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Washington Foundation’s generous gift extends innovative education effort

Posted at 2:19 PM, Apr 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-30 17:47:55-04

MISSOULA – A generous gift from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation will pave the way for a three year extension of an innovative program that’s changing the relationships between teachers and students all the way from preschool to college.

The Foundation is hoping a conference this summer will spread the initiative to other districts, but sharing the experiences of what’s happened in Missoula.

MCPS, the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation and the Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Sciences at the University of Montana launched the 21st Century Teaching and Learning Initiative five years ago.

The idea was to expand the “SHAPE” programs, to create a modern learning environment to make sure students are graduating with critical thinking, problem solving, communication and teamwork skills needed in the future.

Executive Director Mike Halligan told MCPS trustees last week that the Foundation was awarding a $1.5 million grant, and looking forward to a conference this summer to share the concepts with other districts.

“We’ve got a conference scheduled in June to showcase kind of how the partnership has evolved, with the University System and all that it may offer, and all the talent that you’ve got with the Missoula County Public Schools,” Halligan said,

“To see where other school districts might learn from the successes that you have had, and some of the failures. So that we can take this model and expand it out to other school districts not only in Montana but hopefully elsewhere,” he added.

The initiative has not only incorporated STEAM courses, like science, tech and math, but the arts, starting with at-risk toddlers and preschoolers, but focused on their teachers and enhancing their skills.

Reporting by Dennis Bragg for MTN News