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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

Matthew Phillips of White Sulphur Springs HS

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.

Audrey Oltrogge of Stanford High School

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

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.

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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

2018 Montana Digital EdReady Program wins WCET Outstanding Work (WOW) Award

EdReadyEdReady Montana, a student math readiness initiative developed and implemented by Montana Digital Academy, is one of five 2018 recipients of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education Outstanding Work Award.

Since 2004, WICHE has presented the award to colleges, universities, and organizations that implement exceptionally creative, technology-based solutions to contemporary challenges in higher education.

MTDA, located at the University of Montana’s Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Sciences, is Montana’s statewide K-12 online education program. Created by the Legislature in 2010, the academy provides online courses to thousands of students each year through their local public schools.

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2018 Blackboard Catalyst Teaching and Learning Award

Blackboard Catalyst AwardSince 2005, the annual Catalyst Awards have recognized innovation and excellence in technology within the Blackboard global community. Among several categories, staff at Blackboard reviewed how different users are engaging with their communities through education.

The Montana Digital Academy were winners of the international Blackboard Inc. Catalyst Award in the teaching and learning category this month for their implementation of a Blackboard software and their newly redesigned credit recovery program.

MTDA’s Mike Agostinelli, Robert Currie, and Jason Neiffer implemented the new program in 2015 and saw an overall increase in student satisfaction.

Newswire Article

Missoula Current Article

Spring Final Exams May 2018

Proctoring Information

Students in many MTDA original credit courses are required to take final exams in a proctored, secure exam environment.

Rationale: Per the request of both MTDA teachers and participating school district administrators and teachers, MTDA will ask local districts to create a proctored environment for class finals should that be necessary in specific MTDA courses. You can see a list of exams that require proctoring starting April 13, 2018 on this page: PUBLIC Link.

Procedures for proctored exams:

  • MTDA will offer student finals during their final exam period, scheduled for May 21-23, 2018.
  • NEW this semester, expected exam time frame will be included with passcodes and other exam instructions.
  • Proctor exams must be monitored by an adult (for example, a counselor, teacher, administrator or paraprofessional) named by the local site facilitator or school.  We have created a document with “best practices” for test proctors (see below). It may not be proctored by a parent or another student.
  • The designated proctor must supervise the student for the entire duration of the final exam.
  • All proctored exams are passcode protected.  The passcodes will be sent to the primary contact from each school, and that person should distribute passcodes to the designated proctors the week of May 7, 2018.  It is the responsibility of the local site facilitator to share appropriate passcodes with designated proctors. Passcodes are to remain secure, and shared only with appropriate school personnel.
  • Proctored exams mean that students have access to no other materials during the exam, including notes, textbooks, translators or other course materials. Some courses ask for additional factors as noted on the digital passcode sheet.
  • Designated proctors must also monitor students to make sure that additional browser windows are not open and that electronic devices like cell phones, iPads, tablet PCs, etc are not being used during the exam.
  • No finals will be available before May 21, 2018, with the exception of prior arrangements made for early exiting seniors. All final exams must be completed by May 23, 2018.  There will be a makeup day for exams on May 24-25, 2018 for students with verifiable medical excuses only.

** Spring Tests Only: As in past semesters, some AP courses will require earlier final examinations based on the AP exam schedule for students. **

Finals Proctoring Information Best Practices

Please print this document for sharing with your named proctored linked HERE.

Please direct questions about proctoring to  Christen Cole, MTDA Instructional Registrar,, 406-203-1812. Thank you for your cooperation.

Spring 2018 Original Credit Final Exams


MTDA Spring 2018 Original Credit Semester Finals will be administered May 21-23, 2018. Final exams must be taken on one of these dates, without exception.  Semester finals should be complete by 5pm on Wednesday, May 23rd. The date of final exams cannot be changed.

Please locate your class(es): Exam Proctor Information If your course has a YES in the proctored final column, you will need to take your exam in the presence of a local proctor. That person will have the password for your exam and any other important exam instructions.

Arranging for a proctor and time to take your exam is your responsibility.  The exam time arranged by you and your proctor must take place on May 21st, 22nd, or 23rd. Your proctor can be a school administrator, counselor, site facilitator, or other school personnel. It may not be a parent or another student. Start this process now, as it is not something you want to leave until the last minute! Make sure you know far ahead of time who your proctor will be and the best date/time to take your exam.

If your course has a NO in the proctored final column, you may still have a semester exam for your course, but a proctor is not required. See your course page and instructor for more information and announcements.