Building A Better Education
Phyllis and Dennis Washington celebrate along with more than 500 guests at the May 2 groundbreaking ceremony for the Phyllis J. Washington Education Center, scheduled to open in fall 2009.
In the Seventies computers became commonplace in many elementary and
secondary schools, ushering in a new era of technology in the classroom.
The new technology helped capture the attention of students who learn in
nontraditional ways, prepared future employees for a life in the modern
workplace, and provided a new way to learn and teach.
Research continues to confirm the benefits of using technology in elementary
and secondary schools. UM’s School of Education is at the forefront of
On May 2, the School of Education began construction of the Phyllis J.
Washington Education Center—a 29,000-square-foot facility that will
adjoin the existing Education Building and offer the most advanced technology
available to help teachers do their jobs better.
Construction of the new education center was made possible through generous
private support including a $10 million gift—the largest in UM
history—from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation.
“The Phyllis J. Washington Education Center will play a critical role
in our efforts to implement systemwide changes in education throughout
Montana,” says Roberta D. Evans, dean of the School of Education.
“The center’s focus is on early childhood education, math and
science instruction, and distance learning, which are all priorities for
Much has transpired in education since Phyllis Washington graduated from UM
in 1964 and began teaching at a Missoula elementary school. Today’s
educators are confronted with an increasing array of media and ever-advancing
methods of teaching in the Information Age.
“Today the learning process takes advantage of electronic and digital
media so teachers must have a command of always-changing technology to support
new curricula,” Phyllis Washington says. “The Phyllis J. Washington
Education Center will meet that need and surpass it with the programs it
enables, putting Montana on the national stage, attracting the best and
brightest to the School of Education and enhancing The University of
Montana’s reputation for excellence.”
Teachers earning their degrees at the new Phyllis J. Washington Education
Center will use interactive electronic whiteboards, or “smart
boards.” Students will become familiar with creating instructional
materials using video and computer equipment in multimedia production studios.
Learning laboratories will allow teachers, students, and parents to observe
student teaching in action.
Martin Horejsi, assistant professor in the school’s Department of
Curriculum and Instruction, specializes in technology use in the classroom and
believes the new center will create a unique, collaborative environment that
will stimulate innovation and creativity in teaching and learning.
“As our students gain confidence using instructional technologies,
they will employ critical thinking and problem-solving skills—two
proficiencies essential to Twenty-First Century teachers and
administrators,” Horejsi says.
The center also will develop programs to benefit Montana communities in
areas such as educating children with disabilities and offering early
intervention services and parenting classes.
And the facility, with its emphasis on distance learning, will help
Montanans—especially those in rural areas—achieve their full
Having a technological link from UM to school districts across the state is
a valuable professional development resource for practicing educators.
“Educators everywhere are eager for The University of Montana to open
this fabulous new facility,” Evans says. “It will be a model
training facility where professional development opportunities and partnerships
with educators across the state, throughout the country, and around the planet
The center, scheduled to open fall 2009, will allow the education school to
expand its national and international influence and truly become a center for
A campaign to complete funding of the center is under way, and many
room-naming opportunities are still available. To learn more about ways to
contribute, call Mark Armstrong of the UM Foundation at 406-243-4568 or
– Mark Armstrong