It’s safe to say that being named Montana Teacher of the Year is a highlight of Dylan Huisken’s 10-year career in education.
The Sioux Falls native, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history from South Dakota State University in 2008, is a sixth-grade and social studies teacher at Bonner School in Bonner, Montana. Huisken credits his SDState history professors for shaping him into the teacher he is now. He looks to transfer the skills he learned onto his students.
“My professors especially taught me the skill of writing, which has helped me not just teach kids history, but the skills of a historian,” he said. “I really want my students to be historians in their own right because I believe the skills of a historian—analysis, research, thoughtful communication, interpretation of difficult material, the ability to identify themes, patterns and trends—are life skills.”
Bonner has approximately 120 students, sixth through eighth grades. Huisken said he gets to teach each student every day through social studies.
“We start with prehistory and ancient civilizations in sixth grade, work our way to world history during the Middle Ages and colonization of the New World by seventh grade, and transition nicely to American history and government in eighth grade,” he said.
American history is Huisken’s favorite subject to teach. He said he ensures that all people and aspects are present when teaching the subject. Through Montana’s Indian Education for All program, Huisken said he is provided with great resources to teach about Native American and American history as one unit.
“For instance, if I want to teach kids about the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851, this means listening to oral traditions, studying a Lakota winter count, reading the official treaty and comparing all three,” he said.
Through his 10 years of teaching, Huisken has students who are enrolling in college or beginning their careers. He said he enjoys seeing his students grow and succeed.
“One student recently contacted me to say I was the reason she was successful in high school, and that one thing that I said to her in seventh grade will always stick with her. The thing is, I don’t even remember what I said,” Huisken said. “This just goes to show that we never know what kind of influence we can have on kids daily, so we should always show up every day being our absolute best, and be ready to model compassion and kindness while also providing a challenging education.”
Huisken will represent Montana in the national Teacher of the Year competition in Washington, D.C. next year.