Juliett Boen, Elyanna Crego, Aniya Rosenbrock and Abagail Lei. Throughout the program, the students were encouraged to start early by staying organized, writing everything down and tracking all their community service and extra-curricular activities. A three-ring binder was presented to each student as a tool to hold all transcripts, essays and awards. When it comes time to fill out job, military, college or scholarship applications, the information will be organized and readily available. Another part of the program explained different aspects of P.E.O. loans, grants and scholarships available to women. Information was provided on Cottey College, a fully accredited four-year independent liberal arts and sciences college for women offering baccalaureate and associate degrees. Located in Nevada, Missouri, it has been owned by the P.E.O. Sisterhood since 1927.

Billings students pitching engineering projects to NASA in Houston
Houston, we have a solution. Four teams of students have engineered projects at the Billings Career Center that were chosen by NASA to potentially use on the moon or in the international Space Station. Students will travel to Houston in April. The class competed with upwards of 250 teams and 100 schools that worked on the same assignments, in the category of design and prototyping. Teams in Eric Anderson's aerospace engineering class chose from 10 assignments, via the High School Students United with NASA to Create Hardware program. Two teams were also semi-finalists. "I was super happy and I immediately called my mom and told her," said Barbara McGregor, a senior. Her group engineered lunar shoes. McGregor's team began half-joking as they built their prototype about "going to Houston," McGregor said. "As we got closer we realized we were doing really well and that we might actually have a chance." 

Safety first: Elementary school parents increase crosswalk presence
Parents and staff at Hawthorne Elementary School are stepping up their presence at the school's crossing walks after a crossing guard was hit by a car earlier this spring. Parent volunteers are paired with trained staff members and stationed at the street crossings near the school along North Rouse Avenue, East Lamme and East Mendenhall streets, according to school officials. Peter Brown, a parent at Hawthorne Elementary School, said the effort began shortly after the crossing guard was hit. The instance happened a week or so before spring break, according to Brown. School officials said they couldn't comment on the incident due to privacy laws.

OPI honors military children in April
Montana Superintendent of Education Elsie Arntzen and Sergeant Ray Shaw will "Purple Up! For Military Kids" on April 12. Since 2017, Arntzen has partnered with Montana Military Interstate Children's Compact Commissioner (MIC3) to elevate military-connected children in the celebration of Purple Up! Day. Malmstrom Air Force Base will be hosting an event on April 12 as well, honoring military-connected families, hosting Malmstrom's first Pre-K-12 Education Summit and will be hosting MIC3 for the state of Montana. The summit will have resources, parent information, breakaway sessions and more. The designation of April as the Month of the Military Child acknowledges the significant role military-connected students play in our communities. In 2011, the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension Military Youth and Family Program started the "Purple Up! for Military Kids" as a visible way to thank military youth for their strength and sacrifice. Purple represents joint service operations and is a combination of Army green, Marine Corps red, and Coast Guard, Air Force, and Navy blue.

Flathead county students rack up ribbons at the Montana Science Fair
Budding scientists represented Flathead County well at the state science fair in Missoula with Flathead High School's Kenna Anderson qualifying for one of two spots to compete at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair. At state, Anderson's science project, The Effect of Ocean Acidification on Carbon Sequestration by Nannochloropsis, won the Larry Fauque second-place award, the Stockholm Junior Water Prize and a gold ribbon in the environmental sciences category.


March 2022 GREAT NEWS

High school graduates awarded the Youth Serve Montana Scholarship
The Governor's Office of Community Service (ServeMontana), Reach Higher Montana, and Montana Campus Compact (MTCC) are pleased to announce 83 Montana high school seniors have been awarded a $1,200 Youth Serve Montana Scholarship.

Donation-based dress shopping fundraiser aims to make prom more affordable
Bozeman, Gallatin and Belgrade high school students looking for a prom dress can attend a donation-based shopping event on Saturday. The event, held at Bozeman High School from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., will be an opportunity for students to browse dresses, enter a raffle and leave with a gently worn prom dress of their own. While cash donations will be accepted for the dresses, they're not required. Any money collected will be split between the Bozeman Schools Foundation and Montana Outdoor Science School. "Prom is so expensive all the way around - the dress, the shoes, the dinners," said Carol Simpson, one of the organizers of the event. "I'd like to see more girls go who might not have gone since it's an expensive day. If we can take some pressure off, let's do it."

Havre's Leadership High School class graduates
Leadership High School at Havre High School returned this year after stopping due to the COVID-19 pandemic last year, with the Class of 2022 graduating in a ceremony at Montana State University-Northern this year. This year's class was Havre High School students Kenny Shellenberger, Lane Kinsella, Conner McKay, Allie Messinger, Maddie Thomas, Ali Maloughney, Hannah Gingery, Sofia Dawson, Abigail Adams, Scott Woods, Kate Hemmer and Courtney Burchard. Havre Superintendent Craig Mueller addressed the class at the ceremony Tuesday in the Student Union Building Ballroom, as did Chancellor Greg Kegel.

Chisholm finds spelling bee success
While many people rely on their computer's spell-check feature, there is one local student who needs no such help. Last weekend, Teagan Chisholm became the second student in the history of Whitefish Middle School to compete in the Treasure State Spelling Bee in Bozeman. It had been eight years since a WMS student reached this level of excellence. "I'm just super proud of her, she represented us well," WMS Principal Josh Branstetter said, beaming. Only the top 60 spellers from grades fourth through eighth qualified for the 57th annual State Spelling Bee in Bozeman. The state competition was held in-person for the first time since 2019 due to the pandemic. Students who advance at this level qualify for the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. Chisholm earned her spot at the event by winning the WMS spelling bee then winning the Flathead County Spelling Bee which was online this year. "She was the top scorer in the county for the online test," Branstetter said.

Middle school mathlete earns trip to nationals
Take the top 80-plus math students in the state, add two rounds of problem-solving until 10 remain; use a speed round to subtract one every few minutes until four students are left. Among those top-four students in the recent Montana MathCounts competition was Whitefish Middle School sixth-grader Holden Hadidi who next will be heading to the national competition in Washington D.C. in May. Hadidi qualified for nationals when finished third in a field of 88 competitors at the state competition in Butte last week. He was tied for first place going into the last round. "Holden is a sixth-grader that is taking the advanced seventh-grade math," WMS Principal Josh Branstetter said with pride. Hadidi said he's always enjoyed mathematics and he is eager to learn new things. "I always liked doing math. When I was younger I would look at our math books and I'd go to the back (of the book) and they had all these extra problems and I was like, 'Yeah, I get to try to solve these,'" Holden said.

Breaking the stigma: Students strive to prevent teen suicide through peer advocacy
Overwhelmed. That is the top word students recently surveyed at Whitefish High School used to describe how they were feeling emotionally. Next up were the words tired and mediocre. Over 80% of the students surveyed also said they felt there was a negative association with mental health in the school and community; only a quarter of the students felt they would be comfortable seeing a school counselor. Using the survey data as a springboard, two Whitefish students recently launched a project that is working on reducing the stigma, and will hopefully open more conversations about mental health and youth suicide. High school freshmen and longtime friends Zoey Marzo and Lauren Rossi paired up to co-create the campaign titled Bulldogs United. Both had interest in supporting other students and helping address an apparent and devastating issue of youth suicide in the Flathead Valley. "What really got us started was the suicide cluster that our valley was hit with," Marzo said, referring to multiple teen suicides that occurred in the Flathead last fall. "It was a big thing that hit us emotionally."

Three Forks FCCLA Attends State Leadership Conference
At the 75th FCCLA Montana Leadership Conference held on the MSU campus March 17th and 18th.   The Three Forks High School Traffic Safety Team received first place and $2500 award for their project, Slow Your Roll. They worked to organize cone week to educate their peers about traffic safety in a variety of ways.  Three Forks Middle School received an Honorable Mention and $1000 for their Project Walk Like a Wolf project. Their project focused on teaching Three Forks Elementary students how to safely cross the street. They painted red and white paw prints in the cross walks to draw attention to the crosswalks.  The awards are part of a program sponsored by the Montana Department of Transportation, Montana FCCLA and Ford Driving Skills for Life. Schools from across Montana received funding in October to carry out their individual traffic safety projects, each school submitted a report at the conclusion of the project and awards were announced at the FCCLA State Leadership Conference this past week in Bozeman. 

Trout Creek speller places 16th at state
Trout Creek seventh grader Gavin Todd finished in 16th place out of 60 spellers in the Treasure State Bee earlier this month. Todd advanced to the state bee after winning the Sanders County Spelling Bee on March 4. "My goal was not to get out in the first round," Todd said. He achieved that, and made it through round six before being eliminated on the word penitentiary. "I studied a lot and spelling in something I'm better at," he added. Todd said the state spelling bee was intimidating. "At first I was nervous and then as the rounds progressed I got used to it." He said he kept his nerves down by spelling other competitors' words in his head while they were competing. "Everyone was nervous," he noted. He also added that when it was his turn to spell a word, he would visualize the word, spell it out in his head, and then spell it for the four judges. The Treasure State Bee was held in an auditorium on the campus of Montana State University of Bozeman. "It was pretty fun," Todd said. He is originally from Mississippi and said his school was much larger there. He likes the smaller classes and school in Trout Creek. 

Stevensville FFA members receive scholarships
It's that time of year for graduating seniors to start making their futures more permanent. Many in the Class of 2022 are laying out the blueprints for their future by securing employment or signing onto colleges and applying for scholarships and aid. For every high school senior, huge decisions are being made right now. For one Stevensville senior, Sydney Kostecki, her future is coming into focus with the help of FFA. Sydney's life has been rooted in agriculture. She enjoys breeding and showing sheep and competing in numerous FFA Career & Leadership Development Events (C/LDEs) such as Veterinary Science, Livestock Evaluation, and Agricultural Education. Throughout her high school career, she has tried her hand in many other FFA C/LDEs, which has shaped her into the person she is today and sparked a passion.

Seeley-Swan students stand out at State BPA Conference
Seeley-Swan High School Business Professionals of America (BPA) Club competed at the State BPA Leadership Conference in Billings March 13 – 15. Five SSHS students joined 91 chapters and over 1,000 top competitors from across Montana. SSHS BPA Advisor Michele Holmes said she is very proud of all the students that attended as well as the team's fourth place finish in Global Marketing and Club President Tru Good's top 20 finish in National Promotional Photography. This is the second year for the SSHS BPA Club. Junior Tru Good has been the president of the Club since its inception.

PHS musician accepted into prestigious choir
Senior Joe Martinez has become, according to his teachers, the first student from Polson High School to be accepted into the All Northwest Jazz Choir. The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) holds auditions for All Northwest every year for choir and every other year for band and orchestra. Students from Montana, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Wyoming all audition to see if they have the skill to play in these esteemed ensembles. The Jazz Choir, made up of only about 24 people, is one of the most difficult to get into. His position, Tenor 2, will have only one other person singing the part with him. "The audition process is pretty crazy, but vocally, this one it wasn't as crazy for me. I think I had the upper hand because I started singing with jazz," Martinez said. Growing up, his parents exposed him to a lot of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, as well as jazz singers with big voices. He never took a private lesson for singing, but rather taught himself by listening and copying what he heard. Martinez has a passion for music. From trumpet to drums to guitar, he's excelled musically throughout his school years. Rich Sawyer, the Polson High band teacher who had Martinez in his class for trumpet back in the sixth grade, has seen him progress.

Hardin Middle School raises funds for teachers diagnosed with cancer
The Hardin Middle School raised $719 for three of its teachers diagnosed with cancer by giving students the chance to throw pies at their instructors on International Pie Day, 3/14.Four middle school teachers decided to get their heads shaved in solidarity with their co-workers with cancer.

Valley County Students Participate In State BPA
The Glasgow Scotties and the Opheim Vikings participated in State Business Professionals of American (BPA) in Billings March 13 and 14, representing their schools and community. Two Opheim students, Cole Taylor and Carrie Taylor, and eight Glasgow students, Dalton Sand, Mitchell Winchester, Tanner White, Eli Feezell, Blaire Westby, Raelee Dowden, Alesia Hopstad and Kate Parks, all qualified for Nationals in Dallas, Texas, May 4 through 8. These students qualified based on their participation, service and awards they have earned. However, other students who participated at the State level could still qualify for Nationals due to being runner-ups in their events or finishing award processes.

Shelby FFA earns second place and chance to compete at state
The months of February and March are hectic times for students and teachers: winter sports are in full swing, student organizations are preparing for contests and conferences, prom, school plays, spelling bees, spring sports are not too far on the horizon and the taste of summer freedom is within sight.  One such contest recently hosted by the Shelby FFA was the Glacier District Agricultural Technology & Mechanical Systems (ATMS) Career Development Event (CDE). The Glacier District is composed of 13 schools from as far south as Cascade to the northern reaches of Sunburst. The contest consisted of a comprehensive test, masonry, electrical, small engines, welding and heavy equipment. Nearly 50 students competed in the CDE. Leading agribusinesses such as Torgerson's, LLC. and General Distributing Co. provided judges and prizes, while local volunteers like Roy Benjamin, Chris Roberts and FFA advisors served as judges for the contest too. The Shelby FFA finished near the top of the heap and has qualified for the state competition which will be held in Bozeman in late March. Aidan Torgerson, Kolby Lohr, Taylor Parsons and Dylan Mulvaney placed second. As individuals, Aidan placed second, Dylan third, Taylor seventh and Kolby 11th. The top three teams were Fairfield, Shelby and Dutton/Brady. The top individual was Nolan Forseth of Fairfield.

The Fabulous World of Penguins
Choteau Elemenatry School second graders presented their Fabulous World of Penguins projects to elementary teachers, students and community members in the elementary gym on March 16. The students studied 17 species of penguins and created posters, art and research papers.

CHS raising "Change for Children" in Ukraine
Students at Corvallis High School are raising funds for Ukraine with "Change for Children" a three-week coin challenge, as a way to help students on the other side of the world. Educator Laura Carrasco said student leaders from many groups and many grades spontaneously joined together for the effort. "I think when the war began a few weeks ago a couple of teachers and students showed alarm and were super concerned," Carrasco. "Even in my class the day it started, every single class asked, 'What does this mean?' 'Why is this happening?' It's on social media and kids are on social media so they are very aware of what is going on over there." She said since her students were scared and worried, she talked with them about the humanitarian crisis that is coming out of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, where lives are disrupted and over two million women and children have fled the country. "We felt as teachers, we needed to give kids an avenue to help," Carrasco said. "This is one of those teachable moments. There is something you can do to help people, even if they are on the other side of the globe. I think that makes kids feel they are more in control over situations.

