GREAT FALLS — Each year the Great Falls Public Schools Foundation honors high-achieving students and two designated teachers selected by each of those students during their annual Excellence In Education awards ceremony. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s assembly will not take place, but one person from each of the three high schools recognized by the foundation - Great Falls High School, C.M. Russell High School, and Paris Gibson Education Center - will be highlighted on air and on our website. Today we are featuring GFHS senior Samantha Faulkner, along with two of her teachers.
Great Falls High School student Samantha Faulkner is one of among 15 students recognized among her peers as one of this year’s Excellence In Education honorees.
As is customary of each honorary student, Faulkner selected two teachers who influenced her educational career: Diane Moog and Suzanne Sturges.
Faulkner’s early childhood teacher at the Montana School for the Deaf & Blind, Diane Moog, said Samantha’s been destined for academic success since pre-school. “She just had that drive - even from a preschooler,” Moog said.
The driven student was born with a genetic disorder called Stickler Syndrome. “I have pretty bad vision loss and then I have a hearing loss and I also have some, like, joint problems because it’s a collagen affecting disorder... I've had quite a few surgeries to help straighten my legs out, do some stuff with my eyes. And so it’s been a wild ride but it’s something I love and it makes me who I am,” Faulkner said.
Her love of learning also makes her who she is. “I wanted to be good at something, and school was what I put my mind at to be good at,” Faulkner said.
At MSDB, Faulkner studied under Moog and gained the tools she’d need in a public-school setting. “For Samantha growing up, being a public school and transitioning into that environment, she needed to be comfortable letting a teacher know what her needs were. If she couldn’t hear or needed a better seat in the classroom, and those types of things and it was my goal to get her ready to go on to that type of environment because I knew that’s where she was gonna thrive,” Moog said.
Then, as a sophomore, Samantha transferred to Great Falls High School where she aced her AP and honors classes thanks to her ability to self-motivate and self-advocate.
While there, she overcame a second language barrier while studying a foreign language as a hard-of-hearing student. “Spanish is hard to learn for a hard of hearing person. It’s different noises. It’s a lot of listening. And she was always just super helpful. You know if i wasn’t saying something right. Or if I didn’t hear something...and like she’s just so positive and radiates bright energy and it was always one of my favorite classes to go to that day...In fact I feel so comfortable with myself in Spanish that I’m gonna minor in it next year.
Samantha owes part of her success to these women who shaped her. “I don't think I would have been as successful without them...Who knows if I would have even thought about transferring to a public school without Moog? And like thought about pursuing a minor in Spanish without Sturges?,” Faulkner said.
Sturges and Moog are incredibly thankful for the opportunity to teach Samantha and proud to have played a part in her educational excellence.
“Thank you for being a wonderful student,” Sturges said.
“I'm super proud of her, super proud...She has the world ahead of her. She will make the best choices that she can and she’s going to be an amazing person,” Moog said.
PREVIOUSLY: Excellence In Education: CMR High School