Tony Coppola, 9th grade teacher at Lone Peak High School in Big Sky, MT is the winner of the 29th Montana Statehood Centennial Bell Award honoring the Montana History teacher of the Year.
A native of Wooster, Ohio, Coppola attended Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, where he double majored in History and Adventure Recreation and Outdoor Education. To end his undergraduate studies he took a semester abroad in Australia where he participated in an Aboriginal Culture Study. He did service work, learned how to dance, paint and was given lessons in how to survive the “bush” lifestyle. This experience sparked his passion for a Master of Arts degree in Native American Studies which he received at Montana State University in Bozeman in 2006. He went back to MSU in 2010 and received his Social Studies Certification in 2012.
Having just completed his fifth year as the Social Studies teacher at Lone Peak High School, Coppola says, “My Montana State history class is a myriad of cultures and investigations into cultural perspectives. The approach to learning and my background in Native American Studies allows the students to learn about the varied cultural traditions of the vastly unique native peoples of the state. I strive to put in their hands documents, interviews, podcasts, public radio shows, films, guest speakers, and field trips that really hit home the Native Americans of Montana.
“I make the same effort to learn about the role of the Chinese, the Irish, the Germans, the Scandinavians and the whole melting pot of immigrants that came as homesteaders, railroad workers, miners, and woodsmen.
“Personally, Montana has the kind of history that makes you smile, cry, blush and even sometimes leaves you with a sense of disbelief. That range of emotion is why I love the subject.”
In his nomination letter of Coppola, his principal, Alexander E. Ide, said, “Tony has all the characteristics that make him an ideal candidate for this award: excellent teaching attributes, collegiality, a love for Montana history and academic achievements.”
In his letter of support, Reilly Germain, one of Coppola’s students, said: “Mr. Coppola is one of the most engaging, exciting, and energetic teachers I have ever had. He leaves an everlasting impact on each and every one of his students, in and beyond high school.”
Coppola will receive his award at a ceremony in the State Capitol on Statehood Day, Nov. 8 where he and his students will ring the Statehood Centennial Bell. He will receive monetary gifts totaling $2,750 from the Montana Television Network, the Montana History Foundation and the Sons & Daughters of Montana Pioneers. The Montana Historical Society is also a partner in this Award.
Coppola was chosen by a panel of Montana history experts from nominees from throughout Montana. Teachers from 7th-12th grades are chosen in even numbered years. Teachers from 4th-6th grades are chosen in odd-numbered years. Norma Ashby Smith has been coordinator of the Award since it began in 1990. For more information contact: Norma Ashby Smith, [email protected].