Thank you to D.A. Davidson and Dorsey & Whitney for sponsoring the 2023 SAM Evening of Excellence!

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Thank you to Lifetouch for providing
photos to commemorate the event!

 Evening of Excellence 2023 Recording

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Congratulations to all award winners recognized this evening!

Click on the presentation above for photos of each honoree.  Click on the names below to read more about each award recipient.  

Senator Shannon O'Brien - Keynote Speaker

Shannon is honored to serve as Minority Whip in the Montana State Senate, and has a breadth of knowledge, skills and experience in education and education policy.  She has served as education policy advisor to Governor Bullock, dean of Missoula College, and high school social studies teacher and coach. She spent ten years in college access (Upward Bound, GEAR UP, and Early College for Native Youth) working with middle and high school students, who come from a background of poverty or first-generation college, to overcome challenges, graduate from high school and attend college.

In the policy arena, Shannon has spent a great deal of time working on early learning and kindergarten readiness in Montana.  She was honored to carry the Early Intervention for Third Grade Reading Level bill that was passed into law last session.  Shannon believes that teachers are the heart and soul of the school and classroom, and if they are supported well, they can perform miracles with students.  She sponsored the Quality Educator Loan Assistance bill this session to help recruit new teachers in rural areas, one piece of the puzzle to address the teacher shortage. Shannon also knows that strong school leadership is the indicator of student success and is humbled and grateful for the work of school administrators.

Shannon earned her Doctorate in Educational Leadership at UM, her Educational Leadership Certificate at the University of Washington, her Master’s in Teaching at Gonzaga University and a Bachelor’s of Arts in Political Science at the University of Washington.  Shannon, her husband Chuck and their 14-year-old son Carter enjoy Packer Training Camp and ski weekend adventures at Discovery Ski Area

Catherine Matthews - 2023 Montana Teacher of the Year

Catherine Matthews currently teaches the early childhood special education preschool classroom at Hyalite Elementary School in Bozeman, Montana. Matthews has a Bachelor of Science in elementary education from Montana State University Bozeman, and a Master of Science in special education from Montana State University Billings.

Matthews has been a Montana special education preschool teacher for 20 years. She strives to create an inclusive classroom that celebrates every child’s talents and encourages a love for lifelong learning. Matthews aims to collaborate with families, teachers and her community as a whole as she creates a classroom culture of acceptance and diversity in which all are welcome. 

Matthews lives in Gallatin County with her husband of 17 years, Jason Matthews, an advocate for wild lands and animals, and is the mother to two amazing boys, Noah and Silas, who are always willing to help with prepping activities and celebrations for her students and classroom. Matthews also operates an organic farm, animal sanctuary and is an apiarist (beekeeper) in the Gallatin Valley, striving to provide local, farm-to-market, healthy food options and learning opportunities for her students, families and local community.

Janelle Mickelson - 2022 MASBO Outstanding Business Official

Janelle Mickelson is a loving wife, mother, grandmother, a dedicated public education advocate and is currently the Business Manager/District Clerk for Helena Public Schools. Her commitment to public education is in her DNA. Her grandmother was a schoolteacher, her father and husband are retired teachers, she has a brother and sister-in-law who are teachers, her stepson and his wife are both teachers, and her daughter in-law is a teacher. With over 29 years of experience in school business, Janelle has worn many hats. She has worked in districts as the business manager/district clerk, served as a trustee, has several years of experience auditing schools, and served as the School Finance Administrator at the Office of Public Instruction. Janelle is a CPA and has taken on an active role in numerous training and organizations, sharing her knowledge and support to others in the industry.

Janelle has given back in numerous other fashions including coaching youth baseball, facilitating taekwondo training for youth, and serving the homeless Thanksgiving dinner at a local shelter.

In her free time, to recharge the batteries, Janelle can often be found in the backcountry either on horseback or on foot exploring all it has to offer. She enjoys the peace and beauty of every landscape and the quiet and solitude that this environment has to offer. She likes to share these experiences with her two labs, Timber and Buddy, her husband, her children, her grandchildren and friends.

