• Home
  • Uncategorized

Category: Uncategorized

Student Highlight

Student Highlight: Ian Lafley

Lincoln County High School, Eureka
Class of 2022 

 

Ian took his first two credit recovery courses through MTDA two years ago as a sophomore. MTDA’s credit recovery courses are designed for students whose education has been interrupted, either by life’s circumstances or by failing a course, providing a pathway to high school credits needed for graduation. He’s back taking credit recovery– English and World History– this year in order to graduate on time this summer. The change in Ian as a student from then to now is what prompted Lou Ann Gay, the MTDA support person at Lincoln County High School, to nominate him for a student spotlight. 

“He’s a much different student now. Yes, he’s under pressure to graduate, but he’s also more engaged and has taken ownership of his education.” This maturity has moved him from a “guess and go” student to one that will identify what he missed on a quiz, go back to his notes and learn it. 

Ian admits to just getting by in his classes sophomore year. It was his first online learning experience so there were a lot of unknowns which led to some stress. He credits his success this year to his motivation to graduate but also to be seen as a student that pushes toward his goal. And he appreciates the support he feels he’s getting from his MTDA teachers and Ms. Gay. “It’s an interesting phenomenon, when people are supporting you, you want to try even harder to prove you are worth the support.”

MTDA’s credit recovery courses are getting Ian to the finish line. “It really proved that even if I fell behind, I could catch up. It may be a long road, but it is possible!” His advice to other students taking an MTDA course for the first time, is “keep your pace, slow down enough to learn, and not rush through. If you fail a quiz, learn from it. Things happen, but it isn’t impossible!”

After graduation Ian plans to work for a couple of years, saving money for a culinary program. Beyond that, he dreams of working as a chef, traveling the world, and creating signature dishes before settling down “for a bit” to open his own restaurant. 

We’ll be cheering all of those dreams on, Ian.

 

Student Highlight

Student Highlight: Maddie Griffiths

Maddie Griffiths

As an eighth-grader, Maddie came to Kristy Powell, the counselor at Three Forks High School and asked how she could get ahead. “She wanted to get started!” Maddie wanted to know if there was anything she could do over the summer before ninth grade. They wouldn’t typically place a freshman in MTDA courses, but Maddie’s focus and drive far exceed typical. After talking to her middle school teachers, Powell enrolled her in Geometry and Earth Science in the summer of 2020. Maddie earned A’s in both, before coming into the high school as a Freshman.

She has continued to take two-three MTDA courses each term, many in the sciences and health sciences as her future career interests lie in medicine. Maddie also enjoyed the chance to take creative writing and journalism, both helped her develop different writing skills from her regular English classes. “I was looking for more of a challenge from my classes, as well as a way to get ahead,” said Maddie. MTDA gave her the opportunity to take classes she wouldn’t have been able to take otherwise. “And the connection I had with teachers was like nothing I had ever had before.”

Maddie’s strategy, which she would encourage other students to do as well, is to email each of her teachers at the beginning of the term to introduce herself and tell them a little bit about herself. She has found the MTDA teachers to be very communicative with individualized responses. Other advice for students thinking about enrolling in a MTDA course would be to just try it. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It might feel intimidating but that’s what they’re there for and they are happy to help.”

In addition to her stellar academic performance, Maddie also competes for the school tennis and speech teams,  placing second in state in speech (class B) this year as a sophomore. 

Three Forks has a significant number (almost 20%) of their students enrolled in original credit courses with MTDA. Their administration is happy to be able to give students more academic options.

“Big picture, I am so thankful to MTDA for opening doors. My school only offers two or three AP courses, MTDA has put me a step ahead and better prepared me for college.” Maddie is interested in psychiatry and psychology and plans to study biology or health science in undergrad before going on to a physician’s assistant program.

 

Student Highlight

Student Highlights: Emma Beebe

Emma came to Gallatin High School in the fall of 2020 when her family moved from out of state. During Covid, she chose the fully virtual option taught by GHS teachers because of family risk. She was no stranger to online learning; prior to Gallatin, she attended JeffCo Virtual Academy in Colorado. “Being in our small local high school wasn’t great for me so I tried this option.” She went on to say, “it helped me overcome the immediate challenges, but even more importantly and longer-term it has helped me mature and become a better student.” This school year (2021-2022) when GHS went fully back to in-person learning, Emma petitioned and was granted fully remote status. She enrolled in three MTDA courses in the fall and is currently enrolled in five this spring.

