Reflecting Upon My Experience as Montana’s 2017 Teacher of the Year

To represent the professional educators of our state as the 2017 Montana Teacher of the Year; an overwhelming charge. I was humbled to try to do so. I think I gave it my best. Representing all involved with Montana’s teaching, from the earliest elementary level teachers all the way through the middle and high school grades – is daunting; all the more so trying to represent the vast majority of teachers in Montana who are in very rural districts. I taught almost a decade in Class A Lewistown at Fergus High before moving to the middle school level when I came to Helena. I have visited friends who teach in very rural schools; schools like Highwood, Hayes-Lodgepole, and Opheim. Both my grandmother and my mother taught in one room school houses (grandma in Ismay, and mom in Grizzly Bluff (CA)), but there are 68 such facilities remaining in our state. We are so rural. To represent all of these professional educators as one person – that is monumental undertaking.

The bottom line, though, is that we educators in Montana are trusted with the young people’s development, academic and social, in communities throughout this state. We give our all to help ensure that the next generation will be capable of contributing as productive members of our society. We try new ideas. We reflect upon what goes well and what needs adjusting. We strive to educate ALL of our students. Sometimes we do something in the classroom and it fails. We then come back the next day with the same enthusiasm we had the first time around and try something else.

We are passionate and we have power as teacher-leaders in our state.

On October 19, 2017, I had the opportunity to share my experience and reflect upon this past year as the 2017 Montana Teacher of the Year. I thought my Keynote at the statewide assessment conference last January was the hardest speech I’d ever had to write. But then, I spent hours on a speech for as a Keynote at a regional MEA-MFT union training in Great Falls. That was the hardest speech I ever wrote. And then came the honor of doing a Keynote at the Pinning Ceremony for the education graduates at Salish Kootenai Tribal College last spring. That was a daunting challenge. All of these were eclipsed by this one though – my Keynote at the 2018 Teacher of the Year Celebration for Melissa Romano.

I may add more to this reflection in the coming days, but for now, I wanted to share my speech and the accompanying slideshow with those who may be interested but were unable to attend.

Thank you for checking it out – the speech is 25 minutes long.

Motion in the video is blurry; it was an f-stop issue… not to fear, the slides from the slideshow look just fine!

#CCSSO – The Council of Chief State School Officers
#NTOY18 #NTOY17 #keldermt17 #MTtoy2017 #MTteachersInAction
#GlobalTravelAlliance #Eftours


4 Minute Presentation Challenge – NEAF Global Learning Fellows Workshop 2018

In 30 minutes, with a hypothetical budget of US $10 million, we were provided the following information for this workshop. Our group’s goal is to better the state of education given the following UNESCO statistics.

As a group, we decided to focus on the 9 million young people denied the right to a primary education.

According to UNESCO, equity can be affected by three primary factors:

  1. Sex
  2. Location
  3. Wealth

We then brainstormed about all sorts of things and… came up with our best idea for the $10 million budget allotted to us.

Open an Outreach Program as an NGO

  • Promotes the importance of having children in the schools.
  • An additional year of schooling could increase earnings by 10%, and average annual GDP by 0.37%.
  • Outreach office can issue a 3-year voucher
    • Initial cash payment for sending your child to school.
    • Additional compensation for each successive year.
    • At the end of the 3-year term, a bonus could be paid following an ‘exit interview.’
  • BUDGET: $10 million
    • Hire 3 staff in the outreach office (Budget $150,000)
    • Travel, International ($35,000)
    • Travel, Domestic In-Country ($10,000)
    • Printing and Publications (5,000)
    • Family Vouchers (Ave. cost per UNESCO of funding a child’s education for one year is less than $150).
      • $150*3 = $450 per child for a 3-yr. voucher ($150 for exit interview).

Fund over 13,000 students to attend attend school – climbing toward equity in education!

The Equity Team (from L to R): Christa Wallace (Tulsa, OK – G&T teacher), Kelly Elder (Helena, MT – 6th Grade Geography), Laura West (Hot Springs, AR – G&T and 5th Grade American History), Mary Eldredge-Sandbo (Des Lacs, ND – Secondary Biology), Emily Robinson (Atlanta, GA – Secondary English)

2018 NEA Foundation Global Learning Fellowship

Before coming to Washington DC in October of 2017 for the Global Learning Fellows Workshop, I was asked to do some homework. I needed to ask a group of students the following question:

Do you think it’s important to learn about and understand different cultures? Why or why not?

I asked my 6th graders the question and had them write their responses on sticky notes. When the bell rang, the students left their notes on the whiteboard. Some of those responses are posted here.

As a 6th grade geography teacher, one of my highest priorities is to provide my students exposure to their outer world and kindle a flame and desire to yearn for more understanding of others’ perspectives on our planet.

Because of this, I opted to interview a few of my former students who are 7th graders this year. A low-quality copy of that video is posted here:

[Video to be loaded when the author figures out which format can be uploaded and will work on this site!]

Among my 6th graders, here were a few Post-It notes that indicate the majority of my students’ attitudes. The prompt they were responding to, once again:

Do you think it’s important to learn about and understand different cultures? Why or why not?