UMW News Bureau
Montana Governor Steve Bullock made a stop at the University of Montana Western as a part of his statewide “Back to School” tour of education institutions throughout the state.
While at Montana Western, the governor joined leaders in the university’s teacher education, school of outreach and early childhood education programs. Bullock said it was important for him to make the stop in Dillon because half of the student body will go on to be educators, and he wanted to explore the university’s unique block scheduling with the Experience One program.
Julie Bullard, director of the Early Childhood Education (ECE) program, walked Bullock through the details of the ECE program. Bullard explained how Curious Minds is a unique lab school that serves as the classroom for many online courses and a hands-on environment for on-campus students. At Curious Minds, students get to work with preschool-aged children in a learning environment that encourages both students and the children to learn new things in a very hands-on way. In addition, those who are taking online courses all over the state can observe how the school functions.
Laura Straus, UMW associate professor of education, stressed the importance of continuing to serve current teachers and provide them with a source of professional development courses. Straus also described how the university is taking a different approach with teacher candidates by teaching students how to document their successes with schoolchildren while in the classroom. Straus told Bullock Montana Western tries to find new ways to implement the latest education theories into its classrooms.
“Here at Montana Western, we are very proactive,” said Straus. “Since we are a smaller school, we can be more nimble. When we decide to do something, we do it.”
Straus also described the university as a unique rural education school that allows students to experience rural education settings and the unique learning techniques used in the small schools used in the surrounding areas.
“Our educational tradition here is very strong,” said Straus.
As part of his visit, Bullock also visited a classroom that puts to use the experiential learning technique that is promoted by the Experience One program, in which a student takes one class for three hours a day for three weeks. Bullock visited students of Deb McCabe’s education class and observed block scheduling firsthand.
McCabe encourages her students to change their way of thinking so that students learn to really adjust to different children’s need when they enter the classroom setting.
“Kids have so many abilities, and it’s important for us to figure out how we are going to meet their needs,” said McCabe.
While sitting in the front of the classroom, the governor listened to the class of college students share why they are pursuing an education degree. Students then shared their ideas for improvements and their perceptions of the way education is changing. Bullock told the students it was important to hear their thoughts since they are tomorrow’s educators.
“For me, public education is the great equalizer,” Bullock told the students. “So don’t give up… We need to work on valuing educators, and you are going to make a difference.”