BSSD enrolling students for early kindergarten program
In response to community need, the Big Sky School District will offer a new early kindergarten, or 4K, program for the coming school year. The school is currently advertising enrollment in the program. This program, made possible by BSSD school board's new policy 3100, will allow the district to enroll 20 4-year-olds. The policy, adopted by the BSSD Board of Trustees on Jan. 11, allows the school to enroll the younger children under exceptional circumstances and still collect full government funding for those students. Montana is one of six states without a publicly funded pre-Kindergarten program. Recent attempts in the state Legislature to implement such a service have failed, but Montana law allows schools to enroll students under 5 if there are "exceptional circumstances." The model policy provided by the Montana School Boards Association gives state school districts guidance when establishing early childhood education enrollment. According to public records, approximately 90 districts have adopted this policy. In the BSSD school board's policy 3100, exceptional circumstances include a public health emergency or other community disaster; the absence of available early childhood education opportunities in the community leading to learning loss; a disparity of access to early childhood education caused by the cost-prohibitive nature; and if improved access to early childhood education opportunities in the community will expand parent entry into the workforce. School board trustee Stacy Ossorio called the new program a great initiative.

Helena speech and debate students raising funds for national contest
Helena High School and Capital High School speech and debate students are raising money to send five students to the national competition in Kentucky this June. According to HHS coach Jen Hermanson, because speech and debate is an individual competition, it's different than something like football, which makes HHS and CHS competitors. She said students from each school may compete with each other, but they can also support each other. Hermanson and CHS coach J.W. McClintic work together regularly when coaching their students. "We ride in the same bus, cheer for each other at competitions," Hermanson said. "We have gone from being this 'Helena' team to representing Montana at this point." This year, two HHS students and three CHS students are attempting to raise money to go to the national competition. The competition is set for June 13 in Louisville, Kentucky, and will be the first in-person competition since 2019. Two of the five compete on the debate side and three compete in speech. Loreley Drees, Brennan Jensen, Olivia Davidson, Katrina Steinhoff and Layla Riggs are all working hard to raise money through various methods so they can travel to the competition. Hermanson said it's the students who make it happen.

'Unreserved' program helps St. Ignatius students connect
St. Ignatius high school students recently found that there is so much more to their fellow students than they knew. Art and Spanish teacher Caitlin Shelman organized the "Unreserved" event with help from the school's Salish and Native Studies teachers, Adele Martin and Aspen Decker. "The Unreserved Project brings diverse groups of students together across Montana, and our school is a super diverse school," Shelman said. "It helps them find out what shared experiences they have, and hopefully develop more understanding and empathy for each other." The day began with games, and learning about Salish traditions. Martin and Decker taught the students about the circle that represents the "Seasonal Round," a circle traditionally symbolizing the annual cycles of life, movements and activities by season, Shelman said. The students also learned about Plains sign language and played a game centered around the buffalo hunt. Students later gathered in groups of six or so, at tables filled with art supplies and Chromebooks for accessing photos or other items they wanted to feature in their artwork. Each was given a circle with four quadrants - Heritage, Hurdle, Hope and Happiness - to help them describe or explore their past, present and future.

New program aimed to set up at-risk teens and young adults up for success
The Missoula Public Library's Families First Learning is looking to create a new program to connect at-risk teens and young adults with mentors to guide them in the next steps of their lives. Dream Bigger will provide a dedicated space geared towards setting our peers up for success, something organizers tell me is essential for a brighter future. "Truly the only way the communities get better is from the ground up. We need these kids to be involved in the community, we need more people with boots on the ground really trying to make Missoula a better place," said Cody Meyer, Family Education Director. The three-month summer program will help young people learn more about themselves, gain experience with business professionals, and apply those skills as they head into the workforce or higher education of their choosing. Program coordinators hope this opens the door for endless opportunities as they help mentees turn their dreams into reality. "I'm really excited to see what it looks like when its actually happening and get those real people in the classroom, get those experiences. To actually see kids actually go out and job shadow and kind of an internship that maybe wouldn't have been able to do," said Meyer.

Box Elder students to assist marine biologists in Mexico this month
Eight Box Elder School juniors and seniors will find themselves flying to Baja Mexico in two weeks to participate in a seven-day Marine Science Program where they will assist a pair of local biologist, an opportunity students and teachers are excited to participate in. The trip was organized by Box Elder teachers Connie Reichelt and Kelsey Miller through the Ecology Project International, a field science and conservation organization that partners scientists with local and international students and educators in environments like the Galapagos, Costa Rica, Belize, Hawaii and Yellowstone, as well as Baja Mexico. Reichelt said over the summer she had the opportunity to go to the Galapagos and in the past students were able to go to Costa Rica as part of a Spanish language program. This year, however, it is science's turn, and students say they're excited to go. Jonaye Doney said she was most looking forward to seeing the reef and animals they would be working with and other students said they were excited to see new ocean life. However, others said they were interested in the opportunity just to see a new place. Tianna Cochran said she was happy just to travel to a new country and see new people.

Corvallis High Hunger Games project collects 7,573 lbs. of food for donation
In the 10th year of the Hunger Games project at Corvallis High School, students broke the record for gathering the most food and donating it to the Haven House Food Pantry on Wednesday. The project is part of freshman English classes taught by CHS educator Suzy Schrader, where the students read the book "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins. It is a cross-curricular unit combining counseling, PE, health and English. "We try to get as many parts of life and education incorporated," Schrader said. "One of the things in the book is we see the impact of hunger on these characters and how they cannot function without food. We talk about real-life problems and how food insecurity is something that happens in our own country, as wealthy as we are." Schrader said some of her students are unaware there is a food bank in Hamilton while others use it regularly. They also talk about the Backpack Program in the school, where food is sent home on weekends to meet hunger needs.

Hellgate Elementary Mechanical Maniacs prepare for worlds robotics competition
In a cafeteria at Hellgate Elementary School, nine students cheered while watching their robot steadily hum across their lunch table, tracing black lines leading it to and from missions. Their Mechanical Maniacs team recently won the Montana State Robotics Championships in Bozeman. Now they prepare for the FIRST LEGO League World Festival in Houston next month. "We put a lot of work into it and a lot of hours and it just feels really rewarding to have it be paid off now," said Adalyn Maxwell, Mechanical Maniacs team captain and an eighth-grader at Hellgate Elementary.  "We were all expecting to do well after all the work we had put in, but we were pretty excited to know that we had won the state championship." This is the first time a Hellgate Elementary robotics team has qualified for Worlds under their head coach Jordan Capp, a fifth-grade teacher. The last time a Hellgate team made the competition was in 2014.

Corvallis FFA students give presentation to Senator Steve Daines
Corvallis High School FFA members presented a drama about the pros and cons of the Wildfire Emergency Act of 2021 via Zoom with U.S. Senator Steve Daines on Tuesday. The students spent an intense month selecting the topic, reading the 53-page bill, visiting with groups representing different sides, then summarizing and writing the information into a 15-minute town hall drama, Corvallis educator Neela Andres said. The effort is part of a nationwide FFA contest called "Agriculture Issues Forum." "We're good at it," Andres said. "I've been a teacher for four years and we've gone to nationals twice. Last year we got in the top 16 in the nation."

Students qualify for geo bees
Kalispell Middle School's Griffin Ingersoll was named the sixth-grade Montana Geography Bee champion Sunday at the University of Montana. Kalispell Middle School sixth-grader Oliver Casey placed third. In the seventh-grade division, Whitefish Middle School student David Lossee was the state runner up. The students qualify to compete at national and international competitions organized by International Academic Competitions. Finalists also qualifying to compete at both levels are, in the sixth-grade division, Szonja Czinner and Ty Vandervelden; in the seventh-grade division, Mac Colley and Spencer Lee; and in the eighth-grade division, Mitchell Johnson and Sam Syverson. They were among 41 competitors, which was narrowed down from 1,500 Montana students who took qualifying exams, according to a press release. 

Glacier High alum committed to criminal justice reform
Glacier High School 2018 graduate Abigail Roston is pursuing her education with excellence, guided by her faith in pursuit of criminal justice reform. The 2021 Truman Scholar recipient and Rhodes Scholar finalist (two highly competitive national scholarship programs) is completing a double major in legal studies and American history with a minor in data science at Northwestern University in Illinois, where she is a Leopold Fellow conducting historical research with a professor for an upcoming book. She is currently planning to become a public interest lawyer with an emphasis on constitutional litigation with a focus on criminal justice reform and juvenile justice reform. Growing up around lawyers, over time, Roston came to embrace the idea of becoming an attorney. It wasn't until her senior year of high school in 2018 that she discovered her passion for criminal justice reform while competing on the Legislative Debate team.

'Location for education': Yellowstone's school shows unique park history
Schooling in the nation's first national park has taken on different forms for the last 150 years. From soldiers as teachers to a permanent building in the 1960s, the history of schooling in Mammoth gives a snapshot of Yellowstone National Park.

Montana middle-schoolers can enter wildlife film fest art contest
Montana middle-schoolers are sought for a project that covers wildlife and visual storytelling. The International Wildlife Film Festival, the "Endangered: Short Tales For The Nearly Forgotten" podcast, and the University of Montana's Broader Impacts Group are celebrating Earth Day and the 45th International Wildlife Film Festival by offering a storyboarding art contest for middle school students. Winning student storyboards will be exhibited at the festival in the Missoula Public Library at spectrUM Discovery Area from April 22-May 7. Winners will also receive IWFF passes, spectrUM memberships, and cash prizes. Storyboard art should be submitted by March 25.

Target Range middle school students partner with writing coaches for research papers
For the last two years, middle school students at Target Range have gotten extra help on their papers from volunteers with the Writing Coaches of Montana. Jennie Belcourt's eighth graders recently met with coaches to help them write argument research papers, where topics range from the Russian invasion of Ukraine to why shot clocks should be used in high school basketball. "As a teacher with 20 kids in a classroom, you can't conference with every kid, every day, and so kids slip through the cracks and you miss it," Belcourt said. "So to be able to collaborate where the kids get one-on-one with a coach who's looking at it from a different point of view, different eyes than their teacher … is phenomenal for these kids," she continued. On Tuesday, nearly 60 students cycled between 17 coaches for 20-minute individual sessions to get tips on grammar, structure, audience and everything in between. Avery Omlid met with his coach in the morning to work on his paper that argued for the use of shot clocks in high school basketball in Montana. It was the second time he'd met with a writing coach for his English class.

New MAPS Media Lab director looks forward to changing lives
As a child, Craig Falcon remembers days he felt punished as he spent long hours with his grandparents learning about tribal culture. He had been chosen as Mini Poka (pronounced Mena Boga) - the special child. "It is a tradition where grandparents raise their grandchild and give them every bit of knowledge they had of that tribe," Falcon said. "There was a lot of discipline. As a kid, I thought I was being punished when I looked outside and saw others playing." "I was given a wealth of knowledge," said the 57-year-old Blackfeet and Aaniiih. "I cherish it today. It has brought a lot of blessings into my life." And starting this year, Falcon will use those blessings to help young Native artists learn skills that could take them to places they never imagined. Falcon recently joined the Bitterroot-based MAPS Media Institute as its new Media Lab director. For decades, the nonprofit has worked to empower, inspire and prepare future generations for success through professional media arts instruction. From its beginnings in Hamilton, the MAPS Media Lab has become a statewide outreach program that teaches film, design, technology and music production to Montana students living in rural and Native communities. It provides professional instruction that opens up doors for young people to bring their own stories to life.

Flathead High students medal at regional science fair
Three inquiring minds from Flathead High School won awards at the Montana Tech Regional Science and Engineering Fair in Butte. Grades ninth through 12th competed March 3. They are sophomores Dyson Linden and Keanu Ng and junior Kenna Anderson. The trio also won special awards. Anderson's project titled the Effect of Ocean Acidification on Carbon Sequestration by Nannochloropsis earned a silver medal in the Environmental Sciences category. She also received the Stockholm Junior Regional Water Prize and awards from the Office of Naval Research, American Meteorological Society and Association for Women Geoscientists. Ng earned a bronze medal for his Environmental Sciences project titled The Effect of Wildfire Ash on the Growth of Algae. He also received the Stockholm Junior Regional Water Prize in addition to awards from the American Meteorological Society and Big Hole River Foundation. In the Physics and Astronomy category, Linden's project titled Spaced Out Music: The Effect of Music on Sound Delay was named the top 10th-grade project at the fair and earned a silver medal. He also received a Montana Technological University Dual Enrollment Program Award. 

Lewis and Clark students sweep elementary division in Geography Bee at UM
Students from Missoula's Lewis and Clark Elementary took the top three spots in the fifth-grade division of the All-Montana Geography Bee on Sunday at the University of Montana. Evan Newcomer, 10, won the elementary level division with 40 points over four rounds. Jude Baty-Zdziebko finished with 37 points in regular tournament play, and Dexter Wing had 21 points. The three then finished 1-2-3 in the championship round. "I find geography a lot of fun, it's easy to me sometimes," Newcomer said. "When I passed the qualifying exam at my school my mom helped quiz me. I studied for like three days straight." The opening ceremony for the Geo Bee was at Urey Lecture Hall. The 41 participating students were then divided by grade level to compete in four preliminary rounds. Fifth- and sixth-graders were quizzed on 25 geography questions per round. Seventh- and eighth-graders were quizzed on 30. Students received one point per correct answer, and needed six points to complete a round.

Hillcrest student represents Silver Bow County in Treasure State Spelling Bee
Hillcrest Elementary sixth-grader Indro Pramanik was the sole representative for Butte-Silver Bow at the 57th Annual Treasure State Spelling Bee Saturday at Montana State University in Bozeman. Pramanik competed against 56 other Montana fourth- through eighth-graders in Ballroom A of MSU's Strand Union Strand Union Building, who won out of a pool of 48,000 potential spellers, said Gallatin Superintendent of Schools Matthew Henry, who introduced the event. Pramanik got out in the fourth round on the word "axiomatic" after successfully spelling the words "postural," "tai-chi" and "dissipate." His father, Brahmananda Pramanik, said that his son knows lots of words and is good at spelling because he loves to read. "He says reading books is playing with words and making them friends," Brahmananda Pramanik said of his son. The bee was held in Bozeman after being held in Billings for 10 years. It was originally supposed to be held in 2020, but was canceled due to COVID-19. The 2021 Treasure State Spelling Bee was held online as a proctored test.

Havre High names students of the month
Taylor Ball is a Havre High School Student of the Month for February. She is the daughter of Shawn and Megan Ball and has one sister, Hailey. Taylor is a sophomore who is active in volleyball, softball, Key Club and basketball as a manager. Heather Haney, who nominated Taylor, said she is "an exceptional young woman. I have had the pleasure of teaching her for the past two years and it has been a joy to have her in the classroom. Her work is always wonderfully done, she is a great critical thinker and she's always got a smile on her face. Taylor's hard work and dedication extend past the classroom and into extracurricular activities as well. Taylor has been an active member of Key Club and is currently serving as the secretary. Her monthly reports are done accurately and always on time. One can always count on Taylor to offer a smile and a word of encouragement to others; and her kindness and compassion are extraordinary for someone her age. Thank you, Taylor, for your incredible work ethic, positive attitude, and genuine kindness."

Missoula County eighth-grader wins 57th annual Treasure State Spelling Bee in Bozeman
Ellette Whitcomb, an eighth-grader from Sussex School in Missoula County, won the 57th Treasure State Spelling Bee held at Montana State University on Saturday. Whitcomb was announced as the winner after she correctly spelled the words "phlebotomy," "integument" and "phosphorescent" in the final rounds of the bee. It is one of the longest-running academic competitions in the state, and it draws students grades 4 through 8 from private schools, public schools and homeschools around the state. In a few months, Whitcomb will head to Washington D.C. to represent Montana during the Scripps National Spelling Bee, held May 29 through June 30. She and other competitors from around the country will have a shot at winning $50,000 at the bee in National Harbor, Maryland.

