Salute to Valedictorians

April 29, 2014 2:00 pm

The Education Foundation and Billings Gazette Communications are proud to honor businesses that support education in our community and the students who have achieved the status of valedictorian in their high school.

1of 46
  • Billings Senior High School

    Parents: Bob and Courtney Bjordahl

    Future Plans: I will be attending Rocky Mountain College and majoring in Elementary Education.

    Most Rewarding Class: The class that was most challenging was Honors Chemistry. It was really confusing and hard to understand at times. This made it feel really good to leave there with an A.

    Teacher: Mrs. Gopp has made a huge impact on my life. I had her as a GT teacher from 2nd to 8th grade. She taught me what it means to be a good person, and she taught me to reach for higher goals. She showed me things that I use in everyday life. I will always appreciate having her as a teacher.

    Extracurricular: I participated in volleyball all four years, and I am currently in National Honors Society.

  • Billings Senior High School

    Parents: David and Nancy Carlson

    Future Plans: I am currently deciding between attending Carleton College, Scripps College, and Wellesley College.

    Most Rewarding Class: Despite some initial panic at seeing the twenty-five page chapters in font size 8, AP U.S. History quickly became my favorite class. There is a little of the universal American experience in all of us, and it was fascinating to see the forces that shaped the United States we know today. Thanks for the lessons in time management, Mr. McCulloch!

    Teacher: Mr. Visser was a constant source of encouragement during my middle school years. I would not be the person I am today if it were not for his support as my student council advisor, play director, and teacher. I am also forever grateful to Mr. McCulloch for sharing his wisdom in the fields of literature, history, and railroad trivia.

    Extracurricular: I have had the opportunity to meet so many amazing people through Key Club and other volunteer opportunities, and those experiences have given me an appreciation for all that I have been given. I have also really enjoyed giving summer tours at the Moss Mansion.

    Why Platinum Program: It sounded like an interesting challenge.

    Magnum Opus: I am portraying historical leaders by painting each one in the style of a specific art movement.

  • Billings Senior High School

    Parents: Rod and Sandi Eaton

    Future Plans: After high school, I am planning on attending Whitworth University to major in Business Management, with a focus on Non-Profit, and minor in Theology.

    Most Rewarding Class: AP Calculus has been the most rewarding and challenging class of my high school career. To me, this was such a great class because I got to see the outcome of all my math courses throughout my education come together. It was fun to see how much I progressed over the course of twelve years.

    Teacher: Mrs. Cordes went above and beyond, and cared about me as an individual, not just another student taking her class. Not only was I blessed with having her for two years of English, but she also was one of my Platinum Program Advisers. She was easy to approach when I had questions about school, the Platinum Program, or even life in general.

    Extracurricular: Student Council, The Platinum Program, Cross Country, Choir, Piano, Tennis, Senior Advocates, Youth Group, National Honor Society, Track, Trading Cards

    Why Platinum Program: My parents encouraged me to participate in the Platinum Program because they felt that I was capable of achieving this accomplishment. I also saw it as a personal challenge that would stretch my knowledge for the college

    Magnum Opus: My Magnum Opus topic was cancer, and with it, I organized a glow-in-the-dark fun run for a local non-profit organization called United Luv. It is an organization that raises money to buy iPads for cancer patients to use in hospitals around Montana. Over 800 people participated in the race, raising enough money for 50 iPads.

  • Billings Senior High School

    Parents: Scott and Jeri Heard

    Future Plans: I plan to pursue a degree in Elementary Education at either the University of Montana or Montana State University.

    Most Rewarding Class: The hardest class for me was definitely Honors Algebra 3 junior year with Mrs. Pfeifle. The material we learned in that class was the hardest for me to understand and I had to do a lot of homework and extra studying.

    Teacher: Mrs. McPherson, my student council advisor. She was the person I went to whenever I needed help. Her advice helped me with my academics, sports, friends, and just life in general. I learned so many valuable life lessons from her, and I cannot thank her enough for everything she has done for me throughout high school.

    Extracurricular: Student Council, National Honor Society, Senior Advocates, Basketball, and Soccer.

  • Billings Senior High School

    Parents: Xia Chao and Yuguo Kang

    Future Plans: After high school, I will attend the University of California Berkeley.

    Most Rewarding Class: AP U.S. History has been the most rewarding class in my high school career. The class taught me that it is important to learn from the mistakes that I make in life. I also learned the most valuable and memorable history about our country. Furthermore, AP U.S. History is the most challenging class because it was the first AP class that I took.

    Teacher: Ms. Wood, Senior High's AP Statistic teacher, has made the greatest positive impact on my K-12 education. Ms. Wood has a charming personality that is so encouraging and appealing. She successfully makes statistic so interesting that I look forward to having her class very day. Her class, AP Statistic, is the highlight of my senior year.

    Extracurricular: National Honor Society, Science National Honor Society, French National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, Future Business Leaders of America, French Club, Key Club, Northridge High School Ambassadors, Northridge High School Mentors

  • Billings Senior High School

    Parents: Cindy and Keith Kober

    Future Plans: Following graduation, I will be pursuing a career in nursing. To begin the four year degree, I will be attending MSU-Billings for the first year. The following three years will be completed through MSU Bozeman's nursing program where I will earn my Bachelors Degree as a Registered Nurse.

