Montana's 2003 Teacher of the Year

Jon Runnalls, a long-time MEA-MFT member, claims he doesn't just teach science; he teaches life.

Runnalls has been teaching life, and science, in Helena schools for 25 years. As a science teacher at Helena Middle School, Runnalls brings trout to the classroom and the joy of learning to his students.

This month, Runnalls was named 2003 Montana Teacher of the Year.

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

A committee including the 2002 Teacher of the Year, a parent, student, educators, and an Office of Public Instruction official interviewed candidates and made the final selections this month.

Fellow Helena teacher Jim Schulz, also an award-winner, explained Runnalls's style of teaching thus:

"There is always a celebration of learning happening in Mr. Runnalls's room. Whether it is a team of sixth graders dressed up as Albert Einstein to honor the birthday of the great scientist, a classroom welcoming spring by plotting the angles of the perfect playground Frisbee golf course, or 125 youthful fish biologists releasing classroom-hatched rainbow trout fingerlings, there is fanfare, fun, and jubilant celebration."

Runnalls's work and love for learning extends to the greater community. He is there for his students before, during, and after school.

Runnalls has coached at the YMCA, conducted a summer rocket camp, served on the parish council, taught religious education, volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, and maintained and updated environmental trail systems.

As Montana's Teacher of the Year, Runnalls will represent Montana at the National Teacher of the Year event. He will also serve as a spokesperson and ambassador for the teaching profession throughout the year.

He said, "I feel we need to be better advocates for ourselves, the work we do, and the pure joy we create in our classrooms on a daily basis."

Along with Jon Runnalls, finalists in the 2003 Montana Teacher of the Year event are Sally Broughton, sixth-grade teacher at Monforton School in Bozeman, and Carol Haverlandt, eighth-grade communication arts teacher at Paris Gibson Middle School in Great Falls. All finalists are MEA-MFT members.