University of Montana to host the All-Montana Geography Bee
Missoula elementary and middle schoolers will be among dozens of other Montana students to compete in the All-Montana Geography Bee on Sunday at the University of Montana. As many as 100 Montana students, in fourth through eighth grades, who qualified are expected to compete in the geography quiz competition from 9:15 a.m. until 3:45 p.m. Sarah Halvorson, a geography professor at UM and coordinator of the Geography Bee, predicted as many as 1,000 students have taken the 50-question qualifying exam. The youngest participants will be fourth graders. "I was thinking, well aren't they kind of young? Apparently not," Halvorson said. "There are some kids who are total whizzes in geography at a very young age." The daylong event is one of many regional academic bees going on nationwide between February and May, according to David Madden, the founder and co-executive director of International Academic Competitions.

Gianforte Tours Whitehall High School CTE Programs
Meeting with students at Whitehall High School on Friday, March 4, 2022, Governor Greg Gianforte promoted the importance of Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs in empowering students with in-demand skills and providing a highly-skilled, highly-qualified workforce for Montana. "Everybody wins when Montana schools, like Whitehall High School, offer personalized work-based learning paths for students to prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow," Gov. Gianforte said. "We will continue to promote CTE, trades education, and apprenticeship opportunities to empower Montanans with the skills needed to thrive in good-paying Montana jobs and build a stronger workforce."

Trout Creek students take first, second in bee
The courthouse in Thompson Falls was buzzing last Friday as students from around the county gathered to compete in the 35th Annual Sanders County Spelling Bee. First Security Bank and The Sanders County Ledger have both sponsored the spelling bee for the last 35 years. "We are very proud of this tradition," said Sanders County Ledger Publisher Annie Wooden. "The Ledger and First Security Bank have been the longest private sponsors for any spelling bee in the state." With standing room only, friends and family members watched 16 spellers compete for first place. After spellers went through a practice round to familiarize themselves with the process, the spelling bee officially started. After the third round, the spelling bee was down to seven students and after the fourth round, the bee was down to the last two spellers.

2022 McKenzie County Spelling Bee Results
After a year hiatus, due to COVD-19, McKenzie County resumed it's annual spelling bee under the direction of Carol Kieson, McKenzie County Supt. of Schools. The competition was held Wednesday, Feb.23 at Alexander Public School, hosted by Superintendent Leslie Bieber and her staff. County schools that participated were Johnson Corners Christian Academy, Mandaree Public School, Alexander Public School, East Fairview Elementary School, Badlands Elementary, Fox Hills Elementary, and Watford City Middle School. The 2022 State Spelling Bee will be held in Bismarck, March 21 at the Bismarck Event Center.

Arlee student claims county spelling title
Arlee eighth-grader Deja-Nay Little-Marry is this year's Lake County spelling champ. Little-Mary won the county's online spelling bee, which concluded March 4. She will represent the county at the state spelling bee March 12 at Montana State University in Bozeman. As Lake County winner, Little-Mary will receive the first-place trophy, which will be presented to her at her school. The second-place trophy goes to Lyla Wanberg, a seventh grader from St. Ignatius. If Little-Mary is unable to represent Lake County, Wanberg will serve as her replacement. Lake County's third-place trophy goes to Tasker Brown, an eighth-grade student from Charlo.

St. Regis seventh-grader wins county spelling bee
On Feb.28, local students gathered at the St. Regis gymnasium to flex their letter arranging skills during the 2022 Mineral County Spelling Bee. Twenty spellers representing each of the county school districts took turns pronouncing their answers, letter by letter, and word by word. A popular tactic used by many participants was to receive their word, then write it out in their palm using their pointer finger. A bit of a visualization technique. After two rounds the competition was cut down nearly half the contestants. And as spelling bee director Kelsey Clark wrapped up the third set of words, it was apparent only one student was left standing. St. Regis seventh-grader Isaac Desoto looked around the open chairs, did a fist pump, then stepped toward the microphone to receive his championship word. Spatula. It was a stirring moment. Desoto spelled it correctly and won the county spelling bee title, the crowd cheered. But soon, the judges and director recognized during the quick last man standing third round, a second-place speller was yet to be confirmed.

Local artist collaborates with students at Wyola School
The students of the Wyola School eigth grade class got a rare treat when local artist Judd Thompson was invited to the Wyola School to collaborate together with the students on several pieces of art for Native American Week. "Having Mr. Thompson in was a perfect example of what the people in this area can do with their talents," said Wyola Schools Principal Kristy Wright. Thompson also personally donated three paintings to the school, including the pieces that he collaborated on with students. "They had so much fun with them," said Thompson. The students, who collaborated with Thompson to create three paintings for the school, also donated their creations to the school. "It was amazing to see his artwork and how well he worked together with the students and how successful he has become at his craft and it was very enlightening for our students to see," Wright said.

Simms FFA Greenhand Initiation
Simms FFA chapter hosted a Greenhand initiation on January 27th at the School Achievement Day Assembly. The Initiation welcomed 29 first year FFA members into the FFA family. All the students had a good time and received their first FFA degree, the bronze greenhand pin. The chapter used green paint to place handprints on a board to hang in the shop to leave a mark that everyone can see in later generations. he Greenhand FFA Degree is awarded to ninth grade or older members who learn about the FFA history, mission, creed and emblem and make plans for an SAE. By completing the initiation members are committing to new learning opportunities in agriculture and leadership through the FFA.

New dual enrollment partnership offers Frenchtown students college credit
Students in Frenchtown are able to earn college credit before they graduate from high school through a new program through Missoula College. Through the Bronc Fast Track program, 30 students will be able to earn a general studies certificate concurrently with their high school diploma starting next school year during their sophomore year. "We are thrilled about the streamlined nature of this program, which is ultimately an accelerated path to a college degree that will save students time and money while helping to prepare them for the expectations and responsibilities of postsecondary education," said Jake Haynes, principal of Frenchtown High School. Thirty-nine students applied for 30 available slots for the first class. Frenchtown High School counselor Beth Terzo was excited to see how many students were interested in even applying, she said. "I was already planning on taking most of the classes required for the program, and if I can save time and money and get my first year of college out of the way it was like a win-win," said Maya Skinner, a Frenchtown freshman who was recently admitted into the program. 

Lockwood High students help run the school as part of new education program
The Lockwood school district is paying nearly 10% of its high school student body to help teachers and staff on campus. As part of the newly formed alternative education program, 37 students aged freshmen and above are serving as aides for younger students, helping in classrooms, shelving books in the library, and supervising in the cafeteria and at recess. This is in addition to a new internship program and other creative ideas the school is trying in order to benefit students and address teacher shortages. "There is a growing trend, especially in communities with specific needs, to have alternative education programs," said Coul Hill, director of the program. "Not all districts do. You'll find it in more urban schools. You'll find it in places where you have more at-risk students, basically the concept being that there's an alternative path to successful graduation and post-secondary work and school experience."

Bitterroot nursing students take part in medical simulation training
Students studying to become licensed practical nurses (LPN) through Bitterroot College experienced hands-on medical simulation training last week to help them experience stress and learn the training lessons. The Simulation in Motion - Montana (SIM-MT) vehicle was parked on Main Street next to the college. Inside, one end was set up as an Emergency Room in a rural hospital with a "patient" on a gurney and the basic tools medical responders need for diagnosis and treatment. Lee Roberts, program manager for SIM-MT, described the scenario and what the nursing students could expect. "We try to create as realistic of a scenario as we can for you," Roberts said. "We try to make it somewhat challenging to your scope, level, skills, knowledge and attitudes, everything that you bring with you as a caregiver."

Small Science Fair has a big impact at Hamilton Middle School
Hamilton Middle School held its Science Fair last week and the project displays will be up for viewing during the first day of parent/teacher conferences in the multi-purpose room on March 8. HMS Principal Marline Lewis said the Science Fair was "pared down" this year due to difficulty in finding judges. He said the process this year was that all eighth-grade students selected science topics, researched, and presented their findings in their classes. Teachers chose the top 20 and then a panel of six expert judges selected the top five. The event was small, just taking up one side of the top floor in the gym, compared to previous years which have had the entire gym floor filled with displays, close to 200 eighth-grade students, some seventh-grade students (lead by educator Jeremy Barcus) and 25-30 judges.

Chief Charlo students learn Plains Indian Sign Language from fluent Salish speaker
Students at Chief Charlo Elementary recently learned over 20 different signs from Plains Indian Sign Language through an initiative grant impacting education across the Missoula County district and beyond. Aspen Decker visited Jennifer Carlson's class earlier this week to share cultural knowledge, history and language with students in the fourth-grade classroom. Decker is one of only a handful of people who can speak Salish fluently. She and her four children are now among the first generation of bilingual speakers of her community in nearly 75 years. More than 200 Indigenous languages in the United States have gone extinct in the last 400 years, according to the Language Conservancy. She was joined by her daughter, Maninłp Xʷełx̣ƛ̓cin, who is the same age as the students in Carlson's class. Maninłp is the great-great-great-grandchild of Chief Charlo.

AA Band Festival one of many events during Youth Art Month in Great Falls
Here in Great Falls, it is Youth Art Month and to celebrate, there are activities and events all month long for everyone to participate in. One of the many events this month is the AA Band Festival hosted by Great Falls Public School at the C.M Russell auditorium, March 7-8 at 7p.m at no cost. Bands from Billings West High and Billings Senior High Capital will be joining our music students from C.M. Russell and Great Falls High for this event. Students will rehearse for two days in two mass band configurations with guest conductors Dr. Travis J. Cross (UCLA) and Dr. Christopher Bianco (Western Washington University), as well as a Percussion Ensemble under the direction of Dr. Sigurd Johnson (North Dakota State University). Monday night's concert will feature the individual bands as they play selections for each other, and Tuesday will feature the mass bands and the percussion group under the direction of the guest conductors.

The future of learning in Kalispell Public Schools
What does learning look like when it's personalized for each student? Does school have to be seven hours a day, five days a week; or can objectives be met at a different pace or schedule? Does learning have to take place within the walls of a classroom? Should schools be separated by grade levels, or is there flexibility for accelerated learners? Who should drive learning - the student, teacher and student, teacher alone, or do textbooks and curriculum dictate it? These are some of the questions Kalispell Public Schools will ask as it ventures on a yearslong process with the objective to transform "how school is done." "Maybe you don't have to spend 180 days in a seat to be proficient," said Kalispell Superintendent Micah Hill. "Not everyone is learning at the same time, same place." Helping fund the process are Transformational Learning, Montana Advanced Opportunity and Workforce Development state grants. According to the Montana Office of Public Instruction, "Transformational Learning is defined as a flexible system of pupil-centered learning that is designed to meet the Montana Constitutional mandate of "fully develop[ing] the educational potential of each person." While the questions aren't revolutionary - and there are plenty of schools statewide and throughout the nation "doing school differently" to glean information from - systematic changes, even at a local level, is a hefty task.

Students detail love of country in essay contest
"You need to care about your country because it is a free country," said Noxon sixth grader Jasmin Risch when asked about Americanism. Risch was the third-place winner for the 2021-2022 Sanders County portion of the nationwide Elks Americanism Essay Contest for the fifth and sixth grade division. The contest asked participants to write an essay that speaks to a certain patriotic theme. The theme this year was "What does it mean to love your country?" Risch participated last year and plans to enter again the following year, saying English is one of her favorite subjects. "I didn't think I was going to win, but it felt good," Risch said. According to Jasmin's mother Pacey Risch, "We have a great sense of pride in our country." Pacey was a bridge crew engineer in the U.S. Army and explained that Jasmin saw some of the sacrifices her mother gave both while serving and after. Pacey believes this has contributed to her daughter's sense of patriotism.

Sidney students advance to state level in Math Counts competition
A group of about ten 7th and 8th-grade Middle schoolers competed in the MathCounts online competition for the Eastern Chapter on Feb. 17, 2022. The Chapter includes towns such as Glendive, Glasgow, Lustre, Savage, and many others on this side of the State. Math Counts is put on by, a company that is fostering the love of math through projects and problem-solving. Only the top 25% are eligible to move on to the State competition. Sidney Middle School secured three of the seven spots. A big congratulations go to Ave Norby, Morgan Kindopp, and Ethan King for scoring so well on the local Math Counts competition that they have moved on to the state-level competition. The three are set to travel to Butte for the March 7 state competition. Here they will compete to go to Nationals in Washington DC the latter part of May. Best of luck Morgan, Ave, and Ethan - represent Sidney, Montana well.

After 14 rounds, WMS student wins spelling bee with 'plutonomy'
Young students throughout Dawson County gathered together for an epic spell down on Monday to determine who will have the privilege of representing their school and county at the 57th annual Treasure State Spelling Bee. The total of 45 competitors in the 2022 Dawson County Spelling Bee included fifth through eighth grade.

GMS Presents The Little Mermaid
The young thespians of Glasgow Middle School are inviting everyone to come be a part of their world as they create an underwater oasis full of drama, humor, friendship, love, revenge and singing sea creatures as they present The Little Mermaid. Under the direction of Maureen Leech, with assistant director Elizabeth Peters, students from Glasgow's sixth, seventh and eighth grades will share the story written by Hans Christian Anderson and as popularized by the Disney film this week. Addison Jones, a nearly-15-years-old eighth grader, headlines the show as Ariel, daughter of King Triton. The mermaid falls in love with Prince Eric, played by eighth-grader Kyler Whitman, a representative of the human world Ariel longs to be a part of. Caught between the sea and the land Ariel is tempted by Ursula, who convinces the young mermaid to trade her voice for human legs and a brief window of time to earn a kiss from the prince. King Triton, played by eighth-grader Roman Fast, not knowing of the deal but keen to protect his daughter from the ills of the world, sets his loyal crab Sebastian, portrayed loyally by Annika Smith, to keep tabs on his daughter.

Montana State University robotics event gives Twin Bridges team a chance to show their problem-solving
When the Falcon Fire team from Twin Bridges visited Montana State University last Saturday, it marked the culmination of nearly five months of building and programming a robot the junior high students pitted against 35 other teams from around the state. At the annual FIRST Lego League finals tournament, the four team members unleashed their transportation-themed creation on a pool table-sized arena and hope that it completes the pre-assigned missions, such as unloading and moving pieces of cargo, that they've spent hours practicing. The team was also evaluated on their presentation to a panel of judges and their spirit of teamwork. "I love to see the students get excited when something they've worked on for weeks and weeks finally comes together," said coach Jenifer Elser, who teaches math and science at the Twin Bridges Junior High School. "Their perseverance pays off and there are smiles all around." Elser started the program at the school about four years ago during an expansion of the science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, curriculum as a way to offer students another after-school activity besides sports and 4-H. "It's a great way for them to practice real-life applications of what they learn in the classroom," said Elser, who volunteers her time for the program. The school provides transportation and computers, but the team raises money to purchase the Lego robotics kits.

