Veteran Montana educator Susie Hedalen will take over as the new superintendent of Townsend School District in July.
Hedalen is a longtime educator and administrator throughout the state. She has worked as a teacher at Warren Elementary School, principal at Winans Elementary School in Livingston, K-12 superintendent in Grass Range and superintendent of Arrowhead School District, and she worked for the Montana Office of Public Instruction to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act plan.
She decided to become an administrator during her first teaching job at Warren Elementary.
"I had changed grade levels when I had the opportunity to gain a diverse teaching experience," Hedalen said. "Mr. (Tim) McMahon encouraged me to take on leadership roles and begin my administrative career. He was a great mentor."
Hedalen was born in the Flathead Valley and has been a Montanan her whole life. She graduated from Helena High School before going on to University of Montana and Montana State University to earn her bachelor's degree in elementary education. She later received her master's in educational leadership from MSU and a graduate certificate in Native American Studies. Hedalen is now working on her doctorate in educational leadership, which she hopes to earn next year.
Hedalen comes to the position with diverse work experience, including her work in grant writing. Just last year, she wrote a grant and was awarded $1.25 million to improve literacy and student supports, including mental health, for a rural school in Paradise Valley. Hedalen said she loves working on school improvement efforts for the state's lowest-performing schools, and working on mental health awareness, school safety and Indian Education For All.
Hedalen wanted to return to superintendent work after working for OPI and took a position with the Arrowhead School District. She described it as an opportunity to "get back to the field and work with educators, families, students and community support networks."
As Townsend's superintendent, she hopes to do more work she is passionate about in her local community.
"I want to bring my excitement for teaching and learning, my knowledge of school funding and grant writing, and build on the positive school climate and family and community engagement in the Bulldog community," she said. "My husband and I have lived in Broadwater County for 10 years, and I and looking forward to being part of the incredible team at the school and being involved in the community."
Hedalen said school was challenging for her. She loved the social aspects and extracurricular activities, but had to work hard on her academics as a child.
"I shocked everyone and myself when I switched my major to education," she said. "In college, I realized that I could make a difference and teach things in different ways to reach students who struggled as I did in school."
It was during that time that Hedalen also learned she had a love for learning and a passion for reading that she wanted to share with students.
"I enjoy working with all students," Hedalen said. "But have found it particularly rewarding to work with families and students that need additional support."