Havre Daily News
For local teacher Linda Ferguson, a ringing bell normally signals the start or end of a class period, but when she travels to Helena in November, it will symbolize Montana's history and the years she's spent teaching it.
The St. Jude Thaddeus School fourth-grade teacher will be honored with the Montana Statehood 2005 Centennial Bell Award for her special devotion to teaching state history. She'll be asked to ring the Montana Centennial Bell for one minute on the anniversary of the day and time Montana gained statehood, at 10:40 a.m. Nov. 8.
In her letter of support, St. Jude principal Therese Cowdery wrote that Ferguson devotes the entire year to Montana history, rather than confining it to a single unit.
Ferguson begins with the dinosaurs, and then progresses as far forward as time allows.
"History is my passion," Ferguson said. "I was just tickled to teach Montana history."
Ferguson also organizes activities over the year that teach Montana history, including a Lewis and Clark play one year and, last year, quilt making. Each year, the class travels to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Great Falls. At the end of every school year, the class creates an exhibit hall. Each student creates an exhibit and presentation on a topic of their choosing.
The Centennial Bell Award is presented by several Montana television stations in Helena, and is co-sponsored by the Montana Office of Public Instruction. Ferguson, Cowdery, and Ferguson's 2004-2005 fourth grade class are all invited for the day, expenses paid.
In addition, Ferguson will have $1,000 to use for the purchase of teaching materials for the school.
"I get to do the choosing, that's what's so fun," Ferguson said. She'll choose books on Montana history for the school library.
Former newscaster and author Norma Ashby coordinates the Centennial Bell Award. She said she was impressed with the portfolio of student work Ferguson submitted.
"She really is an outstanding woman," Ashby said.
Ashby quoted a letter from a student of Ferguson's, Nick Rhines. "Learning about Montana was a great part of fourth grade," Ashby said Rhines wrote. "Mrs. Ferguson made it fun and interesting."
Ashby will be in Ferguson's classroom Monday while on a book tour that will bring her to the Havre-Hill County Library Tuesday.
"It's a great honor," Cowdery said of the award. "We recognized Mrs. Ferguson at our fair booth this summer. She was our honoree. We had her picture up there. The display was for her saying we're proud of her."
Ferguson has taught at St. Jude's for 15 years, most of those teaching fourth grade. She came to teaching late in life, going back to school for her education degree after having worked various clerical jobs for years.
Ferguson's current fourth-grade class is learning about the Native American tribes that lived in Montana before Lewis and Clark. In the coming year, they'll learn about Montana's natural history, Lewis and Clark, homesteading and the coming of the railroad.