German exchange student loves everything about Cut Bank, but the cold temperatures and wind are a 'little bit annoying'
When Mariella Meichsner saw a YouTube video in 2018 showing a teenager close to her age enjoying the foreign exchange student experience, she knew she wanted to do that. At that time, Mariella was a junior in high school and living with her parents and little sister, Lilli, in her hometown of Homberg Efze, Germany. Homberge Efze has a population of approximately 14,000 people and is located in the middle of Germany. In 2021, she started talking to her parents, Michel and Nicole Meichsner, about her dream to be a foreign exchange student. It was kind of a hard sell to her parents, who were not sure it was a good idea. "First, they weren't enthusiastic about the idea because of COVID," Mariella said. "But after many conversations, they finally said yes. I talked to an exchange agency and applied for an exchange program in the United States." Closer to home, William "Curtis" and LeeAnna Alberda, living and working in Cut Bank for the past 10 years, had been tossing the idea around to be a host family for a foreign exchange student.

Columbus 8th grader Grady Olsen is the 2022 Spelling Bee champion. And he had to work for it. Olsen bested a field of 25 spellers last Wednesday, Feb. 23, to win the title on the word "affectionately." In the hunt until the 19th round were 8th grader Quinn Rosser and Park City 8th grader Hayden Fenton. Fenten took second place on the word "oxigynate," said Stillwater Superintendent of Schools John Smith. Olsen will compete in the state Spelling Bee in Bozeman on March 14. The county bee draws the best spellers from each school in Stillwater County. Smith said that this was the first year since 2020 that a full field had competed. "We had a really good bunch of kids," said Smith. 

Montana-made lunch
Choteau Public Schools students on Monday enjoyed a Montana-grown spaghetti and bread sticks lunch. The meal featured a new Montana-crafted food item, Montana Marinara, from Ronan, ground beef from Choteau, carrots from Ennis and flour from Wheat Montana Farms. Choteau Public Schools' head cook Cathy Campbell said she received a flier for the Montana Marinara sauce and decided to put it to use. "I try to use and promote Montana products," Campbell said. For example, Campbell said this is the fourth year she has used beef from Choteau area ranchers in the hot lunch program. Campbell built the menu for Monday's meal using the marinara sauce and adding other Montana products. She created a colorful sign so the students would know where the ingredients from their meal come from. Campbell also talked with each age group as they enjoyed their tasty meal in the school cafeteria, sharing where ingredients were gown.

Indian educators at Billings public schools engage with grandparents raising grandchildren
Native educators in the Billings School District are working to engage with tribal elders, especially grandparents who may be the main caretakers of their grandchildren. Coordinators gathered recently with elders to help them with tasks like checking grades and attendance online, support groups, legal resources, summer camps, college counselors, and housing. "If we can get them engaged at the elementary level, then the junior high level shouldn't be as intimidating, and by high school they will know the ropes," said Josie Brady, an Indian Education coordinator at McKinley elementary and Lewis and Clark middle school. At least 16 grandparents associated with 65 students (some of them have graduated) completed surveys to help organizers continually communicate with them. About 20 kids younger than school age were also present. The session was a similar atmosphere to the monthly, Native family nights.

Belgrade class learns through food bank fundraiser
A Belgrade elementary school class is teaching students math and social skills through a fundraiser for the food bank and a tour of a local grocery store. For the last seven or so years, Michelle Anderson's second grade class at Ridge View Elementary School collects coin donations before taking a class trip to Town & Country Foods to purchase items for the Gallatin Valley Food Bank. After collecting donations for the last few weeks, Anderson's class shopped at Town & Country on Wednesday morning before dropping off their donations at the food bank. The project gives students hands-on experience with identifying money, counting, writing thank you cards and shopping in a store. It's designed to start conversations with the students on "being able to think of others and really considering what's a need and what's a want," Anderson said.

Stevensville Scholastic Chess Club hosts MCA tourney March 5
Stevensville Schools and the Montana Chess Association will host a chess tournament on Saturday, March 5, for students in grades 1-12 to give beginner and intermediate chess players a chance to have fun, compete for prizes and exercise their mental skills. This is the fourth edition of the annual tournament that hosts chess players from across western Montana. Organizer Eric Walthall said the tournament is a perfect way for students to try out a chess tournament.  "If you know how the pieces move and the basic rules, you can play," Walthall said. The tournament will be held in Stevensville School Multi-Purpose Room with registration beginning at 9 a.m. Students are divided into three groups based on age and ability.  All students will play five rounds, winning results in playing harder opponents the next round and losing a match means playing opponents closer to your abilities.

'Bringing the world to these kids': 300 students attend Academic WorldQuest at UM
early 300 students from across the state participated in an annual international education conference hosted by the Montana World Affairs Council that featured diplomats and conversations of global understanding. The Academic WorldQuest is a two-day conference organized by the Montana World Affairs Council. The event was offered in a hybrid format this year, with a majority of students participating in events on campus at the University of Montana. Nearly 60 students attended remotely. "I feel like bringing the world to these kids, who maybe haven't had the opportunity to travel yet, gives them maybe not that same experience but a taste of it," said Ryan Cooney, a teacher at the Project for Alternative Learning in Helena who led a group of 12 students to the event this year. "I can see it in their faces, they kind of light up, they get that spark and you can tell that because they have become interested in the world around them," he continued. Cooney has been bringing students to the event for four years now. He was also named the Global Educator of the Year during the conference and received a $500 donation for the purchase of international classroom materials, publications and resources, sponsored by Drs. Edwin and Janet House.

East Helena High launches competitive esports program
For the past two years, East Helena High School has been working on forming an esports team. Though the fledgling program is still going through some growing pains after launching in the fall, EHHS now has varsity and junior varsity esports teams competing in four video games: Valorant, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Halo Infinite and Minecraft survival mode. Games are largely played online with other high schools through the High School Esports League, a national organization that connects esports teams at high schools across the United States. EHHS esports coach Marne Bender, East Valley Middle School's librarian, said the Montana High School Association hasn't yet recognized esports as an official sport, despite professional games being broadcast on ESPN with prize pools up to $40 million. Bender said esports is sanctioned by high school associations in some states, while other states go through the High School Esports League. The HSEL tracks games throughout a season, and teams with more wins than losses end up going to the playoffs, which lead to national championships for each game.

Kraske new HHS principal starting next school year
A familiar face will be taking the helm at Havre High School starting in July. Havre Superintendent Craig Mueller announced this morning that Havre Middle School Principal Dustin Kraske will start as the Havre High principal effective in the next school year. "Mr. Kraske is a leader who has dedicated his professional career to the students, parents, and community of Havre," Mueller said in the release. "Mr. Kraske has shown, as the Principal of Havre Middle School, the ability to form positive relationships with stakeholders, and to work with staff to find solutions to issues with a student-centered mindset. " Kraske had not returned a call asking for comment by print deadline this morning.

'They really put their love into it': Sentinel students taste test 'Montana Marinara'
Students and staff at Sentinel High School were among the first in Missoula to sample the new, homegrown marinara sauce coming to schools across the state. The sauce, referred to as "Montana Marinara," features squash, carrots, onions and more, grown in the state, for a truly tasty product. "It's honestly really good," said Eli Brother, a freshman at Sentinel. "It's just nice to know that everything's being sourced from an actual good source … It's just so nice that it's honestly homegrown by people that love growing stuff," he continued later. "They really put their love into it." Brother was eating lunch with Zane Goicovich, a sophomore, who had packed a lunch from home that day, but said in the future he'd probably opt for the school lunch option knowing that the ingredients were locally sourced. The sauce was featured in two different entree options at lunch on Friday. Ed Christensen, an assistant supervisor for the district's food and nutrition program, also provided samples of the sauce with breadsticks for others to try.

Helena High students craft up take-home experiments for Science Circus
Helena High School's science seminar class has once again crafted up various take-home experiments for the community to enjoy as part of the 37th annual Science Circus. Normally, the Science Circus takes over the gymnasium at Helena High with a variety of wacky experiments demonstrated by students. Due to COVID-19 concerns, the event was canceled in 2020 and shifted to an at-home activity in 2021 and now 2022. Each $10 take-home kit will provide the materials needed for an experiment intended to entertain and teach young kids about science. Participants can make bouncy balls, geodes, star projectors, flower gardens, rock candy or fairy lamps. Each experiment was chosen by teacher Missy Sampson and her students to ensure both entertainment and education. One such experiment involves growing crystal geodes in shells made by the seniors. Seniors Sierrah Paul and Brogan Vranka recently provided a demonstration. "We make the shells and kids grow the crystals which are made of alum," Vranka said. "The colors are mostly to give the kids some fun."


February 2022 GREAT NEWS

Kids gather at Montana State University to compete in annual robotics tournament
Montana students from grades 4 through 8 put their problem-solving skills to the test on Saturday while competing in the annual For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology Lego League finals championship. Thirty-six teams from towns as small as Fort Benton and cities as large as Billings gathered in Montana State University's Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering in front of a packed performance theater. The kids took their positions around arenas the size of ping-pong tables. Teams spent months designing and coding Lego robots so they could score high in the matches this spring. After a thumbs-up signal, a 2 minute and 30 second countdown began. The robots circled the small fields to pick up and deliver different forms of cargo. Referees paid attention to how teams demonstrated the spirit of friendly competition. In addition to building and programming Lego robots, teams were tasked with completing a research project and presenting it to a panel of judges. They were supposed to find and solve a real-world problem, keeping this year's CARGO CONNECT transportation theme in mind. "We really like having the opportunity for the kids to come to MSU and see the campus, where they are exposed to engineering in action," said Loribeth Evertz, outreach coordinator for the engineering college and assistant teaching professor in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering.

FCHS presents the 20th show of Cafe Chocolate on March 5
Florence Carlton High School is producing its 20th show of Cafe Chocolate with two performances on Saturday, March 5. This year's theme is "Back to the 90s" and features the talented FCHS choir and drama students as they perform music and drama from the 1990s. Florence Carlton School Choirs Director Amy Smart said the school didn't have a show last year due to COVID complications. "The kids are so excited and ready to be back at performing because we didn't have it last year," Smart said. "Florence did not offer choir last year [due to the pandemic] so it has been a really long year without music. Last year was supposed to be our 20th-anniversary show but that didn't happen. This year we are making it bigger, and the enthusiasm is huge." 

Havre Middle School names students of the month
Havre Middle School's Sixth-Grade Student of the Month for January is Annabelle Corner. Annabelle is the daughter of Kevin and Carrie Corner. She has two brothers, Dodson and Jackson Corner. At the middle school, Annabelle plays the alto saxophone for the band. Outside of school, she participates in soccer. In her free time, she loves cooking, reading and playing games with her friends. Annabelle is an asset to have in the classroom. She is hardworking and always upbeat. Her personality lights up the school and makes it a great place for everyone. 

Students show off projects at annual countywide science fair
Science students with their project boards filled the Expo Center at the Flathead County Fairgrounds Thursday as students from schools across the county gathered for the annual countywide science fair. Glacier Gateway fifth grader Barrett Maiden said he's never had a speaker to play music, which prompted his idea for his science fair project - a paper plate speaker that projects sound. Edgerton Elementary fifh grader Raelynn Keller's project compared which household cleaning spray would kill bacteria the most effectively. Pledge Multi-Surface Cleaner beat out all other cleaners and disproved her original theory. Edgerton Elementary fourth grader Avery Lacey won the fourth grade biological category with her project "Can Exercise Make Our Bodies Work Better?" She also won a health science award from Logan Health. She said she won at her school last year but wasn't able to attend the county science fair, but returned this year because of her love for science. "I'm doing it again next year because I love science and I love making projects," Lacey said.

Locomotive rebranding
School Board Chair Karen Teeters with Superintendent Linda Filpula show off the new "brand" for the Laurel Locomotives during the official rebranding event Friday. These students were excited to get new tee shirts emblazoned with Laurel Schools' new logo at Friday's unveiling during half-time at the girls' game.

Fundraiser For Finnley Grace At Belt High School Is A Success
Like so many small communities across Montana, the Belt community comes out to help their own. Recently, Belt came out to help the family of Finnley Grace Foster, a young lady that has been fighting one health issue after another. Finnley, whose mom's family - Katie Whitmore, are from Fairfield, also has very strong family ties to the Belt Community. Finnley's grandma, Trudy Whitmore, is a Fairfield resident. The fundraiser, which spanned two days, sought to raise funds for Finnley's family, to help with expenses, such as travel. The events were organized by Belt seniors Ahmia Lords and Raily Gliko.

Choteau sixth graders ski and watch video production
The sixth-grade class from Choteau Public Schools made their long-awaited field trip to Teton Ski Pass Feb. 11 and had an extra bonus of participating in a promotional video. "The ski trip is the talk among the students the whole school year leading up to the day they actually go and then is the whole talk after they go skiing," laughed teacher Karen Crawford. "As you can tell, the traditional ski trip for the sixth graders is a big deal and is one the students look forward to immensely. It just so happened they were making a video that day and some of the students got to watch and some took part in the production, which was fun." Crawford couldn't recall when the school started the annual (when Teton Pass has been operating) ski trip but said she knows it goes back to at least 2003 and maybe longer. 

Choteau High School choir to sing March 7 on PBS
The Choteau High School choir, under the direction of music teacher Lorran Depner, has again participated in the Montana PBS annual "Celebrate America Across Montana" chorale event. The recording of the CHS choir and other participating choirs will air on PBS on March 7 at 7 p.m. Choir members and their families will be invited to view the premier together at the Stage Stop Inn in Choteau at 7 p.m.

'A constant resource': Bozeman Solar Schools Club advocates for solar power
A Bozeman School District club's efforts to get solar panels for a building is moving forward following a presentation to the school board. The Bozeman Solar Schools Club has been raising money for solar panels for Bozeman High School for the last three years and presented solar options to the school board in December. The students outlined two solar array options for the high school, a 50-kilowatt system that would allow it put energy back into the grid and a 200-300 kilowatt system that would essentially allow the school to operate off the grid. "With this resource that literally comes up every single day, why not make the most of it? It doesn't have a negative impact on our ecosystem and it helps it to thrive so why not make the most of a constant resource," junior Olivia Yochim said in an interview. The district already has elementary schools and a middle school using a 50-kilowatt system, according to Miles McGeehan, Bozeman High science teacher and advisor for the solar club. "That's a suitable size for those size buildings but our building is like a small city. There's quite a large energy demand whether its weekend tournaments for basketball or wrestling or football games for Friday night lights," McGeehan said. 

Corvallis choir records performance for Montana PBS, airs March 7
The Corvallis High School Chanteur Choir traveled to the television studios on the campus of Montana State University in Bozeman on President's Day to record a performance that will air on PBS. The show, "Celebrate America Across Montana: Tim Janis with School State Choirs, 2022," will air at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 7, as part of the live pledge event on Montana PBS. CHS Principal Cammie Knap said this was an opportunity for the students that "truly took a village." The choir teacher was unable to attend, she explained, so fellow teacher Shane Gladwin stepped up to chaperone the students. Former CHS orchestra teacher Emily Athman acted as the accompanist and conducted the students in the musical performance.

