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 CMR senior Braden Younkin, a gifted student and athlete, along with two of his teachers.
Younkin selected one teacher from the beginning of his educational career, Gifted/Education teacher Lainie Warneke; and one from his final year in high school, AP Calculus teacher, Steven Skaer.
When Braden met Warneke in first grade, she helped him hone his less-used skills. “He was such a math and science mind that I introduced him to public speaking and he ended up doing very well in that too. So just trying to find other avenues for them to succeed in,” Warneke said.
Warneke encouraged Younkin to try speech, science expos, and take a chance learning outside his comfort zone. “She helped foster just a love for doing extra stuff...and help[ed] me gain skills i definitely needed,” Younkin said.
Braden continued to excel and pursue his love of math and science throughout his educational career. But when he began to struggle with AP Calculus as a senior, his math teacher guided him through the material. “I dont think I'd understand calculus as well as i do without Skaer because the way he explained things was so much better than the book could do,” Younkin said.
Younkin said he’s grateful to these two educators who made learning worth loving. “Thank you so much for being great teachers. Honestly it made schooling so much better,” Younkin said.
Just as Younkin is grateful to have had teachers like them, they feel fortunate to have had a student like him. “It just makes our jobs worthwhile when you see them go through first grade through their senior year and see all they've accomplished and will accomplish in the future,” Warneke said.
“I’m so proud of you and what you’ve done over the past 2 years and really your past 12 years of schooling,” Skaer said.
Younkin plans to attend Montana State University where he plans to study Aeronautical Engineering.