Get a jump on end of year teacher appreciation

The job of “teacher” is one that’s vastly underestimated. The hours are great, people say. How ‘bout those summers off, huh? Just…no. We’ll count our blessings that teachers have the summer to recharge, though many pick up other work during their “time off.” And, I kid you not, when the bell rings on the last day of a school year, teachers are already making plans for their classroom next year. A teacher arrives early, stays late (and let’s not forget the hours spent at home planning for the coming days and correcting papers), spends her/his own money to supply and decorate the classroom. A teacher is expected to teach far beyond words and numbers, these days.

That’s all to say that, as a whole, this group of people who seek to inspire their students, to share their knowledge and heart are far too often an underappreciated bunch. Fortunately, the Billings community makes a point each year to recognize the outstanding educators in our midst via the Golden Apple Awards, along with the awarding of the Billings Education Association’s (BEA) Teacher of the Year and Friend of Education Awards. Keep scrolling to be introduced to those wonderfuls in this field. For our part here at Simply Family Magazine, as the weeks begin to dwindle and the end of school year fast approaches, we’ll be sharing a variety of Teacher Gift ideas, so keep a lookout for those. Throughout May we’ll also be inviting our readers to share stories of teachers who made a difference in their lives – or their children’s. You can hop on board with #SFMteacherappreciation.

Congratulations to the 2016 Golden Apple and BEA award recipients, thank you for your commitment to the children of our community!

Elementary Teacher Recipients:

Courtney Niemeyer, First Grade, Eagle Cliffs—Elementary Award Winner

A passionate commitment to helping children learn and excel is the hallmark of Golden Apple winner Courtney Niemeyer. Mrs. Niemeyer, first grade teacher at Eagle Cliffs Elementary school, has that special gift of being able to push her bright students while encouraging those who may have fallen behind in earlier years. In a warm, loving, and accepting environment, Mrs. Niemeyer takes time every day to explain to her first grade charges what they should expect, feelings they might experience, and how she will help them through it. Her classroom is full of technology and lessons on digital citizenship. She dresses up on special theme days, gives her students top secret missions and creates interesting science projects. Expectations for good work and good behavior are high and are achieved because every student wants to please Mrs. Niemeyer. Her calm demeanor, hard-work and love of children lead a former student teacher to comment, “She is my idol…Someday I hope to be half the teacher she is.”

Amy Leffler, Fifth Grade, Meadowlark—Elementary Award Winner

When we talk about high quality teachers, we know that they need the whole package—excellence in pedagogy, content knowledge and most of all the ability to build relationships with students. In Mrs. Leffler, fifth grade teacher at Meadowlark Elementary School, these superb attributes abound. Mrs. Leffler’s devotion to reaching all of her students and providing those students experience -rich learning opportunities makes her a favorite of students and parents alike. She sponsors Robotics Club and Math Club as well as coaches students entering the Billings Clinic Science Fair. Mrs. Leffler is also the volunteer chair of the Meadowlark spring carnival which is the major PTA fundraiser of the year.  Her message to her students is clear: working hard, being involved and giving to your school and your community with a positive attitude is a great way to live a life. As a parent and fellow teacher concludes, “Amy Leffler is a true professional that makes me proud to be a teacher and happy to have my son in School District 2.”

Middle School Teacher Recipient:

Anita Dolan—Math Instructor, Will James—Middle School Winner

For 34 years middle school math teacher Anita Dolan has been putting kids first. A complete professional, Mrs. Dolan sets high expectations and helps her students achieve them. Her classroom is engaging and safe for kids and her teaching style effective in showing kids how to think deeply about math. Beyond her full time teaching duties, Mrs. Dolan has taken on many extra duties. She is the Saturday gym supervisor, student council advisor, student teacher mentor, math club supporter, and DJ Dolan at all school dances.  Through all that she does, within the classroom and beyond, Mrs. Dolan has mastered the art of seeing adolescents in a positive light, and not only appreciating them for who they are but also loving and respecting them for their uniqueness. Anita Dolan exudes what a master teacher should be.