    Most Rewarding Class: The most challenging class in high school was my junior year AP U.S. History class. The class constantly pushed and challenged me to succeed. The content was difficult and the tests were extremely detail oriented. Each week the class introduced new ideas and content. Every weekend was spent reading and preparing for the following week of class.

    Teacher: The teacher who made the greatest impact on my education was Cindy Gopp. I was fortunate enough to be a student in her extended studies class. Cindy Gopp always encouraged my growth and helped in expanding my learning abilities. She instilled in me the determination and passion to succeed. Thoughts of that class bring me many positive memories.

    Extracurricular: Throughout high school, I was involved in a variety of activities and programs. Among these include Billings Senior High Cheerleading, dance, National Honors Society, and Senior Advocates.

    Why Platinum Program: Entering high school, I was determined to push myself as far as I could in my education. To do this, I was prepared to take all AP and honors courses available throughout my four years. When I learned about the program, it seemed fit for me to be involved. I would already be taking the classes, so all I had to do was add a project into the mix.

    Magnum Opus: My Magnum Opus topic took form around a sweet treat, cupcakes. The basis of the project was constructing a business. For this, I created a "ready to use" business plan. To add a spin on the project, I introduced another aspect as well. This portion was entitled "52 Weeks of Cupcakes." Every week in 2013 I baked a different flavor of cupcake.

  • Billings Senior High School

    Parents: Toby and Lisa Saur

    Future Plans: I plan to attend San Marcos University in San Diego and study pre-medicine.

    Most Challenging/Rewarding Class: AP United States History truly challenged me to learn study habits and go above and beyond to get an "A." I believe this class prepared me for college.

    Teacher: Mrs. Korb, my third grade teacher, made learning fun and gave me a positive outlook on education that I carried with me through senior year. Without her I would not have been as driven to succeed in school.

    Extracurricular: Varsity Soccer, National Honors Society, and Senior Advocates

  • Billings Senior High School

    Parents: Steve and Carrie Sloan

    Future Plans: I plan to attend Carroll College in Helena, Montana on a volleyball scholarship and pursue a degree in Nursing. After college, I hope to become a traveling nurse and experience everything the world has to offer. After a few years of traveling, I would like to settle down and enter the field of pediatric nursing.

    Most Challenging Class: Mrs. Kate Cordes' Honors and AP English classes have helped sharpen and improve my writing skills through interactive lessons. English has never been my strongest subject, but thanks to Mrs. Cordes, I will be more than prepared for college.

    Teacher: My first grade teacher, Dolly Jahn, created a foundation for learning for me at an early age. She encouraged me to take risks in life and reach for the stars. I would also like to thank Lisa Wood, Dan Bartsch, Kate McPherson, and Craig Beals at Senior High for always being a positive role model in the classroom and making learning fun!

    Extracurricular: Varsity Volleyball (Played on Back-to-Back Montana Class AA State Championship volleyball teams my junior and senior year - Big thanks to Coach Jeff Carroll and Coach Keith Keller), Varsity Softball, National Honors Society, Senior Advocates Club, volunteer at Head Start, Inc., volunteer for the Special Olympics.

  • Billings Senior High School

    Parents: Tom and Kim Webber

    Future Plans: I plan to attend the University of Montana in Missoula to double-major in math and physics. I want to get a teaching certificate to teach math and physics at the high school level. Also, I plan to minor in tuba performance and make music a lifelong hobby.

    Most Challenging/Rewarding Class: That was definitely AP U.S. History. Mr. McCulloch was truly an incredible teacher with a vast knowledge of his subject matter. He made the class extremely challenging, but in a manner that taught so much and made a good grade difficult, yet attainable. I know without a doubt that this incredible class is what helped me get a 4 on the APUSH test.

    Teacher: I hate to break the "one teacher" rule, but I have to say the best teacher I have had is the team of Mr. Caekaert and Mr. Umemoto, who teach calculus and physics. Their influence interested me in these two subjects that most people find so boring and difficult. They made it seem easy and explained everything so that it all just clicked.

    Extracurricular: Band, pep band, jazz band, orchestra, National Honor Society, Boy Scouts of America, youth group

  • Billings Senior High School

    Parents: Mike and Sheila Woodring

    Future Plans: Study finance and accounting in college.

    Most Challenging Class: AP U.S. History, because it was a difficult class and I had to work hard to get an A.

    Teacher: My AP U.S. History teacher, Mr. McCulloch, because he did a great job of teaching difficult material and pushing me to do my best on everything.

    Extracurricular: Soccer, Business Professionals of America, National Honor Society

    What motivated you to participate in Platinum Program: I am really competitive and I like to challenge myself.

    Magnum Opus Topic: Fitness and exercise technique

  • Billings Skyview High School

    Parents: Chuck and Kristine Barthuly

    Future Plans: I will be attending Montana State University in the fall pursuing degrees in English and Education. I have had many amazing teachers who have inspired me throughout my education, and I hope someday to be able to influence students in the same way.

