Whitefish teacher Gary Carmichael is
2007 Montana Teacher of the Year
Kalispell and Billings teachers are finalists
Sept. 22, 2006
Gary Carmichael first felt the pull of history when his mother took him and his brother to visit Montana ghost towns and other historical sites.
From that beginning, this fourth-generation Montanan pursued his love of history into a teaching and library career that has taken him from Saco to Great Falls to Whitefish.
He now teaches history at Whitefish High School. This September, Carmichael was selected as Montana’s 2007 Teacher of the Year by the Montana Professional Teaching Foundation.
To be chosen Teacher of the Year is the highest honor a Montana teacher can achieve.
Read Missoulian story about Gary Carmichael
Montana Teacher of the Year Gary Carmichael
Carmichael finds the key to teaching American and World History in “actively engaging students as working historians,” combining technology and old-fashioned research skills to make history a living aspect of the world we live in.
Weaving the Whitefish and Montana stories into the American history curriculum, he has his students research Whitefish census and insurance data from the 1920s to develop an accurate picture of their own community while also learning research skills.
His students create digital movies using their research findings on the Great Depression. They learn computer graphing techniques to develop their research on Civil War topics.
Carmichael believes that “students who are actively involved as working historians can discover not only the content being taught and the technological skills being used, but also the problem-solving processes they will need in later life. That is what teaching is all about: preparing students for the future.”
Former student Chase Giacomo said, “Mr. Carmichael is the kind of person who is so passionate and dedicated that they inspire us to journey into their passion. He not only inspired me to learn about U.S. history, but he also inspired me and my peers to become people of character and principle.” Giacomo carries that inspiration with him as he heads off to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point this year.
Since his days as a social studies teacher at the small Hi-line school at Saco, Carmichael has also served as a trainer and online resource for the Discovery Channel School. This unique opportunity allows him to create educational materials used worldwide and collaborates with outstanding teachers around the country.
Outside the classroom, his activities range from coaching youth basketball (including kindergarten basketball) to creating the website for the Rocky Mountain Museum of Military History at Fort Missoula.
Another satisfying school/community project has been the collection of oral histories of Montana veterans for a joint partnership activity with Whitefish High School and the Library of Congress.
When it comes to education improvement, Carmichael’s motto is “Think BIG! Start small.”
“As educators we are much like our students; we build upon our successes and learn from our failures,” he said. “Success breeds success; so as we reach short-term attainable goals we can’t help but be successful in improving Montana education.”
An activist in the teaching profession, Carmichael has served as vice president of the Whitefish Education Association, MEA-MFT.
As Montana’s Teacher of the Year for 2007, Carmichael will represent Montana at the National Teacher of the Year event, sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers. He will also serve as a spokesperson for the teaching profession throughout the year.
Along with other state teachers of the Year, he will meet President Bush at a White House ceremony in spring 2007 and will attend International Space Camp in Alabama next summer.
Kari Peiffer and son
Other finalists in this year’s Montana Teacher of the Year event are Kari Peiffer, second-grade teacher at Evergreen Elementary School, and John W. Miller, honors biology and environmental studies teacher at Billings West High School.
The Montana Professional Teaching Foundation, based in Helena, was created in 1996 to promote and recognize excellence in teaching.