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Montana Teacher of the Year

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A Capital High School science teacher has been named Montana's Teacher of the Year. Beartooth NBC's Jess Armstrong shows us why out of nearly 10,500 educators Tom Pedersen is number one.

“Yeah, I was always the science geek. Drove people crazy, but, I mean, that's just my personality, so might as well teach it,” says Pedersen. Thirty five years ago, Tom Pedersen started at Capital High School as a temporary teacher – with no intention of staying. “In the meantime, I fell in love with kids and I fell in love with teaching,” says Pedersen.

“It's such a big honor for Tom, and it's a huge honor for Capital High School and for Helena Public Schools,” says Capital High School Principal Elisabeth Hudnutt. Principal Hudnutt says Pedersen does more than teach – he mentors kids beyond the classroom. “He looks upon himself as the spark that ignites our kids and I just think that's a rare and precious thing," says Principal Hudnutt.

“When he's teaching, he's very passionate about his job,” says Biology Honors II student Lauren Koffman. As a passionate science teacher, Pedersen enjoys taking his students on field trips from Glacier to Yellowstone.

“He's like a Montana fanatic. So it's…he really believes that it's good for us to get outside and appreciate what environment we live in,” says Biology Honors II student Oscar Fusson.

“He teaches them all about nature and he does a lot of hard work to bring us all out there together,” says Koffman.

Pedersen sees how getting kids off of computers and out into the world doesn't just help them learn, it's a way to help students deal with stress, depression, ADHD and obesity. 

“The natural world can calm and relax and focus kids in a way that you don't see with other artificial means and you take your kids in places they have these real wild experiences and they fell alive and it changes them,” says Pedersen. While Pedersen will continue to watch his students change and grow, one thing is certain; He's not going anywhere.

“I mean, I started here and I'll end here,” says Pedersen. Pedersen and the two other finalists will be honored October 20th in Missoula. He will represent Montana at the National Teacher of the Year event.


Story by Jess Armstrong, Beartooth NBC.
Copyright ©2011 Beartooth Communications Company. All Rights Reserved.

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