GREEN RIVER — Sweetwater County School District No. 2 announced Harrison Elementary teacher Brittney Montgomery as the district’s Teacher of the Year for the 2020-21 school year.
Teachers throughout the district nominated their fellow teachers for this award, resulting in 30 different teachers being nominated. A committee of teachers, board members, and others then narrowed that down to a top six.
According to SCSD No. 2 Superintendent Craig Barringer, Montgomery was nominated four separate times.
“I have a hard time putting into words just how much this award means to me. As I write this I immediately begin welling up with tears. To be nominated by four different educators fills my heart with so much gratitude. It is an incredible honor to be recognized by colleagues, the District, and the School Board. Teacher of the Year to me is an incredible blessing and I’m so grateful to be recognized,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery will now be considered for the Wyoming Teacher of the Year.
Connecting with Every Student
One of the nominations praised Montgomery for her dedication to her students. She taught both in the classroom and online this past year to ensure kids got a quality education during the challenging times the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic presented.
“Brittney takes pride in her work as a teacher. She is dedicated to her students and always works to provide the best education to all of them. She teaches in both the classroom and online learning. Her level of commitment exceeds the expectations of parents and staff within the district,” the nomination stated. “Brittney is always looking for ways to challenge her students while providing interesting and exciting lessons for all. ”
Another peer who nominated Montgomery said she has a “fierce love” for her students and works to make sure every student is set up for success.
“Brittney has gone above and beyond this year. She has a fierce love for her students and they know how much she cares. She has exceeded expectations to make sure every student has what they need to succeed. Whether is alternative seating, noise canceling headphones, a quick picture or message sent to parents, a hug, or a pep talk to keep the kids going. Brittney sees the child first, they are her top priority,” the nomination stated.
Another nomination also pointed out Montgomery’s ability to connect with all students, making them feel seen.
“Brittney also displays an incredible amount of patience, understanding and compassion for her students. She has a way with children who are struggling to feel heard and loved. I also have witnessed the dedication she shows to create a safe environment.”
Storytime with Mrs. Montgomery
In the nominations, fellow teachers praised Montgomery for her Storytime with Mrs. Montgomery, which was picked up by SweetwaterNOW, where Montgomery read live on Facebook each morning for the community’s children to enjoy.
“During the school shut down, Brittney set up a daily story time for her students. This was noticed by an online site, and was presented to the viewers to have access to the program. She did this as an opportunity for anyone who wanted to take advantage of having their child/family be read to daily,” one of the nominations stated.
Another person who nominated Montgomery said that she has instilled a love of learning and reading throughout the community, with the help of these online reading livestreams.
“Brittney has been reading online since the pandemic begun last year to connect with the kids during a time of isolation. She started the process on her personal Facebook page which it caught the attention of a local news media page who offered to sponsor Brittney on their page. Since then, Brittney continues to read online voluntarily during the holidays when children are on break from school. She has instilled a love of reading in so many children including my own,” the nomination stated.
Shifting Perspective to Find Success
At the start of the school year, the school district asked teachers to volunteer to teach online students, as some kids stayed at home for their health and safety throughout the pandemic. Montgomery was one of those teachers who volunteered to teach both in the classroom and online.
“She took on additional responsibility to teach the online portion of the students that opted to stay home due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” one of the nominations stated.
This past school year undoubtedly brought forth many challenges in teaching and learning, however, Montgomery said she chose to look at those challenges as opportunities.
“Rather than looking at the ‘challenges’ this year was going to bring I shifted my perspective and looked at how many opportunities for growth it could provide,” Montgomery said. “I was teaching a class of first grade students in person as well as teaching all the virtual first grade students in our district. The goal I set was to make sure every child felt like they were part of this class family.”
Though Montgomery believes her goal was achieved, she is hesitant to take responsibility for that. Instead, she gives the credit to the students and their hard work.
“This goal was achieved because of the resilient students I had this year. We spent a great deal of our time getting to know each other and sharing who we are. They celebrated, supported, and cheered each other on consistently,” she said.
Montgomery recalls two specific moments over the past school year that showed her just how “magical” the school year was. The first moment was in March when one of the virtual students returned to the classroom to learn in person.
“I gathered the class in the morning and surprised them by pulling her out from behind my desk. There were cheers, hugs, and one of my students said, ‘she’s here, she’s really here Montgomery, she’s home!’ They considered each other family and our classroom was ‘home’,” Montgomery said.
“The second was when our last remaining virtual student said goodbye. We all waved and said we would miss him and then many of the students and myself had tears. It hit me that this truly was a family. It didn’t matter that we were separated by screens, we connected anyway,” she said.
A Love for Learning
When asked what she loves about teaching, Montgomery has a hard time narrowing it down.
“There are countless moments throughout the year that teachers sit back and think, ‘this, this is why I do it’,” she said.
However, she said one of her favorite parts about the job is when a student realizes their own potential for the first time. Another thing she loves is when she sees her students helping each other and supporting each other.
For Montgomery, teaching isn’t just about transferring information or knowledge, but rather is about sharing the love of learning.
“I love the moments where I’m sharing the love of learning with my students and they are sharing and expressing why they love it too,” she said.
And of course, Montgomery loves reading books aloud and getting to see the children’s reactions to the story.
“I love to see their faces light up when characters do silly things or when they make a personal connection to a character or story,” Montgomery said. “Watching students create through art, writing pieces, projects, or experiments is also rewarding because they are absolutely adorable and their minds are fascinating.”
She loves teaching in an elementary school as there is always an abundance of joy.
“I also cherish the hugs, pictures, cards, and support students give. If you are having a bad day walk into a primary classroom you are immediately filled and brightened up by an outpouring of love and happiness,” she said.
At the end of the day, Montgomery simply can’t think of a more rewarding profession than teaching. It’s where her heart belongs, and that is evident to the teachers she works beside, every student to enter her classroom, and every family who has ever tuned into her story times.
“Each day is different and new and full of magical moments,” Montgomery said. “There is nothing more rewarding than teaching.”