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"All teach, no preach"

Judie Woodhouse is Montana's new Teacher of the Year

Melodee Smith-Burreson and Terry Annalora are finalists


When asked what makes Judie Woodhouse such an outstanding teacher, one of her national award-winning students replied, "She is all teach and no preach."


Woodhouse has been "all teach" for 26 years at Polson High School, where she teaches English, speech-media, journalism, newspaper production, and public relations.


Her innovative ideas, high standards, and sense of fun have inspired countless students and colleagues. In August, these qualities earned her the title of Montana Teacher of the Year 2002.


An interview committee comprised of Superintendent of Public Instruction Linda McCulloch, 1998 Montana Teacher of the Year Patty Myers, legislator and parent Alan Olson of Roundup, special education teacher Darci Riley of Butte, high school student Jenna Louttit of Helena, and school administrative assistant Marilyn Houser of Billings chose Woodhouse from among three finalists.


Montana's Teacher of the Year program annually honors a teacher who exemplifies excellence in the teaching profession. The program is sponsored by the Montana Professional Teaching Foundation, a nonprofit organization.


Among her many accomplishments, Woodhouse has created a tradition of excellence in journalism at Polson High School. Through her guidance, students operate the school's award-winning student newspaper, the Salishian. They run the newspaper as a business. Along with learning journalism, they learn to practice self-governance, assign jobs, meet deadlines, manage the paper's finances, and work as a team to produce a highly complex product.


"My goal is to ensure that every student is personally invested and takes pride of ownership in our product," Woodhouse says. "I delight in empowering students with the drive to do their very best to bring responsible and interesting journalism to their audience."


The proof is in the readership: Students at Polson High eagerly await each monthly issue of the Salishian. Immediately after distribution, the entire school falls silent as students devour the paper's contents. Woodhouse measures her students' success not only by reader satisfaction but also by the honors and awards they earn. Last year, her students and their newspaper earned seven first places in 11 categories of state competition and two first places in national competitions.


That's not unusual for Woodhouse, according to Malcolm Swan, chair of Polson's English department. "For years, award after award, our school's newspaper has been recognized for its quality," he says. "No matter what the task, Judie amazes me with how she can see the potential to involve students in real-life learning situations."


For example, to help students make the connection between their education and life after high school, Woodhouse created a ground-breaking career education program. The program guides students through the process of understanding their abilities and skills and setting goals toward careers of their own choosing. Through this program, all Polson students compile a portfolio by their senior year, giving them a competitive edge in the job market.


To her delight, Woodhouse has seen many of her students go on to writing, journalism, photography, public relations, publishing, advertising, computers, teaching, political careers, and law careers.


One former student, Stephen McCoy, now director of the Salish Kootenai College Adult Learning Center, recalls how Woodhouse encouraged him to run for the elected position of Salishian editor. "Partly because of her insistence, but mostly because no one had ever put so much faith in my abilities before, I decided to go ahead and run for the position," he says.


"I was elected...and under the devoted guidance of Miss Woodhouse, my term as editor was by far the most transformational experience of my life. I learned about leadership, planning, task management, problem solving, tenacity, meeting deadlines, and a great many other life skills that have directly contributed to the success I've achieved today in my professional life."


As Montana's Teacher of the Year, Woodhouse will represent Montana at the National Teacher of the Year event. She will also serve as a spokesperson for the teaching profession throughout the year.


Along with Woodhouse, finalists in this year's Montana Teacher of the Year event are Melodee Smith-Burreson, second-grade teacher at Target Range School near Missoula, and Terry Annalora, music and humanities teacher at Custer County District High School in Miles City.


The Montana Professional Teaching Foundation was created in 1996 to promote and recognize excellent teaching. The foundation's board of directors includes professional Montana teachers plus representatives from private business, the Office of Public Instruction, School Administrators of Montana, Montana Parent Teacher Association, and MEA-MFT.