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The Education Foundation for Billings Public Schools, in partnership with BNSF Railway, is proud to announce the winners of the BNSF Railway Excellence in Education Award for 2019. The Excellence in Education program seeks to recognize teachers who are striving to make a positive impact on the education of Billings Public Schools students. Middle and high school students across the district nominated 162 teachers as Distinguished Educators. All of these outstanding educators were invited to apply for the Excellence in Education Award. From the thirty-nine applications received, two teachers were selected by a panel of local business and education leaders. The recipients of this year’s BNSF Excellence in Education Awards are Ms. Laura Walker of Burlington Elementary School and Mr. T.J. Umemoto of Billings Senior High School.

As Excellence in Education Award winners, Ms. Walker and Mr. Umemoto will each receive a $2,500 award to use toward continuing education or classroom projects. This is the second year BNSF Railway has recognized teachers in Billings Public Schools with this award.

“BNSF is pleased to continue the tradition of recognizing these exemplary educators,” said Maia LaSalle, public affairs director for BNSF Railway. “Demonstrated by the nomination from their students, it is evident that Ms. Walker and Mr. Umemoto have an incredibly positive impact on those they teach. We applaud both teachers for their dedication to Billings Public Schools students.”

At the heart of Ms. Walker’s teaching philosophy is building relationships with each of her 444 students spread across six elementary schools. Laura thinks outside of the box in her approach to teaching art to her students. The typical vision of turkey hands, Christmas, trees, and snowflakes are ditched in favor of animation, Stop Motion, photography, architecture, cartoon development, digital portfolios, and editing and music integration. Digital art is her passion. Ms. Walker will use the BNSF award to further this journey by purchasing iPads, Apple Pencils, and a green screen kit to enable students to explore more opportunities within digital art.

As a physics teacher, Mr. Umemoto is guided in his teaching by the age old adage,” Students may not remember exactly what you teach them, but they will always remember how you made them feel.” He has carried this philosophy into his science classroom through his focus on building relationships with his students and providing hands on learning experiences.  Mr. Umemoto will use the BNSF award to purchase a Vernier Dynamics Cart and Track System to create new opportunities for his students to explore force, position, velocity, and acceleration using their own blue-toothed device. These versatile systems combine hands –on physics experiments with technology to encourage students to develop the critical thinking skills that are required for success in the 21st century.

About the Education Foundation for Billings Public Schools

The mission of the Education Foundation is to promote excellence in education by providing opportunities and resources to Billings public school students. The Foundation works in cooperation with the public school system, but operates independently.  Through endowments, scholarships, grants, and specific projects, the Foundation provides opportunities and resources for students and educators in Billings Public Schools to promote excellence in education.  Major activities include: Classroom Grants, Partners in Education, Reading Rocks, Saturday Live, Project Lead the Way, and scholarships for students and teachers.

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