High School Teacher Recipient:

Bridgett Paddock—English Instructor, Skyview—High School Winner

Bridgett Paddock, English instructor at Skyview High School, is an outstanding example of an educator who goes above and beyond for the benefit of her students. In the classroom she daily delivers quality education that is rigorous, interesting and enjoyable.  Ms. Paddock’s students are creatively and actively engaged in the learning process, embracing the importance of becoming good people who work well together. Outside the classroom, Ms. Paddock is committed to her students, school and profession. She coaches volleyball and has helped coordinate the Pack the Place in Pink Program, and she serves as the mentor coordinator for the Native American mentor program.  Her professional commitment has led her to the Montana Writing Project in which she is a teacher-consultant and the Elk River Writing Project in which she serves on the leadership team. In every arena, Ms. Paddock is a kind and thoughtful inspiration who treats her students as if they belong to her and many of them feel as if they do belong to her. In short, at Skyview, Bridgett Paddock is a rock star!

Administrator Recipient:

Dar Schaaf—Associate Principal Billings Career Center—Administrator Winner

Dar Schaaf is a tireless educator, administrator and supporter of young people at the Career Center. As associate principal he is forced to wear many hats and does so with commitment and genuine enthusiasm. A true champion of the Career Center, Mr. Schaaf arrives early, stays late and works throughout the summer to make sure the Career Center runs efficiently. He is a counselor when the need arises, a kid advocate always, a problem solver on a daily basis, a disciplinarian, and on more than one occasion, a life saver.  Faculty members and students alike respect Mr. Schaaf and consider him their “go to” person at the Career Center. As one fellow teacher commented, “Dar’s level of commitment to School District 2’s students is unparalleled.”

Support Professional Recipient:

Barb Bueno—Instructional Paraprofessional, Skyview, Support Professional Winner

There is no job description that can begin to encompass what the amazing Barb Bueno does for the staff and students at Skyview every single day. Mrs. Bueno serves as hall monitor, fill-in receptionist, attendance clerk, study hall monitor, detention monitor, locker fixer, lunch room monitor, substitute teacher, mentor and supporter of all students. Whenever and where ever Skyview is shorthanded, Mrs. Bueno comes to the rescue with a cheerfulness and willingness. Skyview students love and respect Mrs. Bueno. She is always visible and always approachable. With genuine empathy and a true concern for students, Mrs. Bueno celebrates their successes, comforts them in their sorrows and most importantly, she follows up. In the words of a fellow staff member: “I am a better person because Barb Bueno touched my life.”

 2016 BEA Teacher of the Year

Shelly Stanton

Technology integration specialist, Shelly Stanton, receives the BEA Teacher of the Year award.  Shelly's work with educators across the district has helped transform the use of technology in our classrooms.  A colleague wrote that Shelly was a "force of nature."

As advisor to the Teacher Leadership Initiative and the National Board for Profession Teaching Standards applicants, Shelly has fashioned opportunities for teachers to enhance their classroom skills.

Shelly recently hosted a new teacher energizer which was an outreach to professionals new to teaching.

Shelly's commitment to the students and citizens of Billings reflects the best in the teaching profession.  We are pleased to honor her with our highest award.

2016 BEA Friend of Education

Dan Carter

Dan's work on the advancement of science, math, engineering, and technology in our schools has caught the attention of educators across the district. Dan redefines community involvement.

He has been instrumental in promoting science in our schools.  He has anchored efforts to bring Project Lead the Way into our classrooms.

Dan has visited elementary classrooms with the message that math and science are vital to our students.  He has helped organize science fairs.

Best of all, this man knows how to connect with kids.  His words and actions mold relationships with the youngest of our students.

The BEA is pleased to present Dan with our Friend of Education award.  His work touches hundreds of students every week.  Billings is a better place because of Dan.

*Golden Apple Award recipient bios provided by the Golden Apple Committee. 2016 BEA Award recipient bios provided by the Billings Education Association. Photos courtesy of the recipient's school.