    Most Rewarding Class: My senior AP English class has proven to be both incredibly challenging and rewarding. AP English has given me a greater understanding and appreciation for literature as well as made me an infinitely more mature and skilled writer.

    Teacher: My fourth grade teacher at Poly Drive, Mr. Bokum, helped ignite my passion for learning and showed me the benefits of perseverance and hard work. I will never forget his encouragement or his crazy monkey folders.

    Extracurricular: Soccer, tennis, student council, youth group, National Honors Society and Falconeers

  • Billings Skyview High School

    Parents: Mr. and Mrs. Morgan Evans

    Future Plans: I will attend the University of Montana in Missoula next fall to double major in Music Education and Math.

    Most Rewarding Class: Honors Chemistry with Mr. Michels my junior year was the most challenging and rewarding. It was not an easy class and I really had to work hard and study all year. After all of my hard work, I came out of that class feeling a real sense of accomplishment and knowing that I had learned a lot and am prepared for college level chemistry.

    Teacher: Mrs. Gruizenga is an incredible teacher and person. She helped me take Statistics as an independent study first semester when it wouldn’t fit into my schedule. Mrs. Gruizenga believes in me and makes sure I know it. She cares so much about all of her students and really makes us all feel important. Mrs. Gruizenga has encouraged me and helped me believe in myself.

    Extracurricular: Symphonic Band, Philharmonic Orchestra, Pep Band, Jazz Band, Students Against Destructive Decisions (S.A.D.D.), Flaconeers, national Honors Society, Billings Youth Orchestra.

  • Billings Skyview High School

    Parents: Mr. and Mrs. Jeff Frank

    Future Plans: After high school I will be attending Montana State University in Bozeman. My plan is to major in Nursing, and eventually get my Nurse Practitioner license. My dream after graduating college is to travel to a third world country to provide medical care. I hope to be skiing or boating every weekend depending on the season, and traveling often :)

    Most Rewarding Class: The most challenging and rewarding class in high school was Honors Chemistry. I took this class junior year along with a tough schedule. We had homework every night without fail and the tests were difficult because we moved through material so fast. At the end of the year I felt prepared for college classes and was appreciative of the challenge.

    Teacher: Mrs. Atkinson has made the greatest impact on my education. She was my Spanish 1 and Spanish 2 teacher. Every day she walked into class with a positive and uplifting attitude. Mrs. Atkinson genuinely cared about us, and in turn it made me care about my education. She encouraged me to become a better student and person and I am very thankful for her.

    Extracurricular: I am on the board of directors in our Student Council. I am involved in Business Professionals of America, National Honor Society, and Falconeers. I play socccer, and have just recently started a tennis career. I volunteered at St. Vincent's, Salvation Army, Montana Marathon, and Beartooth Mountain Christian Ranch.

  • Billings Skyview High School

    Parents: Ty and Laura Hale

    Future Plans: I plan to attend Rocky Mountain College and study Pre-medicine.

    Most Rewarding Class: My high school foreign language classes have been the most rewarding for me. They have opened new opportunities for me that I had never really thought about before. I hope that I will have the opportunity to travel to other countries in order to use what I have learned and to experience other cultures first-hand.

    Teacher: There are numerous teachers throughout my education that have influenced me, but my sixth-grade teacher Mrs. Kristin Voigt has made the greatest impact on me. She recognized my abilities and challenged me in everything I did. Most of all, I knew that she always cared, and she made me realize that I am capable of more than I first believed.

    Extracurricular: Academic Team, Science Bowl, History Bowl, Academic WorldQuest, National Honors Society, Falconeers

  • Billings Skyview High School

    Parents: Matthew and Kristen Lundgren

    Future Plans: I will be attending college at Washington and Lee University, studying a variety of subjects, and perhaps majoring in political science and a foreign language. I hope to study abroad and complete internships during this time. After college, I plan to attend graduate school or law school, and begin a career where I can help people across the world.

    Most Rewarding Class: The most challenging and rewarding class I’ve taken is AP English. It forced me to deepen my writing ability, and strengthen my critical reading. I had always thought I was a decent reader and writer, but this class showed me I could be so much better. Though I wanted straightforward direction, the challenge of ambiguity has truly expanded my mind.

    Teacher: Mr. Engle, the band director at Castle Rock Middle School, has left a huge impact on me. The way he pushed me in band, managed his classes, became the friend and mentor to so many students, and pushed the band to be the best it could be every day, taught me the value of hard work. He showed me my potential, and this made me want to push myself.

    Extracurricular: Forensics has changed my thinking process – my experience in policy debate has been one of the best of high school. Band and Jazz Band have allowed me to express myself. Flags have helped me expand my coordination and creativity. I studied more for academic team. I gave back through S.A.D.D. and Falconeers. I enjoyed all the busy times. 

  • Billings Skyview High School

    Parents: Mr. and Mrs. John McNeil

    Future Plans: Attend Rocky Mountain College and double major in psychology and education.

    Most Challenging Class: The most challenging class was Calculus. There was a lot of extra time required to accomplish my goals of fully understanding the concepts that it is based off of.

    Teacher: Mr. Newell because he was so passionate about math and his teaching technique inspired me to go into education. He made learning and math fun.