Janelle is known for her honesty and integrity…. her lifelong commitment to public education, her impeccable reputation throughout our state, and the way in which her quiet strength and candor inspire those around her to stand up tall and do everything possible for our kids.

Jena Burke - 2023 Montana Global Educator of the Year

Jena Burke is in her 10th year of teaching high school social studies. She currently teaches World Geography and Advanced Placement United States History at Sentinel High School in Missoula. In 2011, she was the Montana recipient of the James Madison Memorial Fellowship. This led her to focus on constitutional history in graduate school and travel to Georgetown University in the summer of 2012, to study alongside teachers
from all 50 states.

In order to connect with students and pique their interest in the world around them, Jena has coached Speech and Debate, Academic WorldQuest, EconoQuest and Model United Nations over the past few years. In addition to this, she has organized and sponsored a wide variety of clubs, including, GSA, Multicultural Club and German Club. Academic WorldQuest has been her most influential extracurricular experience to date because it quite literally brings the world to her students through online chats and in-person visits with diplomats from many different countries. She believes when students from different cultures can see that they are more alike than different, they truly learn how to be citizens of the world, becoming more inquisitive, empathetic and global-minded.

In 2019, Jena was honored to participate in the Kakehashi Program, taking 10 of her students to Japan. Since then, student travel has become a passion and focus of Jena’s teaching career. In the last three years, she has taken students to Washington, DC twice for the National Academic WorldQuest Competition, hosted by the World Affairs council, and has traveled to London, Paris and Rome with students through EF Tours. In June of this year, Jena will travel to Berlin for two weeks to study German history and culture as part of the Transatlantic Outreach Program through the Goethe Institut. She looks forward to this experience and is excited to see how it will enrich her teaching of both history and geography.

Alli Bristow - 2023 MSCA Counselor of the Year

Alli Bristow of Florence-Carlton School District as the 2023 Montana School Counselor of the Year. Alli’s counseling career began in Arizona, where she worked as both a licensed therapist as part of a mobile crisis team and a school counselor in the Phoenix area. She moved to the Bitterroot Valley 17 years ago, where she assumed the school counselor position in the middle and eventually the high school at Florence-Carlton
School District. Over the years, she created a comprehensive counseling program in a rural school with systems for making data-informed decisions.

Alli was recognized for the exceptional services and support she provides to her
students which include:

● Working over a number of years and with various other onsite counselors to create a comprehensive counseling program in the Florence-Carlton school district
● Collaboration with the administration to create a system for making data-informed decisions through the implementation of a Check In Check Out system, Child Assistance Meetings, and Meaningful Work
● Collaboration with parents, teachers, and administrators to assess student academic needs and development of plans for assistance
● Her willingness to supervise one or two school counseling interns at a time
● Creation of innovative interventions to get her students with attendance concerns actively engaged in school by utilizing a meaningful work program in the middle school
● Collaboration with community agencies to develop crisis response teams and assessments for student risk management

If working full time and parenting her sons, Ian, 19, and Noah, 16, weren’t enough, she is in the counseling and supervision doctoral program at the University of Montana. Through her skill and passion for mentoring school counseling interns, Alli has found
her next callings:
1. Advocating for the retention and shortage of school counselors in rural Montana
2. Building school counselors’ self-efficacy in providing school-based coping/social skills through increased training opportunities
3. Increasing opportunities in rural areas to provide ongoing evidence-based supervision to practicing school counselors.

Florence Carlton High School Principal Scott Marsh praised Bristow's selection as Montana State Counselor of the Year. “School counselors are the unsung heroes of education, providing invaluable support and guidance to students as they navigate the challenges of growing up and preparing for their futures. The counselor of the year award she just received is well deserved."

Bristow was nominated by Audrey Backus, a retired principal from Florence-Carlton Middle School. School administrator Audrey Backus stated, "Reflecting on my long career in education, I can’t think of another counselor I’ve collaborated with who is more deserving of this award."