Patty Maddock, the Online Learning Coordinator at Gallatin High School, nominated Emma for this student spotlight feature because of her exceptional academic performance. “Emma is a remote-only student who received A’s in all of her classes last semester even earning 100% in Native American Studies. I’ve never seen a 100% in any class! She is on top of her work all of the time and communicates well if there is any kind of an issue.” 

“I have become so familiar with online learning now it suits me better,” reported Emma recently. She has appreciated MTDA’s format and the teachers, finding them very willing and eager to help, and more than happy to fill in any gaps and/or jump on a google meet. In fact, Emma chose MTDA’s program over other online options for her most difficult courses because of the strong teacher support.  

Personally, Emma loves the flexibility it has given her to be more involved in family life, especially with her sister living with Downs Syndrome. She also recognizes how online learning has made her more independent and she feels it has better prepared her for college. “It has made me take ownership of my own learning and taught me how to advocate for myself. This has made me stronger not just in school but overall communicating with others.”

Emma’s advice to other students taking an MTDA course for the first time? “Communication is key. Reach out to your teacher when you need them, don’t be afraid to ask questions.” 

After graduation this year, Emma will be going to Montana State University to study nursing. Her end goal is to be a neonatal nurse practitioner.

Student Highlight

Student Highlights: Nina Sederberg

NinaNina took her first MTDA course freshman year of high school. She wanted to do more academically, but the traditional class setting didn’t fully work for her.  At a small school like Roberts, the administrators and staff have the luxury of knowing their students well, and they knew Nina to be a student who was not going to fail, but would continue to struggle with attendance, so they decided to be proactive and enroll her in more MTDA courses. 

Over her high school career, Nina embraced virtual learning because MTDA helped her achieve her academic goals and take courses that her school wasn’t able to offer. She has taken several classes almost every term, from core classes to electives ranging from Health Occupations to Personal Finance. “We bought into personalized learning for students like Nina and ran with it. MTDA has allowed us to better serve students like her,” said Alex Ator, Roberts Superintendent, in a recent interview.

Nina believes that taking these classes has helped her prepare for college and the future in general by strengthening her time management and organizational skills. 

“My experience was rewarding; I impressed myself by accomplishing so much in a short amount of time. Taking these classes meant that I could work ahead and start taking college classes earlier,” Nina shared.

Nina is on track to graduate next June (2022), with many dual credit courses also completed. She plans to finish her associate’s degree in general education and then decide on a major, possibly psychology or counseling. Nina’s advice to other online learners is to “work as hard as you can and if you can work ahead, do it.” 

The performance of Roberts’ students in a statewide program like MTDA is a point of pride for Ator. The class of 2021 had a total of six graduates, four of whom were first generation high school graduates, two of them graduated with the support of MTDA.  “In the end, I get to hand them that piece of paper that no one can take away,” Ator said.

Casey Lunceford: 2021 Recipient of the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence

Casey LuncefordRonan High School vocational agriculture teacher Casey Lunceford is among 18 educators across the nation who were selected as recipients of a 2021 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence.

As part of the prize, Lunceford will be awarded $15,000 and his program will receive $35,000. He also received a Yellow U.S. General mechanics tool cart with a customized panel commemorating the award.

Lunceford is the first teacher from Montana to claim one of the Harbor Freight awards, which were first presented in 2017.

Full News Article

Student Highlight

Student Highlights: Matthew Phillips

matthew phillips
Matthew Phillips White Sulphur Springs High School, class of 2021 (enrollment 71)

Matthew graduated from White Sulphur Springs High School, a school with 71 students, this past spring as co-valedictorian with high honors. A previous principal was instrumental in introducing first his older brother and sister to MTDA and Matthew was eager to follow suit.

He started taking classes from MTDA his freshman year because he wanted to push himself further. Over his high school career, Matthew took 21 MTDA courses, ranging from American History, English III, and Creative Writing to finishing up with AP Calculus, AP Computer Science, and Joy and Beauty of Computing (Dual Credit) this spring. 

Upon graduation this spring, he sent a note to all of his MTDA teachers, 

“Thank you so much for all that you have done for those, like me, that wanted to push themselves further than traditional classes at their schools would have allowed. I hope that you continue your work, and know that you definitely helped me gain a higher education than I would have otherwise in high school. Once again, thank you so much for your hard work and dedication to the students.”