    Extracurricular: I have been involved in Yellowstone County 4-H for 11 years. It has taught me leadership and life skills. The friendships and lessons I have gained through 4-H will help me to continue growing throughout my life.

  • Billings Skyview High School

    Parents: Mr. and Mrs. Greg Passon

    Future Plans: I will be attending Montana State University-Bozeman in the fall. My goal is to pursue a career in medicine; however, I am unsure which area of medicine I will decide upon. I am enrolled in the Pre-Med Intake Program, and will most likely major in Cell Biology and Neuroscience.

    Most Rewarding Class: Sociology was the most rewarding class that I took in high school. I enjoyed learning about the science of social life and human behaviors. The class enlightened me to take a deeper look into the understanding of my own life. I believe the knowledge I learned in this class will be valuable both personally and professionally.

    Teacher: The teacher that had the greatest impact on me was Jeremy Carlson. He is not only a good teacher, but a good person. I enjoyed his teaching style, class projects, his love for sports, and overall personality. He made learning Spanish fun. I appreciated that he acknowledged my artistic talents, and challenged me to use them whenever I could.

    Extracurricular: Perhaps the most significant activity I participated in during high school was Student Council. I served as class president both my freshmen and junior year, and was a senator my sophomore year. I am currently serving on the Board of Directors. Other extracurricular activities I participated in include Key Club, SADD, and National Honor Society.

  • Billings West High School

    Parents: Doug and Lori Bell

    Future Plans: I plan on attending Montana State University Bozeman in the fall of 2014 and studying pre-med. After college, I will hopefully be attending a medical school to further my education in the medical field. I would like to use my education to pursue a job in Radiology.

    Most Rewarding Class: I believe the most rewarding class I have taken is Human Anatomy and Physiology. This class helped me receive a general knowledge of the medical field and I am excited to apply what I have learned in that class to everyday life.

    Teacher: I do not have just one teacher that has made a big impact on my education. All of my math and science teachers have been very important to my education as a whole, as well as my English teachers for teaching me how to write.

    Extracurricular: Varsity golf, Key Club, National Honor Society, and Tennis

  • Billings West High School

    Parents: Paul and Amy Dunphy

    Future Plans: I plan to pursue degrees in education and Spanish, most likely at Seattle University, but I am also considering other colleges. I would love to spend a year or two teaching in a small Central or South American community, eventually returning to Montana to teach elementary school or high school Spanish.

    Most Rewarding Class: Ms. Sue Bach’s honors English 3 class was by far the most challenging, but I cannot thank her enough for pushing my classmates and me to be better writers and thinkers. Yes, the fear of an in-class write plagued me each time I walked into her room, but the feeling of completing a 12 page term paper or connecting with a book made it worthwhile.

    Teacher: Mr. Rob Stanton has made an incredibly positive impact on me both as a student and as a person. His genocide class forced me to examine my own opinions while helping me understand them in the context of my past experiences. He has been a mentor both in and out of the classroom, and I hope to be as passionate and inspiring a teacher as he is.

    Extracurricular: At West High, I have participated in Philharmonic Orchestra, Tennis, Speech and Debate, Student Council, National Honors Society and Mentoring. I have also been able to stay active outside of school, thanks to piano lessons, my youth group (First United Church kids for life!), and the opportunity to be a counselor at Camp Mimanagish each summer.

  • Billings West High School

    Parents: Kurt and Karen Dutton

    Future Plans: I plan to either attend the University of Wyoming to earn a degree in Architectural Engineering or Montana State University to earn a Civil Engineering degree with a focus on structures.

    Most Rewarding Class: From isometrics and elevated views to a scale model of a house and 3-D printed toys, the projects in my drafting classes have shown me first-hand the use of my work and the results of my projects. Mr. Gray's drafting classes have proven my passion for design and inspired me to pursue an Architectural Engineering degree.

    Teacher: If I were to give the name of one teacher, it would result in a list of names longer than the space available. I have had a plethora of teachers in every subject who have encouraged and challenged me in different ways. Thank you to the amazing teachers at Miles Avenue, Lewis and Clark, and West High!

    Extracurricular: Key Club, West High Mentoring Club, National Honor Society, University Connections, Youth Leadership Billings, Orchestra; Volunteering with Saint Vincent Healthcare Clinical Engineering Department, Special Olympics, and Easter Seals-Goodwill Pediatric Therapy Clinic

  • Billings West High School

    Parents: David and Mary Anne Ficek

    Future Plans: Although I am not sure which college I will attend in the fall, I plan to study biomedical engineering. Before that, however, I plan to further my science education by attending the National Youth Science Camp this summer.

    Most Rewarding Class: My Science Seminar class has encouraged me to challenge preconceived ideas by thinking beyond what I already know and exploring new ideas at exceptionally deep levels. Mr. Miller and Dr. Lord really press me to consider tough questions, and because of this class, I have learned to ask questions with complicated answers or even no answers at all.

    Teacher: Mr. Schwartz, my engineering teacher and robotics coach, has challenged me to consider and put into practice the most impossible ideas, helping me when I really need it but never supplying the answers outright. He lets me work through tough problems, which has helped me understand my work more fully.

