HELENA — November 8 marks the anniversary of Montana joining the union as the 41st state. At the State Capitol in Helena, Hali Richmond from 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,” said Richmond.
Richmond was honored for her work as a history teacher for third- and fourth-grade students.
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 received her education degree from the University of Montana and is working on a master’s degree there. Her first teaching positions were in one-room schoolhouses in Sunset School near Missoula and Galata School near Shelby, teaching every subject and grade level, including history.
Nominations for her came from not only Sunburst’s principal at the time but her student Bree Chilton, as well.
Fourth-grade student Bree Chilton nominated Richmond for sharing information about the different tribal nations and reservations in Montana, and the way she treats her students.
“I am Chippewa, and she let me teach some Chippewa words,” Chilton wrote. “Mrs. Richmond is a most worthy history teacher of the year because I care about her, and she cares about her students.”
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.