Mary Wren of Great Falls is
Montana Teacher of the Year 2005

Havre, Helena teachers are finalists

 

When Mary Wren teaches math, she exudes so much enthusiasm about the subject that it becomes contagious with her students. "You can almost see the light bulbs going on in their heads," says Great Falls parent Debby Plath, whose two children had Wren as a math teacher.

 

"Caring, compassionate, innovative, a problem solver, a leader who is highly respected by her peers, a master teacher" is how Principal Shelly Fagenstrom of Paris Gibson Middle School describes Wren.

 

Wren's enthusiasm, leadership, and successful teaching recently earned her the distinguished title of Montana Teacher of the Year 2005. An interview committee comprised of 2004 Montana Teacher of the Year Alyson Mike of East Helena, other professional educators, an Office of Public Instruction representative, a parent/school board member, and a high school student chose Wren from among three finalists.

 

Montana's Teacher of the Year program annually honors a teacher who exemplifies excellence in the teaching profession. The program is sponsored and administered by the Montana Professional Teaching Foundation, a nonprofit organization.

 

To be chosen Montana Teacher of the Year is the highest honor a Montana teacher can earn. It's an honor that took Wren by surprise. "It hasn't hit me yet," she says.

 

Wren is in her 16th year with Great Falls public schools. She just started this fall at Great Falls High after 11 years at Paris Gibson Middle School. She and her husband, special education teacher Craig Wren, have three boys.

 

Wren demands that her students do their best in math, no matter what their ability level. "Math opens a lot of doors," she says. "It follows us through our whole lives. One of my priorities in the classroom is to help students overcome any lack of confidence they may have in math and also to present the material in such a way that students learn it and have fun doing it."

 

In her quest to share her passion for math and make it fun, Wren has created several innovative projects, including a school-wide celebration of "Pi Day." For this three-week unit, students brought cans of food to school. They measured the circumference and diameter of the cans and found the quotient of the two, thus discovering pi. They created pi posters to decorate the school. Teachers of all subjects were encouraged to include pi in their lessons. Math teachers sang pi songs on the morning announcements leading up to Pi Day.

 

Pi Day culminated with a spirited school-wide assembly in which the counselors and associate principal received a "pi in the face." Students later donated the cans of food, over 300 of them, to the Community Food Bank.

 

Wren holds a bachelors degree in mathematics from the University of Montana-Missoula and a masters in education from Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass.

 

She previously won three Great Falls Public Schools Good Apple Awards. She was selected as a Great Falls Tribune Teacher of the Week in March 2004, and she won the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching in March 2004.

 

As Montana's Teacher of the Year for 2005, Wren will represent Montana at the National Teacher of the Year event, sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers. She will also serve as a spokesperson for the teaching profession throughout the year. Along with other state teachers of the year, she will meet the president of the United States at a private Rose Garden ceremony at the White House in spring 2005 and attend International Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala. next summer.

 

Along with Wren, finalists in this year's Montana Teacher of the Year event are Dana West, English/social studies teacher and counselor at Sunnyside Intermediate and Lincoln McKinley schools in Havre, and Margaret Belisle, English teacher at Helena High School. Congratulations to all three!

 

The Montana Professional Teaching Foundation was created in 1996 by MEA-MFT, Montana's teachers' and public employees' association, to promote and recognize excellent teaching.

 

The foundation's board of directors includes professional Montana teachers plus representatives from private business, the Office of Public Instruction, School Administrators of Montana, Montana Parent Teacher Association, Montana School Boards Association, and MEA-MFT.