    Extracurricular: Throughout high school, I have participated in band, orchestra, and choir. In addition, I have had the privilege of participating on the Nemonoid Robotics team. I enjoy playing ultimate Frisbee in the community, and I ran cross country for two years. I have also spent two summers working with the Montana Conservation Corps.

  • Billings West High School

    Parents: Mike and Jill Follett

    Future Plans: In the fall I will be attending the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. I will be playing baseball for the Loggers and hope to study economics. I will also be taking the prerequisites for medical school with the intentions of becoming an Orthopedic Surgeon someday.

    Most Challenging/Rewarding Class: I believe Mr. Rob Stanton's genocide class has been the most rewarding for me in high school. The daily discussions always transpired into controversial, but relevant topics as to what is going on in the world today.

    Teacher: It is hard to name just one teacher who has had the greatest impact on my education. I would like to thank all my teachers from kindergarten to senior year for making a positive impact on my academic experience.

    Extracurricular: American Legion Baseball, golf, intramural sports, National Honor Society, Key Club, and mentoring

  • Billings West High School

    Parents: Kevin and Jami Funyak

    Future Plans: My post high school plans are to attend college and major in business and attend graduate school.

    Most Rewarding Class: The business classes at West High have been the most rewarding because they have taught me the importance of managing money in the future. The business classes have also influenced me to pursue a business degree in college.

    Teacher: Mr. Prchal at Will James made the greatest positive impact on my education because he taught me how to be a man and solve my own problems. He taught me the importance of taking responsibility for my actions.

    Extracurricular: Basketball, Key Club, National Honors Society

  • Billings West High School

    Parents: Lyle and Vicki Hawsey

    Future Plans: I will attend Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire and major in Economics with a minor in International Relations. After graduating from college I plan to become a financial analyst, but my plans remain flexible.

    Most Rewarding Class: Honors English has proven to be the most difficult, yet worthwhile course I have taken in high school. Its academic rigor continues to challenge me and requires, by far, my greatest effort.

    Teacher: Ms. Sue Bach, recently retired Junior Honors English teacher and forever influential educator, demonstrated her unfailing commitment to her students--the students she genuinely cared for, laughed with, and thought about. Ms. Bach's passion for education and her students has left an indelible mark on my life--one so cherished I will never forget.

    Extracurricular: Debate, National Honor Society, Montana Boys State, Big Brothers, Student Council, Key Club-President, Billings Youth Leadership, Business Professionals of America, Football.

  • Billings West High School

    Parents: Randy and Nancy Howell

    Future Plans: I plan to attend the Savannah School of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia to pursue degrees in Graphic Design and Advertising.

    Most Rewarding Class: This year I took a class in graphic design at the Career Center. I had always thought that I might be interested in pursuing a career in graphic design, but I wasn’t sure until I took this class. Through it, I have learned skills in graphic design, communication, advertising and work ethic. It is by far the most rewarding class I have ever taken.

    Teacher: Mr. Russ Walks is my graphic design teacher, and he has significantly affected my K-12 education. Before taking his class, I had taken strictly academic classes. However, his class in graphic design has shaped my career plans for the future and shown me another side in academic learning.

    Extracurricular: Youth Group (including Worship team), Piano, Jazz Band, Pep band (Drum Major), Intramural Tennis, French Club

  • Billings West High School

    Parents: Shawn and Jenifer Nelson

    Future Plans: I plan to serve a 2 year mission for the LDS church immediately after high school. I then plan on attending a 4 year college and pursuing a possible career in education.

    Most Rewarding Class: My early morning Senior Science Seminar class has been the most rewarding for me. I’ve been able to explore many new ideas reading and discussing really good books for the class. It is especially impressive to see teachers like Mr. Miller and Dr. Lord be just as involved as the students in trying to get meaning out of our discussions.

    Teacher: Mr. Stanton, a coach and teacher to me, has made the greatest positive impact on my education. He has been a good example to me of being aware of problems in the world while still being excited about doing his job and living. He has made a connection with me and encourages me to be my best.

    Extracurricular: Big Brothers Big Sisters, Youth Group, Track and Field, National Honors Society, Tutoring at the Friendship House for Christian Service, BWHS Dreams and Forgiveness Group

  • Billings West High School

    Parents: Randy Northrup and Marcy Lowe

    Future Plans: I plan on attending Montana State University to study pre-nursing, then plan on entering the advanced nursing program here in Billings.

    Most Rewarding Class: The most challenging and rewarding class I have taken is my AP Stats class. It has required me to study for math which I have never done, and also is a class that has proved to be challenging in certain areas.

    Teacher: One teacher who has made an impact was my freshman English teacher Mr. Burke. Mr. Burke pushed me to better my writing skills but also gave a teaching method that made sense to me. He has been helpful with my English papers and class throughout the years and has really made an impact on the student I am today.

    Extracurricular: Some activities I have participated in include: golf (4 years), basketball (3 years), Mentoring (2 years), and National Honors Society (1 year).

  • Billings West High School

    Parents: Bryan and Lynn Ratcliff

    Future Plans: I will be attending the United States Naval Academy and pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering. I am hoping to become a pilot for the Navy.

