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UMW Professor Estee Aiken Selected As MUS Teaching Scholar

The Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education is pleased to announce it has selected 11 faculty members and instructors to be honored as Montana University System Teaching Scholars, including Montana Western Professor of Education, Estee Aiken, Ed.D.

Aiken served as an elementary classroom teacher and differentiation coach for more than a decade before transitioning to higher education. Since 2011, she has been focused on educating pre-service teachers and consulting about gifted education and differentiation. Her areas of research and publication focus on gifted education, early childhood, and very young children with special needs.

Now in its third year, the MUS Teaching Scholars program recognizes faculty members who have made exemplary contributions to teaching and learning at their institutions and by supporting these faculty in leading peers in further advancing excellence in teaching.

At the heart of the MUS Teaching Scholars program is the way it builds cumulative impact through faculty learning communities. During the spring semester, each Teaching Scholar will lead faculty on their home campus in developing innovative and effective teaching strategies.

Each year, the MUS Teaching Scholars program focuses on a selected theme that highlights exciting approaches to teaching and that aligns with MUS teaching and learning priorities. Whether it’s using virtual reality platforms, bringing contemplative practices to the classroom, or integrating Indigenous leadership principles into teaching, this year’s selected teaching scholars share one common thread: “Innovations in Teaching & Learning.”

“This year’s theme both acknowledges the tremendous challenges faculty have faced in the past year and a half and finds the durable innovations—those inspired, transformative, and ultimately effective teaching practices—that emerged from those challenges,” said Dr. Brock Tessman, OCHE Deputy Commissioner of Academic, Research, & Student Affairs.

Scholars will receive a $1,500 award as well as a $500 stipend to design and facilitate a faculty learning community at their institution. This year’s cohort of Scholars is funded through support from the National Association of System Heads (NASH) and the Lumina Foundation.

Selected MUS Teaching Scholars are from all types of institutions within the Montana University System – doctoral flagship, regional four-year, two-year and community colleges. Scholars were chosen from a competitive pool of faculty from across the system and all faculty tracks and ranks.

2021-2022 Montana University System Teaching Scholars

  • Estee Aiken, Chair & Professor, Department of Education, University of Montana Western

  • Jennifer Brown, Associate Professor, Chemical & Biological Engineering, Montana State University

  • Michael Cassens, Associate Professor, School of Visual and Media Arts, University of Montana

  • Ginger Collins, Associate Professor, School of Speech, Language, Hearing, & Occupational Sciences, University of Montana

  • Anna East, Adjunct Faculty, Dawson Community College

  • Karen Henderson, Department of English, Helena College

  • Katie Holick, Instructor, Sciences & Neuroscience, University of Montana

  • Sarah Kloewer, Instructor, Department of English, Miles Community College

  • Melanie Reaves, Associate Professor, Educational Theory & Practice, MSU Billings

  • Phillip Sawatzki, Instructor, Biological Sciences, Helena College

  • Sweeney Windchief, Associate Professor, Department of Education, Montana State University

For additional information about the program and this year’s theme, please visit

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