Teacher of the Year celebration
Finalist Elaine Stedman, Teacher of the Year Paul Anderson, and finalist Mary Sullivan model the Superman capes presented to them by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana.
"We're not waiting for Superman; we have our own super-heroes, and they're right here."
That's what Mike Frank of Blue Cross Blue Shield announced at the Montana Teacher of the Year celebration Oct. 21 in Helena, to the roaring cheers of the audience, as he presented Superman capes to the three finalists for 2011 Montana Teacher of the Year.
Blue Cross Blue Shield cosponsored the gala celebration along with the MUST insurance trust.
Several hundred Montana teachers, state officials, and others participated in the event, which took place as part of the 2010 MEA-MFT Educators' Conference.
The celebration honored 2011 Montana Teacher of the Year Paul Andersen (Bozeman) and finalists Elaine Stedman (Sidney) and Mary Dockstader Sullivan (Bigfork).
The event also honored 2010 Teacher of the Year Anne Keith, who delighted the audience with tales of her adventures during the past year.
“What I didn’t expect was the professional development and growth I received,” said Keith. Along with the nation's other 49 state teachers of the year, Keith attended Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, and was honored at a special White House ceremony in Washington, D.C.
“I have 50 new best friends,” Keith said. “I now have more friends on Facebook than my 14-year-old.
Keith, who teaches math at Sacajawea Middle School in Bozeman, said teachers need more time to reflect on their teaching and to share ideas. “We need to open our doors to each other,” she said. “I learn so much watching other teachers teach.”
Stability in the home is one of the greatest predictors of a child’s success in school, she told the audience. “We need to ask the kids what they need that they’re not getting from us.”
Introducing Teacher of the Year Paul Andersen, whom she described as a “techno geek,” Keith quoted one of Andersen’s colleagues who called him “undoubtedly the most talented and dynamic instructor I’ve ever met – as a teacher or as a student.”
“People love his explosive laughter, his energy, and his dedication to students,” she said. “When my brother met him, he asked, “Does Mr. Andersen drink a lot of Red Bull or something?”
The Superman reference: As with many speakers at the celebration, Andersen referred to “Waiting for Superman” the new documentary that portrays public schools in a bad light while trumpeting charter schools as the cure-all for education.
“Public education is getting a rap right now. I don’t know what schools they’re talking about, because mine is great,” said Andersen, who teaches science at Bozeman High School.
The current deep recession is causing many Americans to scapegoat public schools, Andersen said. Inner city schools in places like Detroit, which has 25 percent unemployment, may be having problems, he said, but “that’s not true here in Montana.”
“I want to talk about some of the Supermen in my life,” Andersen said. “First is my grandma, who taught in a tiny school. Other supermen and women are the teachers of my kids at Morningstar Elementary (in Bozeman). They taught my kids to read. They taught my kids to love reading.”
Other supermen and women include the teachers who come to the MEA-MFT Educators’ Conference each year to fine-tune their teaching skills, Andersen said.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau also championed public schools in her remarks. “Public education is open to all -- to everyone who comes in the door,” she said. "No other institution can say that.”
“I believe passionately in public schools,” said Teacher of the Year finalist Mary Dockstader Sullivan, an English teacher in Bigfork. “My parents instilled in me the belief that public education is imperative if democracy is to survive.”