HELENA — November 8 marks the anniversary of Montana joining the union as the 41st state. At the State Capitol, a teacher in Sunburst was honored as the Montana History Teacher of the Year as the Montana Statehood Centennial Bell rang out to celebrate Montana’s statehood.
“There are so many other incredible educators in our state. And to be selected as the Montana history teacher is, I don't have words for it,” says Montana History Teacher of the Year, Hali Richmond.
Hali Richmond was honored at the 34th annual Montana Statehood Centennial Bell Award Ceremony for her outstanding work as a history teacher for 3rd and 4th graders. During even-numbered years a 7th through 12th grade history teacher is chosen. And on odd-numbered years, a 4th through 6th grade teacher is chosen.
Richmond has been teaching since 2016 and worked in multiple one-room schoolhouses before becoming a teacher in Sunburst. Nominations for her came from not only Sunburst’s principal at the time but her student, Bree Chilton, as well.
Molly Kruckenberg, Director of the Montana Historical Society, says it’s important to honor and recognize those teachers who go above and beyond to provide students with an appreciation of the state’s history.
“You know history teachers kinda have a bad rap, I think, of being dull and boring. And so, it's those teachers who really have the passion and the drive and the commitment to make history so much more accessible to their students is incredibly important,” says Kruckenberg.
As the winner of the award, Richmond was given around $4,700, including money from the Montana Television Network. She plans to spend it to create trunks with such items as historical artifacts and primary source documents as well as classroom transformations. Richmond says she finds history vital for children to learn so they have a deeper connection and understanding of where they come from.
“I think it's important for kids to understand their background so that they have a sense of belonging, so they feel grounded when they go to take off, they have something to come back to. They understand the community that has raised them and help shape them into who they are and given them a piece of who they are,” says Richmond.
The event was capped with Richmond’s class ringing the bell to celebrate Montana’s 134th birthday.