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Montana Western honors education alumni and students

The University of Montana hosts its annual Night of Stars education hall of fame awards ceremony on Saturday, April 26.

At this year’s ceremony, Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau will be a guest speaker.

The Night of Stars ceremony honors educators who are alumni of Montana Western and have made lasting impacts on their field. This year, six of these educators will be recognized by UMW for their dedication and passion for teaching.

Dennis Gibson is a middle school principal at Clovis Point Intermediate School in Wenatchee, Wash. He attended Montana Western from 1973-75. He was inducted into the university’s athletic hall of fame for men’s basketball in 1990. Since graduating from UMW, Gibson earned his master’s degree at Gonzaga, taught in Roy, Mont. and has been a middle school principal for the last 35 years. He was named Middle School Principal of the year by the North Eastern Washington Golden Apple and the Washington Library Association.

Lydia Mild is a teacher and volleyball coach at Simms School in Simms, Mont. Before teaching in Simms, Mild taught in Polaris and Dupuyer, Mont. In 2011, she received the Dufrense Award for Outstanding Educator. She attended Montana Western from 1999-2004.

Lynn Stonelake is a retired teacher and coach. After teaching middle school in Dillon for 34 years, he taught at a school for at-risk youth for six years. In addition, Stonelake worked as a trail supervisor for the Beaverhead National Forest and served as a lead admissions counselor for Montana Youth Challenge Academy. While at UMW, he was a member of the 1967 and 1969 Frontier Conference Championship football teams. He earned his bachelor’s degree from UMW in 1971 and his master’s degree in 1979.

Barbara “BJ” Gneiting is a teacher at Wise River Elementary in Wise River, Mont., where she has taught kindergarten through eighth grade for the last 34 years. She was named the Montana Rural Teacher of the Year in 2011. She has also been an active leader in her community serving as a 4-H leader and a speech and drama judge. She graduated from UMW in 1978.

Tedd Stanisich attended graduate classes at Montana Western from 1972-75 while teaching and coaching at Beaverhead County High School in Dillon. He earned his master’s degree in education. Stanisich taught high school government and history in Dillon from 1971-2013. He also coached basketball, football, golf and track. He was named Montana High School Golf Coach of the Year. Stanisich has also been an adjunct professor at UMW.

This year’s Legacy Award Winner is Rose Conwell Sullivan. She earned her two-year teaching degree in 1940 and her bachelor’s degree in education in 1967. Sullivan started teaching at a one-room schoolhouse in 1940 in Carbon County, Mont. She went on to teach in Victor, Mont.; Kellogg, Idaho; Valier, Mont.; and Butte, Mont. While still in college and in her early teaching years, Sullivan worked summers as a Girl Scout counselor in Colorado and Oregon. 

In 1978, Sullivan became a library assistant at the National Center for Appropriate Technology, which is a non-profit dedicated to helping disadvantaged people get access to information and technology. She was named director of library services in 1981 and continues to work part-time managing the library. She is 93.

Each year, the Montana Western also recognizes its top teaching candidates. This year’s Outstanding Teacher Candidates are: Amber Blodgett, Micaul Bosch, Darbie Elmore, Erik Schwab, Katherine Vaughn, Cory Gunderson, Jordan Bronec, Heidi Burgess and Megan Burns.

The ceremony will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the Beier auditorium followed with a reception and silent auction in the Lewis and Clark  Room in Mathews Hall on the UMW campus. 

Tickets are available for $20 for an individual, $30 for a couple or $5 for current UMW students. Call the University of Montana Western Foundation at 406-683-7305 to purchase tickets.