Billings public schools' first homeless education liaison will retire after 21 years in position
Sue Runkle will retire this spring after 21 years serving homeless students in the Billings school system. Runkle coordinates transportation for students to get to school, makes sure they have school supplies, and tutors students weekly. She registers kids for summer camp, and makes sure they have enough clothes and food. And, she goes out of her way to make students and families happy, according to colleagues. "When I first started, it was just at Washington [elementary] school, so it's expanded a lot," Runkle said. "The federal law had changed and we needed to have a homeless liaison and a homeless program. We didn't quite know what that would look like, so it's kind of developed over the years." Runkle now works with K-12 students throughout the district. The district has served more than 500 students who have experienced homelessness during the school year, Runkle said. Schools count students cumulatively throughout the year, so there aren't necessarily 500 students who are currently receiving services, she explained. 

Quick Pics: Little wins 55th Hill County Spelling Bee by spelling 'filbert'
The 55th Hill County Spelling Bee was held at the Havre Middle School Assembly Room Thursday with Lyvia Little of Havre Middle School taking first place after correctly spelling "filbert" in the final round. The contest went 21 rounds with Little, whose number was 21, winning the final round. Little received a first-place medal and a $50 Chamber gift certificate sponsored by Independence Bank. She will also represent Hill County at the Treasure State Spelling Bee held on the Montana State University campus March 12 in Bozeman.

Valleydictorian Senior Profile: Theodore Garza
Theodore Amos Cordova Garza, Billings West High School, What are your plans after high school? To get a job in the trades, save up money to move out of my family's apartment. To become an independent adult, then buy a house where I can have a family of my own someday. What is your favorite class in school & why? My construction class. It is hands on, and I have learned so much from that class than anything else in school it feels like. I know how to frame, drywall, and roof a house. And I've already earned my OSHA-IO certification card. Who inspires you and why? My culinary teacher Mrs. Gay. She is a high school teacher with a second job and she has health problems. She is a hard worker and kind to everyone of her students. She can be mean when she has to.

Olney-Bissell teacher honored with prestigious presidential award
When President Joe Biden named the most recipients of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching - Olney-Bissell School teacher Shianne Schmidt was among them. The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching is the highest award kindergarten through 12th-grade math and science - including computer science - teachers can receive from the U.S. government. Schmidt, who currently teaches a combination third- and fourth-grade class at Olney-Bissell. She is in her fifth year at the school and has taught for 10 years in total. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education from Montana State University. The award honors the commitment science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teachers bring to the classroom to meet the needs of all students. Schmidt was honored for her work teaching math. Schmidt said that commitment encompasses all the passion, training and hard work put into teaching STEM content. "This is one of the greatest honors to be named and be put up there with other teachers who have won," Schmidt said. Honorees each receive $10,000 from the National Science Foundation, which manages the awards on behalf of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Euphoniums and tubas alternate solemn and big bop sounds
The overhead stage lights of the Seeley-Swan High School auditorium bounced off the bronze cone-shaped bells of seven tubas and five euphoniums Feb. 13 as University of Montana Euphonium and Tuba Consort performed for a crowd of more than 40 people (on Super Bowl Sunday!). According to Conductor Benedict Kirby, a tuba has a five-octave range, starting lower than the sound a piano can play. Its smaller cousin, the euphonium, starts an octave higher and has a four and a half octave range. The low tones are well suited to solemn arrangements such as Franz Biebel's "Ave Maria" played by the Consort with highlights from euphonium soloists Jethro Thorne, Nathan Mayhack and Marshall Softich. Kirby described Biebel's arrangement as "sublime."

A VOICE organization receives $100,000 grant
Local organization A VOICE - Art Vision and Outreach In Community Education - has just received the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) American Rescue Plan Grant to expand their community programs. Offered online by the NEA in December for organizations around the country, the grant is unique in that it allows nonprofits to use the funds for administrative means, helping to both keep the doors open and expand what they can offer. One of only five recipients in the state, A VOICE will receive $100,000 over the course of two years. Director and co-founder David Spear said that, due to their organization's size, support of this type is rare and very welcome. "It's a considerable amount of money for us, and it's also kind of new territory," he stated.

Special delivery: Key Club project benefits local newborns
Polson High School Key Club members have learned that donating funds is a great way to help your community. They also learned there's more you can do. Throughout the school year, the Key Club raises funds to help meet community needs. Through Halloween candy sales, sponsoring the Spree formal dance and other means, they recently were able to donate $330 to the nonprofit Helping Hands of Mission Valley for their ongoing Community Cradle project, which provides baby supplies and bassinet boxes for every baby born at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center. Key Club president Brookelyn Slonaker said the group realized that someone would still need to find and purchase all the items for the boxes and assemble the packages. So they did that, too. "It's one thing to raise money and donate it. It's another thing to then volunteer and see where that money is going," Slonaker said. "It really engaged our members." Key Club advisor Karen Dhuyvetter said the group purchased many of the supplies at Walmart in Polson and ordered special nightgowns online. The packages included onesies, diapers, blankets, hand-knit hats from community donors, a gift card and a certificate for a free postpartum checkup. They assembled 13 full packages, and all extra supplies were left with Jennifer Rolfsness at Helping Hands for future boxes.

Bringing Up Grades With the Kiwanis
The Glasgow Kiwanis Club presented BUG (Bring Up Grades) Certificates to 28 students at the Irle Elementary School recently. Ice cream with toppings was served to them by students from the Glasgow Middle School Builders Club. Charles Wilson and Lisa Koski represented the Kiwanis Club. Those students in the fourth grade who brought up their grades were Bethany Bras, Clair Britzman, Ava Budde, Myracle Henry, Addison Hughes, Quincy Iwen, Olivia Jackson, Harry Murphy, Rueby Nixdorf, Ryker Nixdorf, Lakelyn Olson, Riley Pattison, Walker Sugg and Baden White.

Bucholz wins county spelling bee
Ekalaka eighth grader Braxton Bucholz won the 2022 Carter County Spelling Bee last Friday. Bucholz and Alzada School student Tanner Wright battled back and forth for several minutes before a winner was declared. Hammond School had a strong showing as well, with students taking third, fourth, fifth and sixth. The spelling bee was directed by Tracey Walker with assistance from Tricia Lovec and Lynn Williams. Jerry Cline, Vicki Fix and Mikel Fruit served as judges. Brice Lambert was this year's pronouncer.

Preston takes 1st in county spelling bee
Robert Preston, a seventh grader from Greenfield Elementary School, was the winner of the 2022 Teton County Spelling Bee. Preston's last two words he successfully spelled to win the spelling bee were "paisley" and "cornucopia." Finishing in second place was Choteau seventh grader Natalie Hodgskiss. The top two spellers placed during the spelling bee's fifth round. There were 58 spellers from Choteau, Dutton/Brady, Fairfield, Greenfield and Power elementary schools who qualified for the yearly spelling bee that was held in the Choteau Public Schools auditorium on Feb. 8. There were 34 participants who spelled their word correctly during the first round of competition. That number dwindled by a handful of spellers in the next three rounds. Overall, they spelled 155 words. Teton County Superintendent of Schools Cathy Session congratulated the students on a successful spelling bee and praised them for their hard work in making the bee from their local schools and representing their schools at the county bee. Sessions and Choteau's Superintendent/Elementary Principal Chuck Gameon presented each of the participants with a medal and certificate.

Broadus Elementary Students Spread Kindness
During the month of January, students at Broadus Elementary worked to spread kindness around their homes, school and community. The week of January 24th they participated in a national event called, "The Great Kindness Challenge". According to the website, our students joined over 18 million other children in more than 115 countries this year. Over the past five years, classes have competed against each other to see which class could rack up the most "kind acts" during the week of the GKC. This year, the students worked on this task for most of January.

Big Sandy FFA competes at Districts
District results are finally in. Our JV mechanics team took 1st, with Hunter Moore placing first individually, Quinn Rodewald placing 7th, Darrell Sunchild 9th and Jayton Ophus 15th. Our Varsity mechanics team placed 2nd. Lance Rutledge once again took 1st individually, Cooper Taylor and Christian Winderl both tied for 8th, and Connor Sibra placed 12th. Both our JV and Varsity Agronomy teams placed 3rd. 

East Helena High welding students building pavilion for Camp Rimini
East Helena High School's welding students are hard at work this week building a steel pavilion that will house an exhibit by the Montana Military Museum at historic Camp Rimini. Camp Rimini was established in 1936 and used as a training site for U.S. military "war dogs" from 1942-1945. Museum Director Raymond Read said the project is largely a way to honor the late David Armstrong Jr., a former U.S. Army sled dog trainer and co-founder of Race to the Sky. Armstrong died in April 2021 at the age of 100. Read said the museum has been working with Armstrong's family to put something at the Camp Rimini site that would make Armstrong proud. "He wanted to recognize that site," Read said. "It's just a parking lot right now, so we wanted to put something up there that would have information about what the site was all about." Casey Harris, East Helena High's welding teacher since the school's inception, said his father is part of the Honor Guard in Helena, which is affiliated with the Montana Military Museum. This is how the class became aware of the Camp Rimini project.

Hamilton senior raises funds to bring music to Missoula's Ronald McDonald House
A Hamilton Christian Academy senior is raising funds to purchase musical instruments for Ronald McDonald House residents in Missoula. HCA Senior Lizzy Potts has stayed at a Ronald McDonald House and has organized an online fundraiser to benefit families who stay and hopefully play. Potts said that she has a personal experience of her and her family staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Portland, Oregon. "While I was there, I enjoyed many different activities that the house hosted," Potts said. "In addition to their main focus, which is to give families of sick children free accommodations, one of the main things I really enjoyed was their music program." The RMH had musical instruments around the house and on Tuesdays and Thursdays brought in instructors with their ukuleles.

Students help Yellowstone National Park with citizen science
Corvallis High School science students completed their ninth trip with the Corvallis Winter Wildlife Program to Yellowstone National Park to work with a wildlife biologist on park research projects. Educators Laura Carrasco and Jeff Kaiser guided the students. "It's an amazing experience for the students," Carrasco said. "I can't express the significant impact it has. We partner with Ecology Project International in Missoula, which is an organization that organizes ecology programs all over the world, engaging students in real research and citizen science." Kaiser agreed with the key educational value and said hands-on leaves an impression. "I'm lucky enough to have students in the classroom and students in the field," Kaiser said. "It's amazing how when you give them the opportunity to be in the field, they retain [what you teach] 10 times better. They get more education from being in the field."

Area robotics teams advance to state
Northwest Montana robotics teams are headed to the Montana FIRST Lego League Challenge and FIRST Tech Challenge state championships. Three FIRST Lego League teams from West Valley School, two teams from Ronan and two from Eureka will compete at the FIRST Lego League championship Feb. 26 at Montana State University in Bozeman. The teams made state after making the top 30 out of 52 teams at the FIRST Lego League Montana State Virtual Qualifier Feb. 5. The RoboScout Squad, made up of members from Girl Scout Troop 3709, will be competing at the FIRST Tech Challenge March 5 in Belgrade. At state, all teams will be tasked with completing missions or objectives centered around the theme of shipping and logistics. The FIRST Lego League Challenge is open to children ages 9 through 14. At this level, students use kits to build and program robots to complete missions. This year, competitors will program robots to navigate a game board, retrieving and delivering cargo to help planes, trains and trucks complete their work within two and a half minutes, according to a press release. Competitors will also present on the process of coding and designing their robots. In a third part of the competition, students research and share solutions to a problem on the season's theme.

Valleydictorian Senior Profile: Parker Werholz
Parker Werholz, Billings West High School, What are your plans after high school? To start my apprenticeship at Mountain Electric of Billings. Taking this accelerated program will motivate me to finish my textbooks quickly and hopefully give me a good head start. After my apprenticeship, I would love to purchase some rental properties by investing in real estate. What is your favorite class in school & why? My favorite class is at the Career Center of Billings. Electrical 1-2 / electronics 1-2 has given me a great idea on what being an electrician is about. My favorite part is wiring the Career Center house along with my classmates.

Big Sky high schooler starts state's first Spanish-language publication
It's not often a teenager decides to start a newspaper. But after eight weeks chronicling the lives of Latinos in Big Sky as a student intern with a local newspaper, Samantha Suazo was hooked. "I wrote about the fears, needs and everyday life of the Latino community," Suazo said. "And after I finished that I realized I couldn't stop there." She dug up stories affecting Latinos for the Lone Peak Lookout that hadn't been reported on - a common challenge she found was a lack of reliable information for Spanish speakers. Bilingual herself, Suazo wanted that to change. "My Latino community feel that we weren't part of the broader community due to the lack of information," she said. "I saw the issue." Suazo, 19, founded Noticias Montaña, or Mountain News, in 2020. It's the only Spanish-language publication in Montana and the online publication covers local and regional news in Gallatin County. She writes general news, local business and feature stories. She profiles successful Latino community members, and posts news about events around Big Sky.

Indigenous Education programs in Great Falls Public Schools being supported by new grant
Through the Great Falls Public Schools (GFPS) Foundation, a $20,000 grant was provided to support Indigenous Education programs. Sisters United provided the grant to support the Indigenous Education programs. The foundation says that as a part of the grant, raised garden beds will be built at every public school in the Electric City this spring. Sweetgrass will be planted and students will learn about the plant science and the native tradition of smudging, a ceremonial burning of grass bundles. Other plants will follow.

Two Bitterroot youth win trip to Washington DC
Two students from the Bitterroot Valley have been selected to travel to Washington, D.C. by Montana electric cooperatives. Across the state, the Montana Electric Cooperatives Association and electric cooperatives are sending 26 high school students on an all-expenses-paid trip to the nation's capital for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association's 2022 Youth Tour to Washington, D.C., from June 18-24. Madeline Sacry from Stevensville High School and Tylin Sorenson from Corvallis High School will join 24 other youth from Montana to spend a week in Washington, D.C., experiencing history, learning more about how cooperatives work and what they do, and visiting with their congressional delegation. Students are selected by writing and submitting an essay. This year the topic was, "What does the second democratic principle mean to you and your community?" Ravalli Electric Co-op Communications Specialist Melissa Greenwood said that principle is about democratic member control. Stevensville High School student Madeline Sacry was selected as the REC initial winner and when her essay was forwarded she was chosen as statewide Youth Tour essay contest winner. Her trip is paid for by the Montana Electric Cooperatives Association.

Students can explore mechanics, manufacturing careers
Are you interested in learning more about education and careers in the fields of manufacturing and mechanics? Join Helena College and Helena WINS on Wednesday, Feb. 16, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Helena College airport campus, for our PROSPECTS career exploration event: Manufacturing and Mechanics Night. This event will provide high school students and their parents an opportunity to explore the manufacturing and mechanics career fields by connecting with Helena College instructors and local industry leaders. Highlighted industries include: mechanics in the auto, aviation, and diesel fields, CNC & manual machining, and welding. Free pizza and drinks will be provided for attendees.

Great Falls Public Schools Foundation receives $20K donation to support Indigenous education
The Great Falls Public Schools Foundation - which works to enhance learning opportunities for students - received a $20,000 donation from Sisters United, a local nonprofit that supports Native women and girls, to support Indigenous education programs.