Annie Begger - 2023 MAAE School Administrator of the Year

Annie’s mom would tell you she started her teaching career very young.  She would spend many days following her Mom and Dad around in their classrooms, helping them prepare assignments and get their classrooms ready for students.

Annie attended Dawson Community College for two years and then transferred to MSU-Billings and finished a double major in elementary and special education.  Her first teaching job was in a small country school in Lindsay, MT.  Annie then taught at Glendive middle school for 17 years.  While there, she helped students in Title reading, Title math, fifth grade, sixth-grade math, STEM, and wherever they needed her.  In 2016 she was selected as Teacher of the Year.

In 2017 Annie and her family moved to Wibaux, where she taught fifth grade. The next year Annie was hired as Wibaux high school administrator. She currently is the superintendent of Wibaux Schools and the grades 7-12 principal.  When not at work, she is busy chasing after her five kids and all their activities. 

Annie was selected for the MAAE Administrator Award.  She loves taking time out of her hectic schedule to judge and watch students compete and achieve at the highest level.  She promotes these programs because they foster a culture of excellence and continuous improvement. They serve as a catalyst for promoting innovation, collaboration, and student-centered approaches, ultimately contributing to the overall success and growth of Wibaux County High School and the community.

Brenner Flaten - 2022 MIAAA Athletic Director of the Year

Brenner Flaten, Glasgow School District Activities Director and Elementary Vice Principal, received the 2022 MIAAA Overall Athletic Director of the Year Award from the Montana Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association. The award is an All-Class recognition made up of all 182 member schools. 

A Glasgow native, Flaten graduated from Glasgow High School in 2002 and then from Dickinson State University in 2007 with a degree in education.  He later earned his Masters in Educational Administration from South Dakota State University.  He taught in Wright (Wyoming) and was an assistant Football and Wrestling coach there from 2007-2014.  Since 2014, he has been in Glasgow School District Administration. In addition to being the Activities Director, Flaten has spent 9 years as the Head Coach of the Glasgow Wrestling Club.

In 2021, Brenner Flaten was recognized by the NIAAA as a Certified Master Athletic Administrator.  He earned the distinction by demonstrating exemplary knowledge, contributions, and ongoing professional development in the interscholastic athletic administrator field.  Flaten satisfied those requirements by taking 12 classes in Athletic leadership, sitting for a proctored three-hour exam and completing the implemented project.  He is only the 4th Athletic Director in Montana history to obtain a Masters Level designation.

Lisa Flannagan - 2023 MASN School Nurse of the Year

I have spent my career as a nurse in the world of children of all ages. For nearly 20 years I worked in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), collecting skills and knowledge as a staff nurse, neonatal transport nurse, staff development coordinator and dabbling in unit management. I then switched gears and am in my 10th year as a school nurse. Collecting information is my hobby, so I earned my National School Nurse Certification a few years ago, and recently finished my Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree with an emphasis on Nursing Education.

In addition to my clinical and educational pursuits, I actively serve as the secretary on the Montana Association of School Nurses Executive Board. This role allows me to collaborate with fellow school nurses across the state, advocating for the needs of our profession and fostering a community of support and professional growth.

One of the most fulfilling aspects of my role as a school nurse is witnessing the transformation of students as they learn about their bodies and develop confidence in the incredible recovery mechanisms their bodies possess. Guiding them through this journey and empowering them to take charge of their health brings me joy and fulfillment.

Toni Hatten - 2023 MACSS Rural Teacher of the Year

It was not Toni Hatten’s life intention to become a teacher. However, after many years of dabbling in various fields of employment and self-employment, it was during her years as a paraeducator that she was encouraged to head back to school during her 40s and become a teacher. After careful thought conisidering her age, she did just that. Besides, teaching looked easy so onward and upward to the teaching profession.

Jump forward, Toni has taught at Sunset School, a rural, two-room schoolhouse in Greenough, MT ever since she graduated from the University of Montana in 2011. She never imagined she’d teach at a school such as this even though she has lived in Sunset School’s district for many years and somewhat knew of the school. 