Matthew is now attending Montana State on a full-ride scholarship (the Bair Family Scholarship), studying Computer Science with plans to work in software development.

Student Highlight

Student Highlights: Audrey Oltrogge

Audrey Oltrogge
Audrey Oltrogge
Stanford High School, Class of 2019

Audrey graduated from Stanford High School, a school with an enrollment of 30, in 2019. Her guidance counselor introduced Audrey and many of her classmates to MTDA to expand their academic options with a wider variety of courses than a school this size could offer locally. Stanford also supported these students by providing study hall periods and local teacher support.

As a result, Audrey took ten MTDA courses over all four years of high school, eight of which were world languages. She credits these language courses for broadening her global perspective and for getting into two different study abroad programs, including the Congressional Bundestag Youth Exchange in Germany where she spent her gap year.

Audrey became the very first student in Montana to be awarded a scholarship from the nationally recognized Future of School organization. This scholarship rewards students for their courage to forge new learning pathways using online learning to enhance their academic success.  Future of School required recipients to submit a self-produced video describing their education challenges and successes.  Audrey’s can be viewed at https://www.futureof.school/student-stories/audrey-oltrogge

Today Audrey continues her studies at the University of Utah, majoring in anthropology with an archaeological science emphasis. She plans to stay in school for a masters program and then work for the BLM or forest service. 

“I highly encourage anyone who has the opportunity to take online courses; they open doors for you that you would not have had otherwise, and if you have the chance, taking these courses can change your life in many different ways.” 

Gianforte Recognizes Buffy Smith of Helena With Spirit of Montana Commendation

Buffy SmithDuring Computer Science Education Week, Congressman Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) recognized Buffy Smith of Helena for her dedication to educating Montana students and for encouraging more young people, particularly young women, to study computer science and other STEM fields.

An educator for 27 years, Buffy is breaking down barriers, paving the way for female and minority students to find their way into computer science. With her commitment to her students and her knowledge of computer science, Buffy has created an all-inclusive approach to the subject. She prioritizes encouraging students to work with others who have different views and thus enhance the outcome of a project.

Full News Article

2019 NCWIT National AiC Educator Award Winner Buffy Smith

Buffy SmithNCWIT Aspirations in Computing is pleased to announce that Helena High School Computing Instructor Buffy Smith has been named the recipient of the 2019 NCWIT Aspirations in Computing (AiC) National Educator Award!

Each year, the NCWIT AiC Educator Award publicly celebrates formal and informal educators who encourage high school women’s interest and participation in technology pursuits. To date, nearly 400 educators have been honored for demonstrating an exceptionally strong, consistent, and positive involvement in supporting female students in computer science.

Buffy Smith knows firsthand how challenging it can be for interested students to access computing education when they live in a highly rural state like Montana, because it’s an obstacle she’s faced throughout her career. Buffy first fell in love with computing in high school. A college programming class convinced her to turn this passion into a career, but her college only offered a minor in Computer Science, so she paired that minor with a major in English. After seven years teaching high school English, she was told she could switch to Computer Science if she took some additional summer training. She leapt at the chance, and since then, she has not stopped expanding her knowledge, teaching herself several programming languages and taking graduate classes on Oracle and Python. She has also learned to build robots, fly drones, and use 3D printing technology, because these are topics of particular interest to her students.

Full Text

2019 MASSP Principal of the Year – Joel Graves – Lincoln County High School – Eureka – MTDA Board Chair

Joel Graves

On January 28th at the Montana Principals Conference, sponsored by the Montana Association of Secondary School Principals (MASSP) and the Montana Association of Elementary and Middle School Principals in Helena, the MASSP Principal of the Year was announced. The award recognizes outstanding leadership of active, front-line principals who have succeeded in providing an exceptional learning opportunity for students.

Mr. Joel Graves, Principal at Lincoln County High School in Eureka, was selected as the recipient of the 2019 Montana Association of Secondary School Principals’ (MASSP) Principal of the Year at the annual Montana Principals Conference held in January 27-29 in Helena. This prestigious award recognizes outstanding school leaders who have succeeded in providing high-quality learning opportunities for students as well as demonstrating exemplary contributions to the profession.

School Administrators of Montana Principal of the Year Page

  • 1
  • 2

Montana Digital Academy
Phyllis J. Washington College of Education
The University of Montana
32 Campus Drive – Room 365
Missoula, Montana 59812
Phone: 406-203-1812
Fax: 406-203-1815