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Educator honored as “Montana History Teacher of the Year for 2021–2022”



Helena, Montana – The 33rd recipient of the Montana Statehood Centennial Bell Award, which honors the Montana History Teacher of the Year for 2021–2022, was announced as Eric Chaon, a teacher from Great Falls, on Wednesday in the State Capitol.

Chaon and his students ring the Centennial Bell to commemorate the teacher’s accomplishments and Montana’s belated birthday, which fell on Election Day this year.

“Yeah, it’s certainly rewarding to have your colleagues recognize you and write letters of support for you,” said Chaon. “I think the most rewarding part was that a student wrote a letter of support for you. You write a lot of letters of recommendation for kids as a teacher. So to get one from a student and read it and see their perspectives was just encouraging to keep working hard as a teacher.”

According to Chaon, that encouragement encourages him to be the greatest teacher he can be.

“I would say it’s rewarding to have, you know, students who recognize and are thankful to have you as a teacher. And then also it’s kind of inspiring too, you know, make sure you keep working hard and doing a good job in the classroom and so all of those things certainly rewarding,” said Chaon.

Great Falls Principal Geoff Habel wasn’t shocked to learn who won history teacher of the year after nominations from the instructor’s peers and students were reviewed by a panel of Montana history supporters.

“He is a great teacher. He does all the things that you would ask of a teacher to meet the needs of all the students, not just the college-bound students, but the students that are just going to go right into the workforce. He meets them where they’re at. He knows the strategies,” said Habel.

Chaon, who graduated from Great Falls High School in 2006, went back to his old school in 2011 and has taught history there since 2013.

“Just thankful for all the people that, you know, put time and effort into this and thankful for the students that I have and leadership that we’ve got in great falls and all the people that care about Montana history and preserving it and moving forward,” said Chaon.

Three sponsors—the Montana Television Network, the Montana History Foundation, and the Sons & Daughters of Montana Pioneers—gave Chaon a plaque and $4,500. The Montana Historical Society and Helena’s 1889 Coffee House are further collaborators.

The student who submits the letter of support for the winning teacher will also receive additional gifts from Judy Wohlfrom of Woodland, California, consisting of $100 in gold Sacajawea coins.

Mike Collins, president of the Sons and Daughters of Montana Pioneers, and his wife Connie present another gold Sacajawea Dollar to each student who goes to the Helena awards ceremony with the winning teacher.