Mrs. Hatten’s first year of ever teaching was featured in the New York Times due to the uniqueness of her school’s student enrollment. She had only one student the entire year! College doesn’t prepare you for that so it was a challenging year for her. You can’t have group or paired activities so the teacher becomes their everything, including their lunch buddy. In addition, how do you do P.E. with only one student? Well, you do your best and they had a lot of fun with the Wii.

After that long and challenging year and developing a love for the school, she was on mission to change the status of the school’s solitary enrollment by promoting the schools positive educational attributes: a smaller class environment, personalized learning, ample hands-on activities, individualized pacing, and engaging, extended activities such as multiple field trips and experiences. It worked! The following year she had 3 students, and then 8, and eventually, the school reached a booming 10. Again, college doesn’t prepare a teacher on how to do multigrade K-8 in one setting so fortunately, a second teacher was hired to help divide the students into K-3 and 4-8. Also, a bus was commissioned for very first time in the school’s 100 year plus history. The exciting thing was they could finally do teams during P.E! In 2019, the school had a whopping 18 students enrolled which then triggered a concern to limit the number of out-of-district students because the school can only handle so many students since it is simply a two-room schoolhouse and no room for expansion.

Toni’s passion for the school, students and families that she serves is what she is most proud of. She believes that’s what has brought the school from the brink of permanent closure to a thriving school that includes not only students from its own district but also from other rural districts. She has created an enriched educational place where students can feel safe, embrace their strengths, work on their challenges, and have memorable experiences that include a yearly theatrical performance, multigrade STEM activities and competitions, field trips throughout Montana, and special quests like local authors and experts in their field. When the school has special events like the yearly play, a chili cookoff, family bingo night, or their biggest event, End of the Year Celebration/Graduation, they are busting at the seams with an impressive community turnout for such a little school.

Twelve years later, it turns out that Sunset School was meant to be and Mrs. Hatten is enjoying every minute of it! Oh, and it’s not easy, but it is rewarding.

Sol Jones - 2023 MASC Administrator of the Year

Sol Jones is currently an assistant principal at C.R. Anderson Middle School in Helena, Montana. Sol has a Bachelor’s of Science degree in secondary education from the University of Jamestown (ND) and a Master of Science degree in educational leadership from Montana State
University Bozeman.

Sol has been in education for 21 years and has taught high school English and PE, coached basketball at the high school and collegiate levels, and has been in his current role as assistant principal since 2019. Sol values the meaningful relationships he has built with his students and colleagues and strives to promote a student-centered climate and culture within his school that is safe, inclusive, tolerant, and prepares students for a positive future.

Sol lives in Helena with his wife of 17 years and two children who are 12 and 8. Sol and his family enjoy their time adventuring in the outdoors, camping, riding bikes, and hiking around Helena and Montana.

Brett Zanto - 2023 MASC Administrator of the Year

Born and raised in Helena, Brett Zanto graduated from MSU with a degree in Social Studies Broadfield and English.  Brett first taught Social Studies and English in Flaxville and Outlook, MT.  Brett then moved back to Bozeman where he was an 8th grade teacher at Chief Joseph Middle School.  Upon completing his masters degree in Educational Leadership from MSU in 2007, Brett became an assistant principal at Helena High School.  Brett was an assistant at Helena High School for six years until being selected as the principal of Capital High School in 2012, a position he still holds today.

During his tenure, Capital High School earned the ACT College and Career Transition Award for Montana and the Helena School District received the AP Honor Roll Designation on numerous occasions. You can hear Brett singing during announcements.  Likewise, you can witness his dance moves as well as him wrestling students during pep assemblies.  Brett and his wife, Mandi, have 3 kids: Tucker, Taylor, and Tatum, which keep them very busy!  If he ever has any spare time, Brett and his family enjoy hiking and getting out in their boat.

Brett is fortunate to work with so many great kids at Capital High- GO BRU!