    Most Challenging/Rewarding Class: My Intro to Engineering Design and Principles of Engineering classes have been the most challenging and rewarding because I have been able to learn many skills in engineering that will help to prepare me for college engineering classes. They required critical thinking and helped me to decide engineering is a field I enjoy.

    Teacher: Mr. Kemkes, my senior year government and psychology teacher has made a huge impact on my K-12 education. He was in the military and has talked and mentored me on several occasions about my post-high school plans. Although psychology and government would not normally be my favorite classes, he has made them very enjoyable and interesting for me.

    Extracurricular: I am a four year varsity letter in softball; I am a member of National Honors Society; and I am a student volunteer for St. Vincent Healthcare.

  • Billings West High School

    Parents: Holly Scheie

    Future Plans: Attend Montana State University to earn a Bachelor's Degree in an undecided major. However, right now I am leaning towards a degree in education.

    Most Rewarding Class: The most rewarding high school class I have taken is Career Teaching. This class allows me to go off campus and be a teacher's aid to one of my previous teachers at Elder Grove. I love the atmosphere a seventh grade classroom brings. Career Teaching has allowed me to learn in a different way while also discovering that I may enjoy that occupation.

    Teacher: When I recall my education, I realize that every teacher has impacted my education and I thank them for that. However, the one teacher who comes to mind is Mrs. Christy Yochum. Mrs. Yochum was my 7th and 8th grade math teacher and is currently the teacher whom I aid. I believe she is an excellent teacher, who started my appreciation for math.

    Extracurricular: I have worked at two places: Caring Hands Veterinary Hospital and Clydehurst Christian Ranch. Besides my employment, I have been a leader in both Awana at my church and Chrysalis, a high school ministry. At West High, I have participated in Volleyball, Tennis, Mentoring, Key Club, Spanish Club, and National Honors Society.

  • Billings West High School

    Parents: Dwight and Ruth Schettler

    Future Plans: I plan to attend MSU Billings for a year then transfer to MSU Bozeman to study electrical engineering.

    Most Rewarding Class: The most rewarding classes for me are the engineering courses that I take at the Career Center. They allow me to prepare for my future career in a hands-on manner which I enjoy.

    Teacher: My sixth grade teacher Mr. Brinkman inspired me the most because he believed I had the potential to do great things and encouraged me to do my best.

    Extracurricular: I participated in tennis, science club and engineering club.

  • Billings West High School

    Parents: Cary and Cathy Watts

    Future Plans: I am attending MSU in the fall. I will be studying Pre-Med and go on to PA school to become a Surgical PA.

    Most Rewarding Class: The most rewarding classes I have had are Chemistry and Biology. They are my favorite subjects and I have had amazing teachers who have guided me throughout the way. They have encouraged my fascination with the sciences and empowered me to grow and learn.

    Teacher: The two teachers who have had the greatest impact on me are Mrs. Field and Mr. Miller at West High. Mrs. Field encouraged me to discover my love of Chemistry and Mr. Miller in Biology was the best at encouraging me to think outside the box. He taught me to question everything rather than to accept the answers already laid out for me.

    Extracurricular: I have participated in high school swimming and track throughout my 4 years here and volleyball for 3 years. Competing in these sports gave me the goals to strive for and the camaraderie of participating with my classmates and friends.

  • Billings West High School

    Parents: Brad and Lori Zundel

    Future Plans: After high school I will attend the University of Montana where I plan to double major in Political Science with an option in International Relations and Women’s and Gender Studies. With these degrees I hope to either pursue politics or work with women and children in a developing country.

    Most Rewarding Class: Ms. Bach’s Junior Honors English class has been the most challenging and rewarding class I’ve ever taken. The work was harder, the standard at which it must be done was higher, and the feedback was more honest. Because of these things, I grew as a reader, writer, and a person.

    Teacher: In addition to, and in part because of, her challenging and rewarding class, Ms. Sue Bach has been the most inspirational and impactful teacher I’ve had. She is one of the kindest, most intelligent, and passionate and interesting people I have ever had the honor of meeting. Even in retirement she is devoted to her past students and their success.

    Extracurricular: I have been a member of speech and debate for two years, the West High mentoring program for two years, and I participated in track and field for three years. I was also a part of American Youth Leadership Cambodia: 2013 and I am creating a program to educate 8th graders about consent, boundaries, and healthy relationships. 

  • Billings Central Catholic High School

    Parents: Chris and Chris Sorli

    Future Plans: Attend Princeton, Duke or Stanford to study Astrophysics with a political science double major.

    Most Rewarding Class: AP European History. Not only is this class about a topic that has interested me for years but the teacher, Mr Fairbanks, has also had a profound impact on my education as well.

    Teacher: Mr. Shane Fairbanks. His teaching style is one of inclusion and enthusiasm. He integrates the class in the lesson, leading by example and involvement. By showing us the connections between history and our modern world, he has enriched our minds, forcing us to step outside our comfort zones and reach, not for excuses, but for solutions.