Business sense - Local students shine at state DECA Conference
Young entrepreneurs and business-minded students from Flathead, Glacier, Whitefish and Polson high schools had a successful showing at the Montana DECA Conference. At the state conference, held Jan. 30 through Feb. 1, students competed in marketing, finance, hospitality and management events, among others. Flathead received awards and top accolades at the competition. Students, Wyatt Thompson and Katie Breary, were selected to be state officers for the 2022-23 school year. Twelve interviewed for the positions, according to Flathead DECA adviser Caitlin Heuscher. The Flathead team also received the prized Spirit Award traveling trophy, which is given to the chapter that "goes above and beyond" in showing leadership and professionalism at state while participating in various activities in addition to competing. Flathead's achievement of Thrive Level status was also recognized at state for the work the chapter completed through Membership, Promotional and Community Service campaigns during "DECA month," in November. Flathead was the only team to achieve this level in the state, according to Heuscher.

Five Cardwell Students Move on to Jefferson County Spelling Bee
Cardwell Elementary School Spelling Bee winners for grades 5-8 have qualified for the Jefferson County Spelling Bee, which will be held on February 9th. Grades 4-8 competed, however, only grades 5-8 move on to the county level. The fourth-grade winner was J.W. Engler and the eighth-grade winner was Kirin Clausen. Others representing Cardwell elementary include Kirin Clausen (8th), Aubrey Helton (7th), Raine Clausen (6th), Eon Hunt (7th), and Gavyn Coombe (7th).

WHS Principal Earns Department of Defense Patriot Award
Melissa Robbins, Whitehall High School Principal, has been awarded a Department of Defense Patriot Award in recognition of extraordinary support of her civilian employee serving in the United States Army Reserve 7252 Medical Support Unit, Staff Sergeant Zachary Kozicky. The Patriot Award was developed by ESGR to publicly recognize civilian employees who provide outstanding patriotic support and cooperation to their civilian employees serving in the guard or reserve. Without supportive employers, the strength and readiness of the nation's Guard and Reserve units cannot be maintained. Staff Sergeant Kozicky's nomination stated, "Melissa always supports my military career and encourages me to share my military side with the student body."

Rau School Student Of The Quarter
Rau School would like to announce Layla Petrik, daughter of Kale Petrik and Carly Zadow, as their student of the second quarter. Layla is a helpful and caring student. She always puts 100% effort into everything that she does. She is very kind and welcoming to all the other students at Rau. Layla is a hard working student and sets a good example for other students by following the rules. She is polite to staff and students alike. She is always trying to make others laugh with her goofy sense of humor. Layla enjoys hockey, hunting, and spending time with her family and friends. 

Young filmmakers run with the big dogs at FLIC
Kids these days. They can do way more with technology than just help older folks out with their phones and laptops. With "Finding Yawu'nik'" and "Winter 1941," two local groups of young filmmakers showed the adults at the 2022 Flathead Lake International Cinemafest (FLIC) that good stories can make it to the big screen no matter who you are. In "Finding Yawu'nik'," Polson Middle School students interviewed several local residents with different interpretations of what the Flathead Lake Monster might be. Nine students - Analeigh Bryant, Jack Huffine, Arlonna Christopher, Kaylee Coles, Rosie Lies, Morgan Delany, Greta Lund, Annalyse Lozar and Zoey Rogers - created the film at a one-week Montana Media Labs "Digital Camp" last summer, just as their fifth- and sixth-grade school years ended. Media teacher Tami Morrison said the camp focused on digital literacy, including technical skills as well as how to identify reliable news sources. The students learned how to storyboard, contact sources, film, photograph, capture sound and edit footage. Interviewees included District Judge James Manley, Kootenai Culture Committee Director Vernon Finley, CSKT Fisheries Biologist Barry Hansen and Polson Flathead Lake Museum's Karen Dunwell, and another anonymous person who related a personal anecdote.

Plains drama students stage heart-touching play
Plains High School drama members performed the heart-touching play "A Little Piece of Heaven" last week. Directed by Terri Henry and took place at the Plains High School for two nights on Jan 27 and 28. The play centered around the tragedy of losing a person you hold close to and how to deal with the loss. "A Little Piece of Heaven" is a story about a very odd couple that owned a curiosity shop where lost items and their owners were reunited after many years and where friendships were forged, and hearts were healed. Cast member Alex Horodyski, playing Jared Havens, brought his character to life with his fear of achieving the dreaded age of 50. While cast members Aubrey Tulloch, playing Lily Adair, and Dowson Brown playing Michael Cain, showed how two people came together and shared their memories of those they have lost. The outstanding performance was enjoyed by all in attendance.

LPHS junior selected as 2022 MHSA student rep
With a little help from athletic director John Hannahs, Max Romney applied for one of eight spots on a student advisory council for the Montana High School Association (MHSA). He was accepted as a Class C representative along with Ayla Janzen of the Twin Bridges Falcons. The MHSA is a governing body for high schools across the state that oversees sport regulations and rule changes. According to their website, "Originally founded in 1921 to regulate athletic competition, the Montana High School Association strives to serve all member schools by governing high school interscholastic activities in Montana." In 2022, MHSA decided to create their first ever Student Advisory Council to provide a voice and avenue for students to get input into the decision-making process and help raise awareness about the organization. To get the position, students had to be involved in sports, recommended by their athletic director, and then answer a few essay-style questions 300-500 words long. Max explained they had him write a short biography and talk about sportsmanship and leadership within a sports community. Max will be on the advisory council until he graduates in June 2023. "I thought it'd be super cool to help build something that would hopefully be around and have an impact for the next little while at least in Montana. I thought it'd be super cool to get involved with something at the very beginning and kinda see how something like that gets started and help create change in Montana sports," said Romney.

USDA helps schools build back better, issues transitional nutrition standards for coming school years
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced updates to the school nutrition standards that give schools a clear path forward as they build back better from the pandemic. These actions provide support for the dedicated school meal program operators who provide critical nutrition to millions of children every school day. By issuing transitional standards that will begin in school year (SY) 2022-2023 and that USDA intends to run through SY 2023-2024, USDA is giving schools time to transition from current, pandemic operations, toward more nutritious meals. In 2022, USDA will continue to prioritize supporting schools as they navigate the challenges of the pandemic and related operational issues while also ensuring children continue to enjoy healthy meals at school. The department is also planning for the future by engaging with school meal stakeholders to establish long-term nutrition standards beginning in SY 2024-2025 that will be achievable and put children's health at the forefront. Together, these actions will pave the way to stronger, more resilient school meal programs. Nutritious school meals give America's children the foundation for successful, healthy lives," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "We applaud schools' heroic efforts throughout the challenges of this pandemic to continue serving kids the most nutritious meals possible. The standards we're putting in place for the next two school years will help schools transition to a future that builds on the tremendous strides they've made improving school meal nutrition over the past decade."

Brurud receives George M. Dennison Scholarship
Montana Campus Compact recently announced that Montana State Univerisity-Northern Community Leadership student Susan Brurud is one of the 13 recipients of the 2021-22 George M. Dennison Scholarship Award. "My vision is to see all youth educated in community organization, policy work and civic engagement that will help shape them into future leaders who are engaged, confident and informed," Brurud said. "I would like to see a school curriculum that starts in grade school and empowers youth to lead and gives them the opportunity to serve their community, regardless of age, sex, race, or socio-economic indicators." All of the civically engaged college student applicants represent former University of Montana President George M. Dennison's vision of building strong, equitable, and just communities through volunteerism, civic engagement and service.

Target Range, Seeley Lake both to see park improvements
Projects to improve a playground at Target Range Elementary School and a park in Seeley Lake have received grant money from Missoula County. The two grants came through the county's Parks, Trails and Open Lands Program. The Target Range project will receive $20,000, while the Seeley Lake playground project and community ice rink in Clearwater Park will get nearly $17,000 and $1,420 respectively. "We strive for an equitable spread across the county, with the program focused on projects and community initiatives outside Missoula city limits," Missoula County parks and trails project specialist Jackson Lee said in an email. "We are always looking for ways to extend the reach of these awards and we encourage community groups to bring their ideas or initiatives forward for funding consideration." Paige Judnich, president of the Target Range School Foundation, has helped spearhead the effort for improvements near the school, which will update the second- through fifth-grade playground. That foundation initially was formed in 1995, went passive and then was resuscitated in 2020 to help with fundraising for the project. They set out with the goal of raising $160,000. The project will likely cost around $260,000 (though could be finished for a little less) and matching funds will cover the remainder.

Today's Achievers, Tomorrow's Leaders: Flathead senior leads with kindness
Flathead High School senior Marley Miller is someone who leads and mentors with kindness, empathy and maturity. Flathead Career Center Director Mike Kelly highlighted Miller's natural inclination to seek out ways he can help out and does so with "a bright and positive energy that lifts others along with him," in his letter nominating the International Baccalaureate student and Academic All-State athlete. "Marley stands out as one of the most impressive, self-motivated, engaged and kind students at Flathead High School," Kelly wrote. The Today's Achievers, Tomorrow's Leaders program recognizes the academic achievement and community involvement of high school students who contribute to improving the lives of others. The award is sponsored by Logan Health in collaboration with the Daily Inter Lake. In addition to the recognition, honorees choose a school club or activity to receive a $250 donation. Miller is donating the money to Brave Mentoring, a program he has been involved with throughout high school and is a member of the executive leadership team. "It really has been helping the freshman in our high school - making it a welcoming environment for them," Miller said.

'Students helping students': Bozeman Schools Foundation raising money food insecurity program
Brown paper bags went home with elementary students in Bozeman last week as part of a fundraiser to help students who are experiencing food insecurity throughout Gallatin Valley. Bozeman Schools Foundation's Pack the Sack fundraiser is in its third year, and aims to both educate children and families on the food needs in the area while also getting elementary school students involved in raising money. The Bozeman Schools Foundation partnered with Gallatin Valley Food Bank and HRDC, which runs the KidsPack program. The program provides students a bag of food that goes home with them at the end of the week to ensure children have enough food over the weekend. "Bozeman is always viewed as such an affluent, robust, well-resourced community. I think food insecurity and hunger can go unseen," said Jenn Lammers, executive director of Bozeman Schools Foundation. Each elementary school student in Bozeman Schools received a paper bag last week with information on food insecurity in the area and details on the program. Families are asked to fill the bags with cash or a check to be returned by Feb. 14.

Helena Public Schools add instructional coaches to help teachers address gaps
For the last two years, Helena Public Schools teachers have been hard at work, supporting students through the COVID-19 pandemic. The district has also made an investment in support for the teachers themselves, by bringing in more instructional coaches. "I like to say that I get to help teachers teach," said Christy Mock-Stutz, a coach at Helena Middle School. Mock-Stutz is now one of 19 instructional coaches working in the district. "I really view my role as side-by-side, working with teachers – helping support them with resources, helping support them with ideas, help with planning, help with analyzing data," she said.

DEQ Awards Harlem Public Schools with Grant for Cleaner Bus
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has awarded six school districts, including Harlem Public Schools, with clean school bus replacement grants. The grants will help school districts replace older diesel school buses with newer diesel, propane and gasoline models to help reduce air pollution. DEQ awarded grants to the Columbia Falls, East Helena, Frenchtown, Harlem, Kalispell and Twin Bridges School Districts. The grants will fund a total of nine new buses with Columbia Falls receiving two buses, Kalispell receiving three buses and the rest receiving one each. Older diesel buses release nitrogen oxides which can lead to asthma and respiratory illnesses, especially in children and older adults who are known to be at increased risk. DEQ's Clean School Bus Replacement program aims to reduce kids' exposure to harmful diesel exhaust from old diesel buses across the state.

Havre High lists students of the month
Rayna Johnson is a Havre High School Student of the Month for January 2022. She is the daughter of Jeff and Jennifer Johnson and has one sibling, Aaron, who is 13. Rayna is a junior who is active in cheerleading, tennis, Key Club, Pep Club and AP chemistry. She works part time at a local pharmacy when her schedule allows. She also babysits and volunteers in the community. Lindsey Ratliff, who nominated Rayna, said she is, "both an exceptional student as well as a wonderful person. I have thoroughly enjoyed having Rayna in Current Issues and believe she will be highly successful in whatever she pursues. She has strong critical thinking skills and enjoys having intellectual conversations. She is constantly in pursuit of deeper knowledge on every issue and consistently participates in all group discussion. All of Rayna's work is always complete, accurate and thoughtful. Having a student like Rayna in class brings a 'Ray' of sunshine to my day. Way to go, Rayna!"

A Billings science teacher is guiding international STEM trips for area middle school students
A teacher at Medicine Crow Middle School is going way out of her way to teach science to young teens. Eighth-grade science teacher Jessica Felchle is traveling with students internationally to teach and learn about global STEM topics. Starting with a teacher trip in Panama, she became inspired to host trips for students – so far to the Florida Keys and with a plan to visit Puerto Rico in June. "This is probably one of the highlights of my career so far," said Felchle of her 16-year career. In Panama, Felchle and 17 other teachers from different places harvested plants alongside indigenous villagers to learn about the region's ecology. They spent time at the village school with local students and toured the Panama Canal. The village they visited is located on the banks of Lake Alajuela in Chagres National Park, which is home to the Emberá people. Among the many adventures, the group boated into the rainforest to harvest mangrove propagules and worked to remove invasive species endangering birds along the shore.

'Takes a village': School counselors and therapists work to shore up student mental health
Each day at Chief Joseph Middle School is different for Brian Mitchell. Like the Bozeman School District's 19 other school counselors, he might find himself teaching in classrooms, or case planning with in-school therapists, or meeting with teachers and school administrators, or coordinating care with parents, or talking with students about anything from scheduling to how they're doing. "I feel like we end up serving in so many types of roles," Mitchell said. "Our role is kind of really multi-faceted and spread across multiple layers of the school." Mitchell, who has been a school counselor for the last seven years, said his favorite part of his job is connecting with the students every day. "Seeing them experience the social side of school, the academic side of school, and being a part of encouraging them and giving them a safe place to come every day," Mitchell said. "It's fulfilling being a part of that system. 

U.S. Presidential Scholars Program candidates
The 2022 U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, one of the highest honors bestowed upon graduating high school seniors, has selected more than 5,000 candidates. The following candidates are from Billings West High School and Billings Senior High School.

Bitterroot teen gathers over 50,000 clothing items for people in need
Morgan's Helping Hands gathered and donated over 50,000 warm clothing items for the Bitterroot community this holiday season. Morgan Bisel, 14, completed her fourth year of the community service project. She said she had lots of help and enjoyed sharing the value of community service with younger students. Morgan's Helping Hands collects warm clothing items by placing collection bins around the valley, gathering donated items and distributing them where they are needed. Bisel said she appreciates the businesses and organizations that allowed her collection bins to be placed on their property, Roots Church, the Hamilton LDS Church, Corvallis LDS Church, Corvallis School District, Murdoch's Ranch Supply, Canyon Athletic Club and Sapphire Lutheran Homes. "I give a special thanks to Dominic [Farrenkopf] and the Sapphire Lutheran Homes residents for their continued support of my project," she said. The numbers are amazing and speak to a supportive community.

