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'Humbled': Three Billings teachers vying for national recognition

Beth Johnson
Posted at 5:42 PM, Apr 16, 2024

Three Billings teachers are vying for national recognition in a competition called America's Favorite Teacher.

The contest began at the end of March and contains multiple rounds of community voting before a winner is selected early June. The grand prize winner will receive $25,000, a trip to Hawaii and earn an appearance in the publication Reader's Digest.

Billings Public Schools is well represented in the competition with teachers Beth Johnson (Alkali Creek, kindergarten), Chelsea Althof (McKinley, kindergarten), and Michael Thomas (Ben Steele Middle School, science) still in the running.

Johnson said it's nice to get recognition, and she was overcome with emotion.

"I'm humbled," Johnson said as her eyes welled up with tears. "It's just... We put our heart and soul into this. I love my job, and it's exciting to know that it makes a difference."

Johnson has taught at Alkali Creek for 16 years. She said there's never a dull moment teaching kindergartners.

"It's organized chaos, but it's a good organized chaos," Johnson said. "When you challenge them, they rise to that occasion and I feel like the best thing we can do is challenge the kids and allow them to be their best self."

Althof added that it's been a pleasant surprise seeing the entire Billings community rally behind their educators.

"It's a really cool experience and just seeing the support has been really phenomenal and kind of shocking," Althof said. "I didn't expect to have that kind of rallying around me while I've been a part of this competition."

Althof added that regardless of the outcome, it's nice to be recognized and refreshing to see Billings represented on a national scale.

"It's really kind of sparked in me to see the support around me and that I'm not just doing this alone," Althof said. "I think it's amazing that we're all still pushing along and making our way up as we go."

Johnson said it's fun to have other colleagues to cheer for.

"Teaching, like other jobs, can be hard, and like I said, we rely on each other," Johnson said. "We support each other and we do this together."

The voting will continue through May, with weekly rounds winnowing the field. Eventually, the grand prize will be given to one educator. You can vote for the three Billings teachers up for the award in the links below.

Beth Johnson — Alkali Creek

Chelsea Althof — Mckinley

Michael Thomas — Ben Steele