When it comes to work days, Lisa Cordingley, the executive director of the Helena Education Foundation, has clear favorites.
Those days arise when she and a handful of school trustees and administrators travel from building to building surprising educators in the Helena area with Distinguished Educators nominations.
Cordingley says there is nothing better than honoring teachers for their hard work.
“One small thing can change the course of a child’s education in a life-changing and meaningful way,” she said.
Some graduating seniors who’ve either excelled academically or overcome adversity are asked to pick a teacher who greatly impacted their educational career. The foundation formalizes the recognition with its annual Celebration of Excellence. The students and their selected teacher are honored at a banquet in May.
This year’s 48 honorees include 10 elementary teachers and five middle school educators. Among the honorees, five have retired.
Former Helena School District employee JoDee Martello was nominated by Nicole Jaques, a Helena High senior. Jacques says Martello changed her educational experience with the simple act of giving her the book “The B.F.G.” The book catapulted her love for reading and learning, Jacques says.
This was the first year C. R. Anderson English teacher Shannin Preshinger was nominated. She was nominated by Kasey Hoerning, a senior at Capital High.
“They change my world each and every day,” Preshinger said of students, with tears in her eyes after hearing of her nomination.
C.R. Anderson Principal Bruce Campbell was not surprised by the recognition. He describes Preshinger as a dedicated teacher who cares tremendously for kids.
“She makes a connection and builds their self-esteem,” Campbell said. “That makes them feel great about themselves and learning.”
Keith Meyer, interim superintendent and a former classroom teacher, joined the award caravan and it’s one of his favorite events as well.
“It’s so powerful to watch,” Meyer said. “There is nothing more powerful than an educator being recognized by a former student.”
This year the Celebration of Excellence is scheduled for Monday, May 14.