Carrying on the Tradition of Great Teaching

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Jami Burns and Allison Nys are carrying on the tradition of good teaching in rural Montana schools.

They are proof that great teachers do more than produce high-achieving students in their classrooms today. They have the power to inspire the next generation of great teachers that our nation needs and America’s prosperity depends on.

Both told their stories at the 102nd annual National Rural Education Association conference in Branson, Missouri this week.

Burns teaches at Huntley Project Elementary, a distant rural K-6 school of approximately 360 students in the Worden, MT of Yellowstone Country. She teaches at the school she attended as a child. She said that she is one of a dozen members of her former classmates who became teachers.

“And I truly believe we all became teachers because we had great teachers when we were growing up,” Burns said.

Nys was named the Montana Rural Teacher of the Year by the Montana Association of County School Superintendents. She teaches fifth- and sixth-graders – a combined class with eight students in each grade – at Pioneer School, north of Billings, MT. The Pioneer School has a total enrollment of 60 students in grades prekindergarten to six.

Nys said she chose to teach at the small rural school that she once attended and to live in a rural community, because it is a great place live, work and raise a family. She believes her students do well because of the personalized instruction she is able to provide.

She also believes she is a teacher today, because of her teachers and the positive experience of attending a small rural school.

It is estimated that our nation will need more than one million new teachers in the next five years. Some rural communities face unique challenges with teacher recruitment. Rural communities also have many strengths that include parental involvement, small class sizes, and personalized instruction that is often applicable to their communities and makes education meaningful to students.

On September 27, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan launched a national teacher recruitment campaign that features a new website — — dedicated to providing information and resources for students and prospective teachers — including a new interactive “pathway to teaching” tool designed to help individuals chart their course to becoming a teacher.

The world is changing. Shape it. Pursue your passions – TEACH,

John White
Office of Communications and Outreach