Teacher Profiles

Beth Beaulieu autobiography from Whitefish High School

If you end up in Libby it is not because you are on the way to somewhere else. Libby is not on the way to anywhere. I grew up in this small logging community in the far Northwest corner of Montana where “Logger Days� in July was our big event of the year. I married young and although I left Libby at the time, I never moved from the mountain regions of Northwest Montana. I worked out of my home as a sales manager when my children were young, and it was my investment in family that drew me into the education field. My son’s entry into the school system as a gifted artist began with difficult struggles for success. While teachers and I worked together to find ways to help him succeed, education did not get easier for him. The search for answers led to my decision to become a teacher. With my three oldest children now in school and my youngest not quite a year old, I enrolled at the local college to begin my professional raining. My need to turn my visions into reality has highly influenced my intellectual development, both personally and professionally. My love for family and teaching come together in my desire to research heritage. Students need to connect to the world around them and gain an understanding of the world that has brought us to where we are today.

Project learning in my classroom began with the design of a five-week research/writing project during my student teaching. The seventh and eight grade students read a novel and interviewed peers and individuals who grew up during the early 1900s. Collaborative groups of students wrote chapters for the class book entitled, Now vs. Then. My Chapter 1 class at Hamilton High School wrote a book comparing World War 11, The Vietnam War and the Persian Gulf Crisis and titled their book, Teenage Writings of War Experiences. Other book projects include titles such as Exploration of Our Montana Past and America the Beautiful. Projects like these and my work with at-risk students enhance my awareness of the potential and capabilities of all students.

I completed my masters degree in May of 2003 at Grand Canyon University, Phoenix, Arizona. I chose this particular program because of its cyclical process of inquiry, reflection, application, evaluation and additional reflection. I learned strategies for becoming a high-performing teacher through Effective Classroom Management, Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences, Collaborative Action Research, Technology in the Classroom and The Self-Directed learner. Energy was easy to maintain throughout the work on my degree because everything I did expanded my repertoire of teaching strategies and refined my decision-making skills for planning classroom instruction.

The Montana Heritage Project became part of my dreams in the spring of 2003 when the grant I wrote was approved. While students conduct research and connect to their community, they become local historians.  The project has become the most exciting aspect of my teaching career. I am able to apply everything I know about good quality education to my classroom through this project.

Posted by JulieRadtke on 02/07 at 04:52 PM
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©2005 Montana Heritage Project

Mary Sullivan

Mary Dockstader Sullivan, Ed.D. believes passionately in the importance of public education in a democratic society, and she sees her students’ authentic research in the community to be the most important contribution she makes to education. Her own roots run deep in the community: Sullivan’s paternal grandmother was the first white child born in what is now Flathead County; at the time of her birth in 1885, it was Missoula County and Montana Territory. Sullivan’s great grandfather was the first sheriff of Flathead County. Her maternal grandparents moved from Kansas to Montana and reclaimed a homestead on the east shore of Flathead Lake in 1917.

Sullivan was a teacher, librarian and administrator in Tacoma, Washington, before returning to her Montana home. In Tacoma, she was Project Coordinator of the Ethical Quest in a Democratic Society. Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Project trained teachers to help students identify and deal with ethical issues using the existing classroom curriculum. Sullivan now teaches English at Bigfork High School. She coached the Bigfork speech and drama team for 10 years and was named Montana State Class “A� Coach of the Year in 2000.

Sullivan has given educational workshops in the US, Canada and Asia including “The Role of Schools and Teachers in Stimulating Ethical and Moral Reasoning in Students� at the East Asian Regional Conference of Overseas Schools in Bangkok, Thailand, and “School Democracy and Civic Education Projects� with Lawrence Kohlberg, Ralph Mosher and Paul Sullivan at the National Conference on Civic Education in Santa Monica, California.