    Extracurricular: Swimming-Varsity and Club; Harp-All-State, school, BYO, Heart Strings; NASA HUNCH Program; National Science Bowl; National Science Olympiad-State Champion in Astronomy; Varsity Speech and Debate; District and State Music Festivals; National Honors Society; Musicals; Piano; Volunteering-KCK, Junior Stingrays, Ranch Hand; EPI Turtle Ecology

  • Billings Senior High

    Parents: Carl and Shelly Castles

    Future Plans: I will be attending Texas Christian University to study Biology with an emphasis on medicine.

    Teacher: Mrs. Jodee Patrick was my second grade teacher at Boulder Elementary. She found incredible ways to make learning a fun experience, and has always inspired me to achieve academically

    Why Platinum Program: I wanted to challenge myself and get the most out of my high school education.

    Magnum Opus: I wrote a screenplay that I plan to submit to a national competition.

  • Billings Senior High

    Parents: Jeff and Wendy Cicierski

    Future Plans: I will be playing football at the University of Wyoming while studying pre-law.

    Teacher: Mr. McCulloch because his class was the most challenging and helped prepare me for college.

    Why Platinum Program: I was motivated to participate in the program because it would better prepare me for college and it was an alternative to being a valedictorian

    Magnum Opus: The topic of my Magnum Opus is to learn about the art of reloading ammunition. I developed a load for my rifle and harvested a mule deer this fall with a bullet I reloaded.

  • Billings Senior High

    Parents: Jon and DeeAnn Egeland

    Future Plans: I am still undecided but I will go to either MSU, MSUB or, Concordia College. I plan to run track and cross country if I attend MSUB or Concordia College and intend to study pre-med.

    Teacher: I've had many great teachers throughout my education so it is difficult to pick one. A teacher that stands out is my 6th grade teacher, Mr. Niemeyer. He taught in a much more interactive way than most teachers and would always play games with us during recess. Furthermore, he allowed more freedom than other teachers to teach self-discipline.

    Why Platinum Program: I wanted to challenge myself and to learn as much as possible during my four years of high school and the Platinum Program seemed like a good way to do that.

    Magnum Opus: My project dealt with music recording. I set up a miniature recording studio in my basement and made music. It was a blast and I really learned a lot about the music industry.

  • Billings Senior High

    Parents: Liz and Bill Fulton

    Future Plans: After high school I plan to attend St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota to study biomedical sciences in hopes of pursuing a career in the medical field. While there, I plan to play in the orchestra and pole vault on the track team.

    Teacher: Mr. Bartsch, the Human Anatomy and Physiology teacher at Senior High, has made the greatest and most positive impact on my education because he inspires me to do the absolute best work I am capable of doing in every aspect of my life. He makes personal connections with all of his students and knows that we each have distinct talents to share.

    Why Platinum Program: My motivation to participate in the Platinum Program comes from my enjoyment of challenging myself with difficult classes. AP and honors classes consist of students that are willing and motivated to excel, which makes learning in that environment much more interesting.

    Magnum Opus: My project has to do with the impact of music on the healing environment at Billings Clinic. Much research has been done showing the many positive effects of music on people dealing with stress and challenges in their lives.

  • Billings Senior High

    Parents: Amy and Chris Leffler

    Future Plans: Next year I hope to attend the University of Washington in Seattle to begin studying pre-medical sciences.

    Teacher: Mrs. Erica Hartman, my English teacher freshman year, made a positive impact on my K-12 education. She challenged me in a way that I had previously not experienced and has remained a part of my life.

    Why Platinum Program: Rigorous course opportunities and their respective challenges motivated me to participate in the Platinum Program.

    Magnum Opus Topic: In my Magnum Opus, I set out to study the effects of color on memory. The fourth graders at Meadowlark Elementary have graciously served as my test subjects, studying sets of words in a given ink color and having to recall them in either the same or a different color.

  • Billings Senior High

    Parents: Jennifer and Steven Michael

    Future Plans: I plan to attend Rocky Mountain College in the fall.

    Teacher: To give just one name would be unfair to the many teachers that have helped and inspired me along my road to graduation. However, I would like to recognize Ms. Barnes who assisted me in my project and pushed me to grow creatively.

    Why Platinum Program: I was already going to take honors classes, so it just seemed like something I should do.

    Magnum Opus: I wrote and published a book of poetry. I was able to complete this accomplishment thanks to Judy Barnes and Craig Lancaster, both of whom offered amazing assistance and support throughout this process. My book is available for purchase online at, under the title "In My Tin Can" by S.M. Michael.

  • Billings Senior High

    Parents: Steve and Kristy Morgan

    Future Plans: After high school, I plan to play collegiate level softball at either New York University or University of Montana. My major is currently undecided, though I am most interested in pursuing Pre-Med with a residency in Opthamology or Pre-Law. I also intend to study abroad.

    Teacher: The teacher in my life with the biggest positive impact was Ms. DeJong, my 4th grade teacher. She took research and project creation to the next level and defined task analysis. She taught me that while school can be challenging, it can be fun too and she always pushed me to exceed all expectations, to be driven and focused.

    Why Platinum Program: While the promise of platinum robes and my parents' urging played a key role, they were not the deciding factor. My motivator was my enduring love for overcoming a challenge. As a freshman, I thought this would be a great obstacle to conquer. I was right. Additionally, I was able to pursue a passion and open a door to unlimited possibilities.