Kalispell and Columbia Falls schools receive grants for 'cleaner' buses
Kalispell and Columbia Falls school districts are recipients of clean school bus replacement grants awarded by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. The grants will be used to purchase new diesel, propane, or gasoline buses, which will replace older diesel models in an effort to reduce air pollution, according to a press release from the DEQ. Kalispell will receive three buses and Columbia Falls, two. Other districts receiving grant funding to each get a bus are East Helena, Frenchtown, Harlem and Twin Bridges. "DEQ has funded 39 new buses for school districts across the state in the last two years in an effort to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions," said DEQ Energy Bureau Chief Dan Lloyd. "The buses are cleaner and improve air quality resulting in improved health for Montana students." According to the DEQ, older diesel buses release nitrogen oxides which can lead to asthma and respiratory illnesses. Children and older adults are known to be at increased risk. DEQ's Clean School Bus Replacement program aims to reduce children's exposure to diesel exhaust. Columbia Falls School District began purchasing propane buses in 2019, not only for the environmental aspects but also to reduce maintenance and fuel costs.

Five Cardwell Students Move on to Jefferson County Spelling Bee
Cardwell Elementary School Spelling Bee winners for grades 5-8 have qualified for the Jefferson County Spelling Bee, which will be held on February 9th. Grades 4-8 competed, however, only grades 5-8 move on to the county level. The fourth-grade winner was J.W. Engler and the eighth-grade winner was Kirin Clausen. Others representing Cardwell elementary include Kirin Clausen (8th), Aubrey Helton (7th), Raine Clausen (6th), Eon Hunt (7th), and Gavyn Coombe (7th). The Jefferson County Spelling Bee will be held on Wednesday, February 9th, at 6:00 pm at the Clancy Gym. Please enter through the gym doors.

Plains drama club a big hit
The Plains Drama Club's first performance in the new school building was a big success last week, according to the club's coach Terri Henry. "It was great! Both performances were superb," said Henry, the drama coach for 30 years. "Every character was well played and held while on stage," said Henry, who added that the students' performance was "amazing." The 13 Plains High School and home school students put on two performances of "A Little Piece of Heaven" Thursday and Friday in the school's new gymnasium and multipurpose building. The two-hour performances received standing ovations from the audiences each night.

Montana high schools to add baseball
On Monday, January 17th, the Montana High School Association had its annual meeting in Butte and voted to adopt high school baseball, with the first games to be played in the spring of 2023. Montana was one of only three states who didn't have high school baseball, along with Wyoming and South Dakota. The new ruling will change all of that. Stevensville's Athletic Director Chance Edman spearheaded this effort by submitting an official request to the MHSA in December of 2020. "At the time, there was a local groundswell movement in our district to get baseball started," says Edman. "I just kind of rode the wave and got it going with the request." From there a survey was conducted to see if there was enough interest to form a committee, which there was, then the committee saw enough demand to call for Monday's vote.

Plains drama students stage heart-touching play
Plains High School drama members performed the heart-touching play "A Little Piece of Heaven" last week. Directed by Terri Henry and took place at the Plains High School for two nights on Jan 27 and 28. The play centered around the tragedy of losing a person you hold close to and how to deal with the loss. "A Little Piece of Heaven" is a story about a very odd couple that owned a curiosity shop where lost items and their owners were reunited after many years and where friendships were forged, and hearts were healed. Cast member Alex Horodyski, playing Jared Havens, brought his character to life with his fear of achieving the dreaded age of 50. While cast members Aubrey Tulloch, playing Lily Adair, and Dowson Brown playing Michael Cain, showed how two people came together and shared their memories of those they have lost.

Help ensure children receive healthy meals during summer months
As we go into a healthy summer, join the Office of Public Instruction (OPI) in serving our Montana children. The USDA's Summer Food Service Program(SFSP) ensures that children who depend on school meals have nutritious food when school is not in session. Meals are available to children 18 years old or younger during school closures, no questions asked. All kids need to do is show up and eat! Sponsor participation and meal sites are needed to ensure Montana's children in low-income areas have continued access to healthy meals and snacks. The Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI) is accepting applications for the 2022 summer from public and private nonprofit schools, local government agencies, and private nonprofit organizations interested in sponsoring the SFSP.

Laurel High School Community Scholarships
Laurel High School had a very successful 2021 school year promoting scholarships for seniors. Counselors and the administration are looking to the Laurel community for those interested in continuing or becoming a part of the Community Scholarship Program. The primary sources of community scholarship donations are local businesses, professional groups, and private individuals. The values of these scholarships range from $100 to Donor Discretion. The willingness to help a young person pursue a post-secondary education is the motivating force behind the scholarship program.

Powell County moving to 8-man football
The Powell County high school football team will have a new set of opponents starting next year and a new number of players on the field.  The Montana High School Association executive committee recently approved a resolution to allow the Wardens to play a varsity schedule of eight-man football starting next year.  PCHS athletic director Henry Huber said the MHSA considered enrollment, participation and success in their decision.  "It was hurting the program," Huber said. "Playing an 11-man game with 14 kids is hard to play."  For the last two years, the Wardens have played a junior varsity schedule due to diminishing numbers on the roster. Last season there were 16 players out for the team with no seniors.

Homebase: Junior High class challenges youths to think about their future; a few don't like that
The Columbia Falls School District 6 board earlier this month told a small but vocal group it would not debate the merits of a class at the junior high called Homebase that uses, in part, a curriculum known as social and emotional learning. The group of folks, many of which don't even have children attending Columbia Falls schools, have urged the board over the past several weeks to place the class on the agenda. About 10 people recently signed a petition asking the board to debate the merits of the class. School board chairwoman Jill Rocksund noted there were several reasons for not placing the class on the agenda. "We don't have the ability to 'unadopt' SEL instruction, just as we don't have the  authority to disregard Montana state standards," she noted in a statement written by the board to the group. "Standards and learning  competencies are constructed by the state Office of Public Instruction, and local districts do not have the authority  to disregard them."

Grant will help nonprofit move building to junior high garden
The Whitefish Community Foundation awarded a $25,000 grant to Land to Hand to support the relocation of the organization's building next to the Wildcat Garden at Columbia Falls Junior High School, the organization announced last week. The building is currently located on Fourth Avenue West near Glacier Gateway School. The organization will pay to have it moved later this year. The grant was made possible by members of the Whitefish Community Foundation's Circle of Giving and other donors who support the Major Community Project Fund. Land to Hand (formerly known as Farm Hands – Nourish the Flathead) is a nonprofit organization that provides Flathead Valley residents with access to fresh, local food through the organization's Food for All Programs, including fruit and vegetables grown at the Wildcat Garden. Land to Hand also administers Double Snap Dollars and Senior Coupons and provides Columbia Falls school children with healthy snacks on the weekends and during school closures through its Backpack Enhancement Program. The new location serves as the ideal place for Land to Hand to offer gardening and healthy cooking programs for children, as well as to store, stage, and deliver food to those in need.

North Star seniors fundraising for trip to East Coast
North Star School students are raising money for this year's senior trip to the East Coast, and an enterprising senior at the School is holding a raffle for more than $2,300 of large items, merchandise and gift certificates to help pay for her expenses. Senior Makaila Horinek, who is an honors student on track to be valedictorian of the Class of 2022, has been working along with other North Star seniors to raise money as a group to help pay for the weeklong trip, said her mother, Teri Horinek. The March senior trip, which will take the students to New York City, Boston, Washington and Philadelphia, is booked through a tour agency. North Star provides the bus to take the seniors to the airport in Great Falls and home again, gives the students excused time away from classes and allows the students to raise money at school events. Throughout the year, they have sold maple bars at Saturday morning basketball games, held soup lunches and 50/50 raffles, and sold Christmas wreaths. But beyond what the students earn with their group efforts, each student needs to pay their expenses and provide their own spending money.

Bozeman High School renovations wrap up
The classrooms are filled, the auditorium is ready to be filled, and the ribbon has been cut - that's a wrap on Bozeman High School's roughly $30 million in renovations, which started in May 2020. While landscaping is scheduled to be finished in early spring, the district held an official ribbon cutting Tuesday evening celebrating the completion of the high school's renovations. "It's exciting," said Principal Dan Mills. "There's been a lot of flexibility and patience shown by our students and staff … We have this beautiful building." The demolition of the old classroom wing started in spring 2020 to make way for the two-story wing that includes 15 new classrooms and a new common area. "That was a very spread out, sprawling campus. Now most of that will be new green space on the corner of 11th and Main," Mills said. Students started off this school year in the new classrooms, with larger hallways in the wing to include breakout spaces for students to spread out. The new entrance along Ruth Thibeault Way and the student commons area opened in November 2021. The space is still awaiting some furniture and equipment for the coffee shop, similar to the one in Gallatin High. Mills said he expects the student commons coffee shop to open by the spring.

New and updated courses coming to Flathead and Glacier
New and updated courses at Flathead and Glacier high schools will be offered next school year, including a semester-long Equipment Operation Internship. Up to a dozen juniors and seniors are projected to enroll in the internship at Flathead. Students will learn how to maintain and operate heavy equipment through on-the-job training, according to the course objectives. Students will train with a sponsoring equipment dealer and construction company. For the 2022-23 school year, sponsoring companies are RDO Equipment Co. and Schellinger Construction. "This internship provides a unique opportunity for non-college-bound students to enter the workforce directly out of school. Students will gain skills and wage-earning capacity to stay in the valley if they choose. Local businesses are willing to invest in our students in order to avoid employee shortages," Flathead career and technical education teacher Rob Hunter wrote in the course proposal. Internship students will be able to obtain one credit for the semester-long course.

Bonner principal named Montana's National Distinguished Principal of the year
Students, staff and faculty quietly waited Tuesday in the gym at Bonner Elementary School, brimming with excitement, to celebrate principal Shelley Andres, who was recently named this year's National Distinguished Principal for the state of Montana. Andres was met with wild applause and cheering when she turned the corner to walk down the stairs. The school's nearly 350 students and staff filled the bleachers and gym floor. "We have great teachers because we have a great principal and Mrs. Andres was chosen by her peers across the state of Montana," said Bonner Superintendent Jim Howard. "That means all the principals ... saw Mrs. Andres as the kind of leader that they know makes the school a great school," he added. Andres was formally recognized with her award at the School Administrators of Montana statewide conference in Bozeman on Monday. At the surprise celebration event on Tuesday afternoon, several of her colleagues and other school community members shared their congratulations. Her co-workers also put together a video expressing their gratitude for her leadership.

Bryant Elementary and Helena College partnership promotes lifelong learning
Bryant Elementary School and Helena College have formed a partnership that aims to give fifth grade students a better idea of what college is all about. The partnership began this school year, when Helena College adopted Bryant's fifth grade class as honorary Helena College students. These students walk across the street to Helena College one day a month and participate in various education projects. "We try to be good neighbors to Bryant. For example, we've done things like Halloween trick-or-treating," said Sandra Bauman, Helena College's dean. "But we wanted to take that to the next level -- show them that there is a world of educational opportunities out there." Bauman said this partnership came to be through talks with Bryant's fifth grade teachers and principal. The program's goal is to expose fifth grade students to all of the different kinds of educational opportunities out there. Bauman said they've done things like creative writing with professor Virginia Reeves and a science lab with Dr. John Hartmann. In late January, they did an art project with professor Seth Roby.

UM brings mental health support to rural Montana students
For rural Montana school kids, getting access to mental health care often involves long – and in winter months, harrowing – car rides to distant towns. To bring consistent mental health care directly to remote schoolrooms across the state, the University of Montana recently launched a program that marries the expertise of graduate students in counseling with expanding internet access in Montana. The Tele-Counseling Clinic is one of many programs offered by UM's Safe Schools Center. The center, housed in the Phyllis J. Washington College of Education, provides individualized school safety training programs, professional development and technical support. "Big schools have counselors who can walk down the hall and help, and we don't have that resource," said Kristi Borge, the 2021 Montana Teacher-of-the-Year who teaches at the one-room school house in Polaris, where 11 students grade first to eighth attend classes. "Without this program, kids would have to go to Dillon or Bozeman for counseling. This has definitely been great for our students." While the program has come to the forefront during the COVID-19 pandemic, Safe Schools Center Director Emily Sallee said its development has been in the works for some time.

January 2022 GREAT NEWS

Bryant Elementary and Helena College partnership promotes lifelong learning
Bryant Elementary School and Helena College have formed a partnership that aims to give fifth grade students a better idea of what college is all about. The partnership began this school year, when Helena College adopted Bryant's fifth grade class as honorary Helena College students. These students walk across the street to Helena College one day a month and participate in various education projects.  "We try to be good neighbors to Bryant. For example, we've done things like Halloween trick-or-treating," said Sandra Bauman, Helena College's dean. "But we wanted to take that to the next level -- show them that there is a world of educational opportunities out there." Bauman said this partnership came to be through talks with Bryant's fifth grade teachers and principal. The program's goal is to expose fifth grade students to all of the different kinds of educational opportunities out there. Bauman said they've done things like creative writing with professor Virginia Reeves and a science lab with Dr. John Hartmann. In late January, they did an art project with professor Seth Roby.

Quest complete for two Flathead High students
When Flathead senior Maayana Sattler found out she was named a QuestBridge Scholar, she went to one of her speech and debate coach's classrooms and collapsed with excitement when sharing the news. The stress from where the money would come to pay tuition, room, board, meals, textbooks, and travel expenses - had lifted. She will receive a full-ride to attend Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania as a QuestBridge National College Match scholarship recipient. She wasn't the only Flathead High School student to receive the life-changing news. Senior Luca Zoeller was also named a QuestBridge Scholar and will attend Colorado College as a College Match Scholarship recipient. QuestBridge's National College Match program connects high-achieving high school seniors from low-income backgrounds with full four-year scholarships to prestigious liberal arts colleges and research universities. Out of more than 16,500 applicants, QuestBridge, a California-based nonprofit, selected 6,312 finalists. Of that number, the nonprofit's 45 college partners matched with 1,674 finalists - the most to date - who were recognized as scholarship recipients, according to a press release.

Area educators awarded grants for classroom projects
The Montana Professional Teaching Foundation created the Karen Cox Memorial Grants to help educators purchase classroom supplies and enrichment projects for their students. This year, six area educators have been awarded Karen Cox Memorial Grants of up to $500 from the Montana Professional Teaching Foundation. Those educators include: Emily Black, West Valley Middle School, to purchase a variety of materials for the consumer science class. Carrielynn O'Reilly, Columbia Falls High School, to provide Fitbit Trackers for a special education LifeSkills class focused on fitness and health in which students self-monitor their physical activities, sleep patterns, water consumption, and heart rate for individual and group projects. Cassie Ladenburg, Ruder Elementary, to establish makerspaces, creating designated time for hands-on creativity, innovation and problem-solving.