Publications include “Counseling and Values Education in the Schools� in The Personnel and Guidance Journal and “Values Education and American Schools: Worlds in Collision?� in Values Development as the Aim of Education, R. Mosher and N. Sprinthall, eds., Schenectady, NY, Character Research Press.

When asked to name a highlight of her teaching career, Sullivan replied, “Taking four students to Washington, D.C., in April, 2003, where they presented their Montana Heritage Project research at the Library of Congress. The students also had an opportunity to meet with James Billington, Librarian of Congress, in his private office. It was an incredible experience with all expenses generously paid by the Liz Claiborne-Art Ortenberg Foundation.� Because Bigfork High School is a charter member of the National Veterans History Project, Sullivan was invited to attend the charter conference meeting in Washington that same week She and her students attended the gala reception held in the Great Hall of the Jefferson Building at the Library of Congress where Bigfork students’ work with veterans was on display.

Sullivan served on the negotiating team and as vice president of the Bigfork Area Education Association for four years. Past volunteer activities include Bigfork Cancer Crusade Chair; Bigfork Art and Cultural Center, Membership Committee; and Glacier Symphony and Chorale League, Board Member. She currently serves on the Flathead County Library Foundation Board.

Favorite travel experiences include viewing Rembrandt’s The Night Watch at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and holding Xiang Xiang, a Panda bear cub, at the Chinese Panda Research Center in Chengdu. However, Sullivan’s students are more intrigued by her skydiving adventure with her son on his 18th birthday.

Sullivan and her husband, Paul, guidance counselor at Bigfork High School, have two children: Maureen, a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania, and Paul Jr. who will begin law school at UPenn in the fall.

Posted by Matt Porrovecchio on 02/07 at 04:40 PM
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©2005 Montana Heritage Project

Profile:  Sarah Zook

An undying love of learning and a desire to help children become successful adults are the two most important reasons I became a high school teacher.  After graduating from Montana State University-Billings in 1998, I took a teaching position at Idaho Falls High School where I taught Spanish, Math, and Technology.  While in Idaho, I attended training sessions for Hands-On Math and Interactive Language—all geared toward student-centered teaching and participative methods in place of some of the more traditional lecture approaches.  I saw very positive results from my students and found I enjoyed teaching more.  Although I had many great experiences in Idaho, I began to feel the strong pull that most Montanans feel to return home.  A Great Falls native, I moved back to the Great Falls area with my husband in 2001. 

I took a position teaching Math and Computers at Simms High School.  After a year with the District, I saw the need for greater communication among staff and so coordinated a Vertical Team effort among the Math staff 6-12.  Attending AP training in both Math and Spanish encouraged me to push my students toward higher standards.  Each year I feel more positive about the results of my teaching efforts as I set higher expectations for my students and offer them more opportunities for experiential learning. 

I have always sought challenges and opportunities for growth, but by far the greatest growth I have experienced came as I became a part of the Montana Heritage Project at Simms.  I started by providing technology support, but was compelled to become more involved.  With the guidance of lead teacher, Dottie Susag, I saw students gain real understandings about themselves, neighbors, and communities.  The Heritage Project incorporated what I already knew was valuable in education with a new aspect—community.  It made sense to have students learning in a real context that was a part of their history and helped them gain a stronger sense of self.  When Dottie retired in 2003, I was granted the opportunity to direct the Simms Project.  The challenge was great and the task was difficult as all worthwhile endeavors are.  As in past years, the students felt that sense of pride and accomplishment when friends and neighbors smiled, chatted, and commented on their work.

Then, when I moved to Great Falls Central Catholic High School in 2004, I was again afforded the chance to work with community-centered education, this time as an Affiliate level grant school.  It has been an outstanding experience for my students as they have conducted authentic research about World War II and the Holocaust and then interviewed local veterans about their experiences.  As I had seen before, students become a part of the learning when they experience it and they become a part of the community when they have real conversations with its elder members. 

Posted by Sarah Zook on 02/07 at 04:38 PM
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