Elaine Higuera - 2023 META Technologist of the Year

Elaine has been the Technology Director here at Target Range School for over a decade. In the last few years, she has advocated and spent many extra hours of effort to implement 1:1 devices for students.  She has improved smart boards and software applications through COVID and beyond to support classroom instruction and student outcomes. Elaine's efforts led to improved systems of safety and security in the school through compartmentalization and enhanced security cameras, along with the implementation of visitor management and emergency management systems to ensure the safety of each individual in the event of an emergency. Elaine has also been instrumental in helping the district inform taxpayers and voters about the technology used in schools today and identifying the costs now and into the future for maintaining quality learning programs and safety for the school community. 

Elaine has been an educational technologist for many, many years in the Missoula area. She goes above and beyond every single day. She loves kids. Besides her role as technology director, she is a coach for multiple sports, she shows up to events and activities and cheers on the students.  She teaches a class each day and fills in for duties whenever she possibly can. Elaine is one of the most critical members of the Target Range team.

Amy Piazzola - META Empowered Superintendent of the Year

I have been the superintendent at Cayuse Prairie Schools for 12 years and have come to realize that not only is Cayuse Prairie a special place, but it also has a unique school environment.  This is because the staff and students that attend are each YOU-nique in his/her own way and when this comes together, we have a wonderful school community.  We have an outstanding staff of professionals that do their best to meet the needs of every child, and help parents along the way.   We are proud of our school's horticulture program and look forward to harvesting produce, and using our greenhouse to incorporate science into K-8 grades and plant greens for the fall/winter school lunches.

Technology plays an important part of our educational process for all students.  Our 1st -8th grade students have their own chromebooks. Lessons integrate the use of the chromebook so students learn the tools they need to function in today's world. 

I was born and raised in SW Montana in the small town of Ennis in the beautiful Madison Valley. I am the oldest of 3 daughters. My family still has the ranch I grew up working on that raises cattle, alfalfa, and certified seed potatoes. I liked growing up on a ranch.  It is what has instilled my strong work ethic, I believe.

My first teaching job was in Fallon, NV teaching 5th grade at a year-round school. (I LOVED IT!) After 7 years there we decided it was time to head back to good ol' MT! I have lived in Noxon, MT where I taught Kindergarten for 1 year and then 1st grade for 11 years. I want you to know I didn't decide to be an administrator because I am tired of teaching. I love to teach. I believe as a school leader, I can have a positive impact on students, staff, and the community I serve.

I enjoy keeping journals, digital scrapbooking, reading, staying in touch with family/friends, teaching aerobics, being active outdoors, taking vacations; especially cruises, and being with my family. I have a wonderful, supportive husband named Brian and four children: Brandon, Tyler, Maggie, and Morgan, all whom I adore and can't imagine life without!  

Theresa Watts - 2023 MCASE General Educator of the Year

Good evening everyone. My name is Theresa Watts and I am the 2nd grade teacher in Shields Valley, Montana! I am just finishing up my 2nd year here in Wilsall and my 8th year of teaching. I grew up in Livingston and have spent the last 31 years calling Montana home. I am a proud Montana Army National Guard Veteran. My husband Jordan and I have been happily married for 6 years and our daughter McKenna is three and a half. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education with a K-12 Reading Endorsement. I have been studying the Science of Reading the past five years and have grown so much as a teacher of reading! Over the last eight years I’ve had the opportunity to teach a variety of grade levels, spending four years in a blended 3rd/4th grade classroom in a small rural school and now teaching 2nd grade for my second year. When I’m not teaching, you can usually find me out with my family hiking and mountain biking, on the ball field in the summer, or enjoying all that Montana has to offer. I love being a Montana Educator and I am so grateful to work with amazing kiddos every year and help make a difference in their lives. I am so honored to be the 2023 MCASE General Education Teacher of the Year recipient. I have been blessed to work with incredible teachers, leadership, and educators throughout my career that have helped shape me into the teacher I am today. I would not be here without all of their support, guidance, and mentorship over the years.

