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Congratulations to MEA-MFT member Denise Juneau!

 

Election Day 2008 brought MEA-MFT members many reasons to celebrate -- not the least of which was the election of MEA-MFT member Denise Juneau as Montana's new Superintendent of Public Instruction.

 

As State Superintendent, Denise will oversee Montana's k-12 public school system. She will also serve on Montana's State Land Board.

 

Here's what Denise says about her life, her experience, and her hopes for the job -- in her own words:

 

I am proud to have attended, taught in, and worked with Montana's public education system from elementary school through higher education and through my professional career.

 

I attended Head Start and first grade in Billings, Montana as my parents completed their undergraduate degrees-both in education. My parents, brother, and I then moved to my father's hometown of Browning, Montana where I continued my public school education and graduated from Browning High School.

 

The teachers in Montana's public education system provided me with a strong foundation for life. They taught me the value of what great teachers can do to help students succeed.

 

My teachers showed me that I could achieve the dreams and goals I had set for myself, and I will always be grateful for their lessons and support.

 

At Montana State University in Bozeman, I continued my education and received my Bachelor's Degree in English. While at MSU, I was fortunate to receive a Rockefeller Brother's Foundation Fellowship that opened up opportunities for graduate school. At the Harvard Graduate School of Education, I completed my Master of Education Degree in the "Risk and Prevention for School Aged Children" program.

 

My teaching career began in New Town, North Dakota on the Fort Berthold Reservation. My mother grew up in that area, and I am an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes, so it was really a return to a "home" of sorts as I have many relatives still living in that area.

 

That first year of teaching English to every 9th and 10th grader in the school, as well as coaching the speech and debate team, was the toughest job I ever loved. It certainly taught me a lot about the daily challenges and triumphs that teachers experience.

 

However, Montana called me home, and I returned to Browning to teach at my alma mater. Those years taught me about the power that teachers have in creating the future leaders of our state and that so many caring individuals make up the education profession.

 

Although I loved teaching, I believed I could affect education in a broader policy arena. So I went to work at the Office of Public Instruction, where again, the committed people involved in education inspired me.

 

My colleagues and I visited schools all across Montana. We saw first-hand the ways both rural and urban schools struggle to implement the federal No Child Left Behind law and its accountability provisions. We witnessed the focus of school boards and communities as they worked together to recruit and retain high quality teachers and administrators, and we could appreciate their efforts to meet state standards at all levels.

 

However, despite the constraints of rules and regulations, I saw teachers creating places of insight and power for their students.

 

After a few years at the Office of Public Instruction, I decided to attend the University of Montana Law School because I wanted to understand how the law influences and affects our education system.

 

Graduating in 2004, I became a Montana Supreme Court Clerk for Justices Jim Regnier and Brian Morris. That position certainly honed my legal ability and thought process. After my experience there, I briefly went to work for a national law firm that specialized in Federal Indian law.

 

Working in the legal profession has sharpened my principles for fairness, integrity and respect for others. However, my passion has always remained with education, and so I returned to the Montana Office of Public Instruction as the Director of Indian Education where I oversee the implementation of Indian Education For All and the increase in achievement of students. Once again, I am impressed by the quality of Montana's teachers and the miracles they accomplish every day in their classrooms.

 

Being a Division Administrator at the state level, I have learned about every aspect of the Office of Public Instruction, its personnel, its policies, its budgets, and the legislative process it undergoes every other year to advocate for the K-12 education budget.

 

Being both an attorney and an educator provides an interesting lens through which to view federal, state, and local educational needs and to discover ways to meet those needs. That particular lens also assists the Division, Office of Public Instruction and the general Montana education community when meeting with education leaders, faculty and specialists in the field.

 

I decided to run for the State Superintendent of Public Instruction because I believe that I can help Montana's schools achieve educational goals and be even greater. Strong schools can create educational opportunities for Montana students to be highly competitive in the global economy.

 

I also believe that the state must support teachers in their ongoing growth as professionals and that more can be done to elevate the teaching profession to the level it deserves. Although we must continue to implement the provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act, we must also work together to ensure that Montana's ideals of a quality education are included in statewide policy.

 

I will be honored to serve as Montana's next Superintendent of Public Instruction as I look forward to continuing my work with all of Montana's schools and education community for the benefit of all students.

 

Again, congratulations, Denise!

 

Read 12-28-08 Great Falls Trib article about Denise.

 

Read about other Amazing MEA-MFT members.