RONAN — In his 44th year as a teacher, Dave Edington has had a dramatic impact in changing the lives of his students. As a woodshop and drafting instructor for Ronan School District’s grades 7-12, Edington instills knowledge of real-life handiwork to his pupils while interweaving a respect and understanding of history as well.
Those are some of the reasons why, in September, Edington was named as one of 16 Montana teachers who will share $69,000 in grant money from the Plum Creek Foundation with the idea of enhancing student learning inside the classroom.
“The best thing about it is that we can do the things we want to do,” Edington said. “Sometimes we get limited because of finances.”
Edington’s plan is to use his share of the grant to teach traditional skills that reflect Montana’s Native American heritage. Some of the projects he plans to embark on with his classes are canoe, oar, snowshoe and bow-making. The construction of those items will be from scratch, just like generations prior created.
“This is all traditional stuff,” Edington said. “It’s not going to get a kit, like we do in modern times. It’s trying to use the same materials that were used locally.”
Last spring, Leslie Caye, Indian Education Coordinator for the Ronan School District, approached Edington to gauge his interest in the grant. Over the last several years, the two have worked together helping students learn the aforementioned skills, noting that our ancestors didn’t have today’s technology at their disposal.
“What we’re doing reaches a segment of our population, certainly within our district with a majority of Native American heritage, we can recognize and celebrate that,” Edington said.
He was, however, quick to note that it isn’t only Native American students that will benefit from this award.
“The big thing is that it’s created real interest among students,” Edington said. “Even non-native students are very interested in it. It’s expanding the classroom from the traditional stuff we do.”
The grant comes at a fortunate time, as many Montana school districts are struggling with budget issues. Luckily for him and his students, Plum Creek saw an opportunity with Edington.
“We need all the help we can get with the funding issues in Montana school districts and I think Plum Creek recognized that,” Edington said.
Thanks to Plum Creek in his corner, Edington has that help and thus a better chance to give his students the best education possible. Even Edington would be hard-pressed to draft up a better situation.