Patricia Payne - 2023 MCASE Special Educator of the Year

Patricia S. Payne is a member of the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes on the Fort Peck Reservation. Patricia is known by her Nakona/Dakota Oyate (Assiniboine/Sioux Nation) as Wamni Oda Wiya which means “Many Eagles Woman.” Patricia has obtained her Bachelors of Arts degree in Elementary Education, a minor in Native American Studies at the University of Montana- Missoula. Patricia continued her education at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City graduating with a Master’s of Education in Special Education. Patricia has taught for 15 years as a teacher, all of those years in Special Education except 3 years as a First Grade Teacher. Patricia is a single parent of 3 children: Madeleine, Russell and Ezekiel along with a grandson-Jayvian Joe. Patricia has worked in urban settings, rural settings and on reservations in New Mexico and across Montana. Patricia has gained knowledge and experience before she returned to her homelands and her people. This year Patricia will be earning her Associates in Nakona/Assiniboine Native Language and beginning a second master’s degree in Education Leadership to receive her credentials and licensure towards Administration. Patricia would like to become a Special Education Director. Patricia has had success with her students. In the last two years, Patricia has helped children close the achievement gap in Math, Reading and Writing. Patricia has helped her students’ growth by mastering reading from a first grade level to grade level reading in one year using research based material and instruction and progress monitoring with MAP- Measurement of Academic Progress assessment tool for instruction level per student. While aligning her instruction with cultural background and values. Patricia has exited 8 students in the last two years with academic excellence and has helped families understand their role, rights and responsibilities per student under IDEA- Individuals Disability Education Act. Patricia was nominated and selected as 2019 American Indian Teacher of the Year Region VI National Johnson O’ Malley award and 2023 Montana Special Education Teacher of the Year and Most Distinguished Award by Parents, Administrators and Collegues. Pinamaya. Wahogunga Miyakiya. Chan’de MaWash’te. Thank You. You All Honor Me. My Heart is Good.

Taylor Salmi - 2023 MCASE Special Education Director of the Year

Taylor has been the special education director for the Cabinet Mountain Cooperative since 2017.  Prior to that she was a speech language pathologist for the cooperative.  Taylor loves serving students, their families, and the teachers/administrators in the schools her cooperative serves.  Taylor has a passion for making sure every student gets what they need and has the opportunities they need to be successful.  Taylor got her B.S. in Communicative Sciences and Disorders from the University of Montana and then continued in the Masters program there where she obtained a M.S. in Speech Language Pathology.  She was awarded a Special Education Supervisory Endorsement from MSU-Billings.   Taylor is a mom of three and lives in Hot Springs with her husband and kids.  In her spare time she enjoys coaching high school volleyball and running the nonprofit organization she founded, Hope for Harlee Foundation.   Taylor is truly honored and humbled to have received this award and cannot thank her own family, coworkers, students’ families, and students for making the work she has the privilege of doing possible. 

Kim Marzolf - 2023 MAEMSP National Distinguished Principal

Kim started her teaching career in 1996 at KG Public Schools where she taught for 2 years before taking a teaching position with Havre Public Schools. Kim earned her K-12 masters in education leadership from U of M in 1998. In 2005, Kim took several different principal positions in Alaska, Iowa and Illinois. She had many administrative opportunities at the elementary, middle school and high school levels. In 2014, Kim and her family returned to Great Falls, when she became the principal at Loy Elementary for 7 years and is currently the principal at Morningside Elementary. While at Loy Elementary, Kim worked with her staff to become the only school in MT to be recognized as a National and State School of Character in 2020. Under Kim, Loy and Morningside Elementary have both been awarded the Purple Star Award which is recognition for supporting military families and students. Kim also received the Purple Star Champion award which signifies individuals that work with military families and students to support smooth transitions when they arrive, during and when they leave. Kim has been an active member of MAEMSP, she was the North Central Regional Director in 2018 and became the MAEMSP State Rep in 2019. She enjoys the friendship and collaboration that has come with being a member of MAEMSP. Being on the MAEMSP board, Kim has enjoyed networking with other principals in Zone 7 as well as other principals in other states. Kim has four children and is married to Dave Marzolf who is a superintendent at Sun River Valley Schools. 

