HELENA — April Wills, a fifth-grade teacher at Bainville Public School in northeastern Montana, is the 2020-2021 winner of the Montana Statehood Centennial Bell Award honoring the Montana History Teacher of the Year at the 4th-6th grade level.
In her nominating letter, Samantha Keefner, a fellow teacher at Bainville School, said: “April has worked very hard to bring the history of our state into the classrooms of many other educators. Without April’s expert lead, I would have never known to utilize the many wonderful traveling trunks that the Montana Historical Society has available to schools with different focuses in Montana History. Her passion and excitement for Montana History is present in everything she does.”
“My favorite part about the Montana History unit was getting to pick a famous person from Montana and making a movie about them. I chose Charlie Russell. It was really interesting learning about his life and the impact he had on Montana,” said Wills student Tally Berwick.
A native of Columbus, Montana, Wills graduated from Broadwater High School in Townsend and received her Elementary Education degree from the University of Montana in Missoula. She received her graduate degree in Learning & Technology from Western Governors University. She is a Montana Teacher Leader for the Montana Historical Society presenting Montana History to Montana History teachers across Montana.
Chosen by a panel of Montana History experts, Wills is the 32nd winner of the award. Montana history teachers at the 4th-6th grade levels are chosen on uneven numbered years. Montana history teachers at the 7th-12th grade levels are chosen on even-numbered years.
She will receive her prizes on Statehood Day - November 8, 2021 - at a ceremony at the State Capitol in Helena.
Wills will also receive $4,500 which may be used to buy Montana history materials, field trips, guest speakers, and anything else that will enhance her teaching of Montana History. She will also receive a plaque.
The award is sponsored by the Montana Television Network, the Montana History Foundation, Sons & Daughters of Montana Pioneers, the 1889 Coffee House in Helena, in cooperation with the Montana Historical Society,