Elks donate dictionaries to students
Havre Elks Lodge #1201 recently donated dictionaries to third grade school children in Hill and Blaine counties. The Elks gave a total of 264 dictionaries to Havre Public Schools, St. Jude Thaddeus School, Cottonwood Schools, Gildford Colony, Davey School, North Star Schools and Box Elder Schools. In Blaine County, they gave dictionaries to Zurich, Chinook, Hays-Lodge Pole and Turner Schools. The dictionary project is a core youth activity project that the Elks sponsor nationwide. "Havre Elks Lodge was able to fund the dictionaries through donations of our members on giving Tuesday and through the generosity of Hill, Blaine, and Chouteau county residents at a free-will donation bake sale we held before Christmas at the Holiday Village Mall in Havre,"  Elks Lodge #1201 Secretary Brandy Kurtz said. "The dictionary project was such a smashing success that we are making it an annual youth activity in our lodge."

Billings Public Schools votes unanimously to keep two books in high school libraries
The Billings Public School Board, the largest in the state of Montana, decided on Monday night unanimously to keep two controversial titles found in high school libraries, "Gender Queer" by Maia Kobabe and "Lawn Boy" by Jonathan Evison. The move came as somewhat of a surprise as a subcommittee of the board had recommended keeping Evison's book, but removing "Gender Queer." However, after nearly two hours of discussion, public comment and a review of the books, school district trustee Jennifer Hoffman changed her recommendation, setting off a series of votes that would ultimately lead to keeping both titles. Parent Nathan Mathews objected to both books, appealing a district curriculum review committee's unanimous decision to keep the books in the high school libraries. Originally, a subcommittee of the board recommended keeping "Lawn Boy" but discarding Kobabe's coming-of-age graphic novel memoir. During the meeting on Monday, more than 40 people either submitted comments or spoke in person. A tally of speakers showed that those who supported keeping both books outnumbered those who voiced objections by a roughly 2-to-1 ratio. Both books dealt with coming-of-age and both have been classified as adult literature, but have enjoyed widespread crossover into young adult literature. Criticism of Evison's book included concerns about profanity and one particular homosexual encounter described in the book.

Four Butte area educators awarded Karen Cox Memorial grants
Dvery year, Montana educators are forced to raid their own bank accounts to buy classroom supplies and enrichment projects for their students. The Montana Professional Teaching Foundation created the Karen Cox Memorial Grants to help these dedicated educators. This year, four Butte area educators have been awarded Karen Cox Memorial grants of up to $500 from the Montana Professional Teaching Foundation. The grantees are: Desiree LaMiaux, Margaret Leary. LaMiaux's grant is for the purchase of seating aids and organizational tools to facilitate productivity, flexibility, and independence within the classroom. Kim McCarthy-Cody, Butte School District. McCarthy-Cody's grant provides tools designed to improve speech and language skills, including Drills for Skills, Articulation Flashcards, and Ultimate Speech Therapy Craft Bundle. Patty O'Neill, West Elementary School. O'Neill's grant is for the creation of the "Fun to be Fit Program," which aims to improve the physical, emotional, and academic fitness of students. Heather Hamilton, Ramsay School. Hamilton's grant is for the purchase of a worm bin to help students learn key concepts in math and science by estimating populations to understanding biological systems.

Belt Elementary School nominated for National Blue Ribbon award
On Thursday, the Office of Public Instruction released a statement from State Superintendent of Education Elsie Arntzen congratulating two schools nominated for the National Blue Ribbon Schools. The National Blue Ribbon Schools award recognizes public and private elementary, middle, and high schools on their overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups. The National Blue Ribbon award is now in its 39th year and has given 10,000 awards to over 9,000 schools. Forty-five Montana schools have received this award. Belt Elementary School and Monforton Elementary (Gallatin County) have been nominated for 2022. "This is a highly prestigious recognition that only a few Montana schools earn each year," said Superintendent Elsie Arntzen. "This designation showcases Montana's parents, students, and teachers' commitment to student learning success even in these uncertain times. I pledge my support to aid these schools during the nomination process. They make Montana proud!"

Big Sandy High School Choir to perform on PBS
The Big Sandy Choir traveled to Bozeman this week to make a second appearance on PBS as a part of a fundraising program that features high school choirs from around the state. TJ Bond, Big Sandy's music teacher, explained the course of events that followed the 2019 appearance: They didn't do it last year due to the pandemic. But this year, they really wanted to do it, not just for the fundraiser, but also to get everyone's spirits back into the music. Very specifically, they really enjoyed our choir. We definitely did a fantastic job the first time we were there, and they wanted to have us back. I asked about song selections. There is a song we played for Veterans Day, 'The Hard Times Come Again No More." They loved the song so much that they really want us to perform it for television." TJ commented on the second appearance for our choir: "It's not unusual (to bring a choir back), but I think it's kinda neat that last time was our first time, and they reached out to us as soon as they were able to do it again. It's neat for us as a small town. They really wanted us to come back."

Co-op offers scholarships for local students
Flathead Electric Co-op is offering over $118,000 in scholarships to local students this year. Applications are due March 15. Graduating high school seniors across the Co-op's service area, as well as current undergraduates, are encouraged to explore the requirements on the co-op's website at All co-op scholarships are funded by unclaimed capital credits. Despite the co-op's best efforts to return capital credits to its members, some go unclaimed. Most often, a member moves away and doesn't provide a forwarding address. The state of Montana allows the co-op to use capital credits that go unclaimed for five or more years for educational purposes in the state of Montana. If the Co-op chose not to use the unclaimed capital credits for educational purposes, these funds would go into the Montana general fund. The co-op strives to award scholarship dollars across its service area to meet varied community needs. Scholarship dollars are earmarked for each area high school, including Stillwater Christian School. Dollars are also earmarked for homeschool graduates and for those already attending a post-secondary Montana education institution. Additionally, scholarships are awarded each year to students pursuing trades degrees.

MSU Billings launches faculty-driven Center for Teaching and Learning
Montana State University Billings will celebrate the grand opening of its new Center for Teaching and Learning on Jan. 21. The Center was granted final approval by the Montana Board of Regents during its November meeting. The new Center is led by faculty and will provide support for the full spectrum of faculty professional development, including pedagogical innovation, curriculum design, assessment efforts, instructional design, and onboarding for new faculty. In addition to supporting faculty success, the Center will play a key role in student success initiatives, in particular MSUB's retention and graduation initiative, and will offer programming related to inclusive, equity-minded, and growth mindset pedagogy, faculty early alerts, and data-informed strategies to support student learning. The Center builds on MSUB's strength in innovative distance education and will integrate the existing office of e-Learning into a more expansive support center for faculty.

MHSA adopts baseball as sanctioned sport and shot clock for basketball in annual meeting
There are big changes coming to Montana high school sports and they were finalized Monday at the Montana High School Association's annual meeting. Representatives from high schools all across Montana met in person at the Copper King Hotel in Butte to discuss and vote on a number of issues. The two proposals that drew the most attention were baseball and a shot clock for high school basketball. Since neither was an MHSA by-law, both proposals required a simple majority and each passed in overwhelming fashion Monday. "There were some major proposals on our agenda this year," MHSA executive director Mark Beckman said. "For several years, we haven't had many proposals. Things have been going really well. But this year, we had nine proposals and it was an interesting day for sure."

Whitefish High musicians selected for All-State Jazz Band
Whitefish High School has yet again a strong representation of musicians selected to participate in the prestigious Montana All-State Jazz Band. Five Whitefish students recently got the news that they would be participating in the All-State Jazz Festival, which will be held at Hellgate High School on Jan. 13-15. The festival is run by a committee of band directors from around the state together with the University of Montana faculty. The student musicians selected include senior Niko Hunter on drumset, senior Dashiell Schindler on trombone, senior Emma Trieweiler on vibraphone, senior Aidan Calaway on baritone saxophone, and junior Henry Seigmund on tenor saxophone. Whitefish High School Band Director Matthew King says five students is the most Whitefish has ever had representing the school in the All-State Jazz Band; that number combined with the students making the regular All-State Band ensemble in the fall makes seven total students that have the all-state honor this year. King says that is a record for WHS. He explained that the students submit a challenging set of audition excerpts in a variety of styles along with an improvisation section that is then adjudicated by a panel for selection.

Brother-Sister Duo Ready To Read In Kindergarten
There's no doubt that Lincoln and Rhyan love to read books. If asked their favorites they will give you a list that could fill a newspaper page. Lincoln can already read Cat the Cat and Tip Tip all by himself, while Rhyan loves Fancy Nancy and books about princesses. Even though they love to be outdoors and have many favorite activities, they always take time to read many books every day. Lincoln, 5, and Rhyan, 4, are the children of Daniel Heggem and Jamie Jensen, Sidney.

Local Music Teacher Marches in Rose Parade
Troy school district music teacher, Kathleen England, recently had the unique opportunity to march in the Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year's Day in Pasadena, California with 267 other American band directors from 48 states, as well as three who were working abroad. The Saluting American Band Directors float, which won the Showmanship Award, was integrated with the Band Directors Marching Band, a first for the five and a half mile legendary parade. This effort was sponsored by the Michael D. Sewell Foundation. Based in Pickering, Ohio, the foundation was started by Michael's wife Karen to honor her late husband, a long-time band director in central Ohio, who lead the Pickering Marching Band in the Rose Parade 2010. The marching band of directors was lead by Jon Waters, Director of Bands for Heidelberg University of Ohio in an original arrangement by Ohio's own Lisa Galvin of Meredith Wilson's Seventy-six Trombones from the classic musical, The Music Man.

Big Sandy's Rock School and RD Recording
It's the beginning of a new year, and although RD Recording and Rock School are a year and a half in, it's still a perfect example of going for an idea or dream and making it real. RD Recording and Rock School started In remembrance of Rusty Danreuther. Chris said, "he was so good with music and sports. I'm trying to carry on his passion. If he were here, he'd be all about it." For one and a half years, Chris Myers, with the help of his dad, Larry, has been working with kids, teaching them drums, keyboards, and guitars. The women who exercise below them can tell you all about it. Recently all the students of Rock School performed at Peps. It was a night of Rock and Roll. The younger students, Levon Myers, and Liam Simpson, and Henry Merrill. Each of the three boys sang two songs each and then played the drums, the keyboard, and guitar to accompany the other two while they sang. Liam said, "It was a nice experience for the beginning. The best part was learning all the instruments one note at a time." He wants to learn more about the bass and how to write songs. "I'd also like to perform again." 

Gary Leese teaches the details of raising and marketing sheep and goats
The era of sheep transportation by Gary Leese is ending and he's teaching classes for those interested in learning what it takes. Lone Rock Adult Education Coordinator Julie Bachman said the course is important. "The course that Gary is offering is a unique opportunity for people in the Bitterroot Valley to better understand how to raise sheep and everything else that goes along with it," Bachman said. "Gary is a wealth of information because of his expertise in doing this for so many years." Gary Leese has raised sheep for 40 years on his farm south of Lone Rock School and started sheering when he was 14-years-old. For the last 17 years, Leese has been providing a transportation service to public auction yards in Billings for local sheep and goat producers. But he is retiring from offering this service.

Industrial arts teacher prepares next generation for workforce
The sound of hammers hitting nails, intensifying whir of saws chewing through lumber, tape measures snapping back into coils and booted feet thudding against subflooring is probably white noise by now to Brock Anderson who is in his 23rd year teaching industrial arts. On Jan. 4, Anderson was busy overseeing a class of high school construction students make progress in building a new home at 180 Parkridge Drive in Kalispell. "We have our open house May 11," Anderson said. The construction students are part of the Kalispell Student Built Homes program, which Anderson helped establish at Flathead High School in 2015, with assistance from community partners and professionals in the construction industry. The program has since opened up to include interested students from Glacier High School and Linderman Education Center. Anderson, who joined the Flathead staff in 2007, said his first teaching job was seventh- and eighth-grade woodshop in Sidney, Montana, but growing up, he didn't know that would be his ultimate career path. "I didn't have any idea of what I wanted to do - maybe something with my hands. Growing up, I was always building forts and building stuff and helping out mom and dad and grandpas and grandmas. I've always enjoyed building, or constructing, or working on cars," he said.

WIHS student wins essay contest by opening up about mental health
A couple years back Gracie Hickman was considering dropping out of high school because she was struggling to learn in a traditional school environment - fast forward to this fall and now she's seeing more academic success than ever before.

Fifth graders explore the American Revolution
Mrs. May's fifth graders look forward to history class as their teacher conjures up exciting games for them to explore ma­jor historical events. They mod­eled seven battles using paper soldiers and a make-shift game board.

Student Council hosts a fun challenge
As a change of pace prior to the holiday break, Student Council hosted a fun twist to the well known game show, "Minute to Win It." On Dec. 20, students were invited to at­tend this function in the com­plex lobby over the noon hour.  

Corvallis FFA on track to earn $30K in one night of fundraising
Corvallis High School Ag Educator Neely Andres has students excited for their future and eager to learn the skills they'll need for life.

'We will rise' - Linderman student's drawing chosen as mascot design
Kenzye Fishel's drawing of a phoenix in flight against a backdrop of flames was chosen to be the design for Linderman Education Center's new mascot. The design was one of five submissions to a school mascot design contest the school held recently. Until last year, after a student council was formed, the school didn't have a mascot. Linderman is an alternative school serving Flathead and Glacier high school students. Linderman Director Jodie Barber said a mascot has been requested for a long time. "I said no, we don't need a mascot, we're not a traditional school," Barber said, noting that the school doesn't have sports teams, for example, to use a mascot. "We have our Infinity Bridge outside - the sculpture - that's kind of what I have used as our representation of us," she said. The sculpture, a collaboration between former students and local artist Lee Proctor in 2014, served as Linderman's logo. Made of glass and steel from a local dismantled bridge, it symbolized the merging Bridge Academy and Laser Alternative School in fall 2013.

HHS grad donates $100,000 to Boys & Girls Club to honor Devlin teacher
"No matter what road you choose to follow, I wish you much success and happiness," reads the handwritten letter Tim Wynne received from Mary Etta Sohm shortly before he graduated from Havre High School in 1980. Included with the letter was a set of scrapbooks Sohm had carefully compiled of Wynne's activities over the years, after he was in her fifth grade class at what was then Devlin School, but is now home to the Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line. Fast-forward 42 years and the connection between Wynne, Sohm, Devlin School - and now the Club and its youth-focused mission - led Wynne and his wife, Kristen, to make a $100,000 donation to the Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line, establishing the Mary Etta Sohm Endowment. "For several years I had been looking for a way to somehow recognize Mary Etta," said Wynne, who now lives on the West Coast, but still maintains a close connection to Havre and the Hi-Line. "When I was invited to take a tour of the Boys & Girls Club, and I saw the work they do, it just clicked for me. I knew this would be an organization that Mary Etta would want to support."

'This is their collection': Inside Bozeman High's one-of-a-kind art collection
In a back room of Bozeman High School's library, there's a series of unassuming cabinets. Inside hides a trove of original artwork curated by one of the school's clubs for the last 60 years. The Bozeman High Art Club was first created in the 1960s, originally helmed by art teacher and local artist Ray Campeau. Beth Pfaff, who now teaches at Gallatin High, has been involved in the art club for the last 24 years. "It's a really unusual and unique thing for a high school to have