Tami Faulkner - 2023 MASSP Assistant Principal of the Year

Tami Faulkner is a passionate and innovative educator with 25 years of experience in the education sector. Currently serving as an Associate Principal at Great Falls High School in Montana, she has held various roles throughout her career, including teacher, instructional coach, and administrator. Her leadership and advocacy for personalized learning have resulted in the development of a competency-based model of education at Bridger Charter Academy, Montana’s first public charter program. As a school leader, she is committed to collaborating with all stakeholders to design and implement educational systems that meet the individual social, emotional, and academic needs of each student. Tami’s current focus is on leading innovation in learning pathways to engage at-risk students in school through the Transformational Workplace Pathway, promoting credit attainment through employment. Her dedication to personalized education has been instrumental in positively impacting the academic journey of countless students.

Cammie Knapp - 2023 MASSP Principal of the Year

Cammie Knapp began her career at Corvallis Primary School in 2001 as a Special Education Teacher for six years after completing her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and a Special Education Endorsement from the University of Montana. She then transitioned to Corvallis High School as a Special Education Teacher for five years, and during this time completed her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership in 2011 from University of Montana. She then worked as the Academic Dean at Corvallis High School for five years, then moved to a combo Curriculum Director/ Academic Dean position before being hired as the Principal of Corvallis High School. During this time she has continually participated with the Cognia Accreditation program allowing her the opportunity to see the valued work of schools across Montana. 

She is the proud mother of four beautiful daughters, three in which are adults and have gone on to be successful in their studies at University of Montana, Montana State University and Montana Tech. One daughter remains at home and will be headed into high school shortly. Her husband is a Health Enhancement Teacher and coaches numerous sports in the Corvallis School District. In all of her spare time, she enjoys being outside and taking in all that Montana has to offer, including fishing, rafting, hiking and gardening.

Dr. Mike Perry - 2023 MASS Superintendent of the Year

Dr. Perry discovered he had a passion for educating kids when he helped coach track and field one summer during his college years. He enjoyed working with the students and it inspired him to pursue his current career as superintendent.

He started his education career in Peerless, Montana.  Dr. Perry is in his twenty-fifth year in education having served as a teacher, principal, athletic director, and superintendent in both Washington and Montana.  He currently serves as the superintendent at Arlee Public Schools, a position he has held since 2020.  Dr. Perry also serves as Adjunct Faculty at the University of Montana in Missoula, where he earned his Bachelor of Arts in Secondary Education, Master of Education in Educational Leadership, and Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership.  Dr. Perry is committed to supporting school and district leaders to provide an exceptional public education to all Montana students.  The years he has spent in education have been focused on making school a life-altering place to be for all students and a place of safety and security. He believes that every student deserves to be seen, heard, and known in their school.  This dedication is exhibited by his willingness to represent Montana on the Governing Board for The School Superintendents Association (AASA) and in holding several leadership roles for MASS:  Western Region President, President-Elect, President, and Past President. 

Pam Birkeland - 2023 MACSS County Superintendent of the Year

Pam is a seasoned educator. She has taught all grades K-12 as well as college and adult classes. She was the district assessment coordinator for Helena Public Schools for 14 years. Upon retirement, Pam was OPI’s Project Lead for the Digital Library (now Tools for Teachers). She has served as the Madison County Superintendent of Schools since 2014. Currently, she presides as President of the Montana Association of County Superintendent of Schools. Pam has a passion for early childhood education (ages 0-8) as well as finding opportunities to provide mental health services for children, families, and school community members. The mantra of her career has been to “Do the Right Thing”.

Dave Wick - 2022 SAM G.V. Erickson Award

Dave Wick is finishing his third year as superintendent of Columbia Falls School District His previous experience includes teaching English and coaching for 11 years, 3 years as an assistant principal, and 23 years as the principal of Columbia Falls Junior High and Director of Elementary Education for School District 6. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, and received his Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Montana. He previously served as the President of the National Association of Elementary School Principals and is currently the President of the Montana Association of School Superintendents. Dave and his wife Carrie have two grown children, McKenzie and Murphy.