    Magnum Opus: My Magnum Opus centered around aviation with an emphasis on earning my Private Pilot license.

  • Billings Senior High

    Parents: Marc and Janine Olsen

    Future Plans: I will be attending Utah State University in the fall to major in Landscape Architecture.

    Teacher: My junior year English teacher, Judy Barnes, has made the greatest impact on my education. When in her class, my writing and comprehension skills were challenged and strengthened continually, which has helped me in writing and research projects since then. She also willingly worked with me on the first steps of my Magnum Opus.

    Why Platinum Program: I have always enjoyed learning and have taken challenging classes in school, so the Platinum Program was naturally the next step when I reached high school.

    Magnum Opus: My project is centered around Interior Design, which was what I wanted to do in college at the beginning of my senior year. For my project, I designed the interior of five rooms from start to finish for a house in order to explore the field of interior design.

  • Billings Senior High

    Parents: Marc and Janine Olsen

    Future Plans: I will be getting a Marketing degree at Utah State University!

    Teacher: Mr. Darren Small made a huge impact through choir. The class gave me a creative outlet that was fun and helped me meet new people. His class allowed me to express myself and become even more involved with music, which is one of my passions.

    Why Platinum Program: My parents (kidding!) and the idea that I could challenge myself in high school and get the most out of my four years at Senior. It was definitely worth it!

    Magnum Opus: I made a cookbook with recipes from staff members at Senior and changed a couple to fit a few different dietary lifestyles.

  • Billings Senior High

    Parents: Kristy Foss and Spencer Stone

    Future Plans: I plan on pursuing a degree in music therapy from Marylhurst University in Portland, Oregon.

    Teacher: Mrs. Fuson made such an impact in my life. She taught first grade and is still my favorite teacher to this day. I have so many memories of her class and just recently saw her while I was at work. She could call me by name and really had an interest in my plans for the future. Her continuous support means so much to me!

    Why Platinum Program: I knew that I would take all honors classes an saw the Platinum Program as another challenge. Also, I didn’t want to have the pressure of maintaining a 4.0 gpa.

    Magnum Opus: For my Magnum Opus, I have worked on teaching a boy with Autism how to play the piano. Over the course of our lessons, we have learned so much from each other and have started to incorporate singing. Hopefully, he will continue with music because he has amazing potential.

  • Billings Senior High

    Parents: Steve and Karyn Strobel

    Future Plans: I plan to attend MSU-Bozeman in the fall as a Computer Science major.

    Teacher: Mr. Vince Long, my computer applications instructor, had the greatest impact on my education because he forced me to solve my own problems without handing me the answer on a silver platter. This developed my problem-solving skills and, while I found it very frustrating at the time, I greatly appreciate his contribution to who I am today.

    Why Platinum Program: I have always pushed myself in school, and the Platinum Program fit my class choices well. It's offered me recognition for taking the classes I would have anyway in preparation for the future. The program also allowed me to explore my passion for Computer Science with additional support from mentors.

    Magnum Opus: I chose to combine my love for programming with a personal interest in video games. I developed a top-down arcade-style tank game with multiplayer capabilities. My inspiration came from the gameplay of the touchscreen game Tank Hero and the graphical style of the arcade game Geometry Wars: Combat Evolved.

  • Billings Senior High

    Parents: Jef and Gina Sutherland

    Future Plans: I will attend Honors College at Montana State University (Bozeman) in the fall. I will major in Mechanical Engineering.

    Teacher: Mr. Tolton, my engineering teacher at the Career Center, has had the greatest impact on my education. Mr. Tolton,”The Tolts” has given me a deep understanding into engineering in a fun respectful way. He is well liked by his students. He has given me opportunities to present my knowledge of engineering to groups outside of class.

    Why Platinum Program: I decided to participate in the Platinum Program because I wanted to push myself above and beyond the required courses. I thought it would be a new experience and a way to better prepare myself for my future.

    Magnum Opus: For my Magnum Opus, I used the engineering process to design a universal holder for a paintball gun. I really enjoy the sport. For anyone else who paintballs, you will know how much of a pain it is to load your gun while trying to hold it during a game. So, I invented a stand that can hold any type of paintball gun.

1of 46

More from the Gazette

Bill pushed by SD2 would bolster career, technical education

Bill pushed by SD2 would bolster career, technical education

January 30, 2015 6:30 pm Photos


Laurel graduation rate spikes as students get 'intensive care'

Laurel graduation rate spikes as students get 'intensive care'

January 27, 2015 12:00 am Photos



Forums to gather input on SD2 needs

January 14, 2015 8:30 pmLoading…
Billings second-grader eager to head to Disney World

Billings second-grader eager to head to Disney World

January 14, 2015 3:30 pmLoading…
SD2 board chair Halter says he won't seek re-election

SD2 board chair Halter says he won't seek re-election

January 13, 2015 7:15 pm Photos


UPDATE: Afternoon school buses to run normal routes

UPDATE: Afternoon school buses to run normal routes

January 08, 2015 4:42 pmLoading…

Follow The Billings Gazette

Popular Stories

Get weekly ads via e-mail

Deals & Offers

Featured Businesses