Education reporter Matt Hoffman's favorite five stories of 2019
editor's pick

Education reporter Matt Hoffman's favorite five stories of 2019

From the 2019: The year in review series

Education reporter Matt Hoffman presents his five favorite stories of 2019.

I am a nerd. 

I'm OK with spending a few hours curled up in my desk chair with a nice cheap gas station coffee and the latest report on rural teacher shortages or federal school funding. 

There are plenty of exciting things about reporting (I once found a guy who was hypothermic and wandering aimlessly after he fell through ice into the Mississippi River and drove him to an ambulance), and it's important for me to get out of the office and into classrooms. But understanding how what I see in those classrooms fits into national education trends and best practices requires, well, homework — boring stuff like parsing dense studies and listening to tapes of public meetings.

Stories about a school safety panel or new summer school program don't get the most clicks. Sometimes they get the least. But they help unravel complicated issues that trickle down to affect thousands of Montana students. 

Below are stories about: why suicide is a more pressing school safety issue than shootings in Montana; why a substitute teacher shortage can have ripple effects across a school; why signing up students for a federal homelessness program matters; and why a summer preschool-lite program can help level the playing field for students. 

The math wizards among you will note that there's only four, despite this being billed as a list of five. My fifth choice was from reporting off of my usual education beat. It told a small part of the story of the Dooley Church, and the collapse of the last building in a Montana ghost town. 

No laws will change after the church's fall, and there's no ripple effect on money or resources in schools. But people cared deeply about the church.

Months after the story ran, I got an email from a woman whose grandmother was baptized at the church with an accompanying photo. Weeks after that, I talked to a bartender who played in the church as a child. 

For a lot of people, it mattered. 

(5) updates to this series since

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Here are the top stories and photos of 2019 as chosen by the staff of The Billings Gazette, and by the readers who support everything they do.

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