Montana Western Announces “Night of Stars” Education Hall of Fame Event

The schedule of events includes the Education Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at 6:00 p.m. in the Beier Auditorium, followed by drinks and hors d’ourves at 8:00 p.m. in the Lewis and Clark room, located in Mathews Hall.

This year’s Night of Stars will induct five Montana Western alumni into the Education Hall of Fame in recognition of their phenomenal dedication to education and will honor twelve current education students as Outstanding Teacher Candidates. The inductees are: Jerry Delaney, Lacie Puyear, Jim Gilboy, Jolene Isakson Allen, and Wayne Loeffler. The Outstanding Teacher Candidates are: Kortni Guardipee, Mesa King, Brynley Fitzgerald, Shelby Austin, Tona Iwen, Cassidy Hartsoch, Ella Smith, Logan Thompson, Sarah Detlaff, Noah Danielson, LaDawn Plainfeather, and Taylor Jones.

For additional information or to purchase tickets to the Night of Stars, please contact the University of Montana Western Alumni Office at 406-683-7306.

Education Hall of Fame Inductees

Jerry Delaney

Jerry Delaney grew up in St. Ignatius, Montana and attended Western Montana College (now the University of Montana Western) from 1961-1965 where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Education followed by a Master’s in Education in 1972. Delaney’s teaching career started at Parkview Junior High in Dillon, Montana where he taught math, science, and physical education and was a guidance counselor. He also served as a coach and referee.

One of the many highlights of Delaney’s teaching career was being chosen to present at the National Middle School Convention. He presented four times at conventions in Indianapolis, Orlando, New Orleans, and Cincinnati. To him, being chosen to present was an honor and a great educational learning experience. He would eventually retire from Parkview Middle School after 40 years of teaching and mentoring the youth of Dillon.

Delaney served on the committee for the new Dillon Elementary School building and on the Beaverhead County foster care board for many years. He was also a volunteer member of the Dillon Fire Department for 20 years, a Dillon Jaycee for 14 years, and is a life member of the Dillon Elks Club. 

“Through volunteering I learned that service was a good way to get to know all about the community. The friends I made through these organizations became lifelong,” said Delaney.

Delaney made many great memories while at Western Montana College but would like to acknowledge Professor Dan Block and Coach Bill Straugh for their influences on his future professional career in education.  

Lacie Puyear

Lacie Puyear is from Dillon, Montana and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Montana Western in 2001. She went on to receive a Master’s in Education: Reading and Literacy from Walden University.

Puyear student taught first grade at Memorial Elementary School in McMinnville, Oregon and stayed there afterwards to teach library as a long-term substitute. The following year, she moved to Highlands Ranch, Colorado where she taught kindergarten at Rock Ridge Elementary. 

In 2007, she moved back to Montana and started teaching fifth grade at Corvallis Middle School. Four years later, Puyear and her husband Shane moved back to Dillon to raise their family. Puyear started teaching in Dillon at the middle school working as a Title teacher. Having a true passion for working with young learners, she started teaching kindergarten at Parkview Elementary. She taught kindergarten for five years until she moved to the fifth grade where she has been teaching ever since.

Her colleagues would be the first to tell you that she is a valuable member of the Parkview Elementary team. She has served on the leadership team as the Vice President of the Beaverhead Education Association and on the PAX classroom management team and school safety team. Puyear also volunteers her time for many school functions and spends countless hours in her classroom outside of the regular workday perfecting her craft, preparing lessons, and researching ways to make the day better for her students and providing what they need to be successful. Students in Mrs. Puyear’s classroom are challenged, engaged, and loved.

Jim Gilboy

James (Jim) Gilboy is from Butte, Montana and received his Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education in 1991 from Western Montana College. 

“I enjoyed my time as a work-study student in the Early Education Resource Center. It was there that I was reassured a career working with younger children would be a favorable journey to embark upon,” said Gilboy.  

Gilboy went on to continue his education at Lesley College in Cambridge, Massachusetts where he earned a Master’s in Education in 2000. In 2018, he earned his Master’s of Science in Educational Leadership from Arkansas State University.

Gilboy began his teaching career at Grass Valley Elementary School in Winnemucca, Nevada where he taught for 28 years. He taught first, second and third grade, served as Dean of Students, was a Literacy Specialist, Instructional Coach, and lead facilitator of Positive Behavioral Intervention Supports.

Within the Humboldt County School District, he served on the district’s first technology committee, developed and provided train-the-trainer technology professional development courses, and worked with the Northeastern Nevada Regional Professional Development Program to design and implement a district-wide professional development program focusing on highly effective mathematical teaching methods. 

Gilboy was chosen as the Grass Valley Elementary School Teacher of the Year in 1997, received the Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award in 1998, and was Who’s Who among America’s Teachers in 2004, 2005, and 2006. In 2007, 2009, and 2010, he was awarded the Humboldt County School District Senior Choice Award along with the Grass Valley Elementary School Innovative Teacher Award. Gilboy retired in 2022 after receiving the Grass Valley Elementary School Teacher of the Year award. 

“Western was a wonderful institution to attend because of the small class sizes. I felt my instructors took personal interest and time to get to know me as an individual and I got to know many people around campus,” he said. 

Jolene Isakson Allen

A Choteau, Montana native, Jolene Isakson Allen transferred to Western Montana College from Flathead Valley Community College in 1977. In 1979, she graduated from WMC with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. 

Allen’s first teaching job was at South View, a rural school near Vida, Montana that was in operation from 1918 to 2001. Allen is described by her colleagues as a born teacher and also as one of the kindest, most positive, and encouraging people you could ever hope to meet. While her teaching career in public schools was short, her dedication to teaching, and more importantly to children, never wavered.

“I have used my education from Western throughout my entire adult life. I’ve been a classroom teacher in both public and private schools. My granddaughter describes my life best: ‘Grandma, you aren’t a normal grandma, you always have lots of other kids in your life besides your own. You taught, ran a daycare, you tutor, you even tutor me. When you work with me, you aren’t my grandma, you are my teacher, trying to get me to do my best. You do that with all your students.’ I may not be a normal grandma, but I’m a passionate educator!” said Allen. 

Allen describes Montana Western as a college where she felt heard and accepted. She feels honored to have taken classes taught by outstanding educators, and feels her confidence and self-esteem soared through the relationships she made with fellow students, staff, and faculty.

Wayne Loeffler

Wayne Loeffler is from Conrad, Montana and attended Western from 1971-1975 where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education. In 1989 Leoffler went on to receive a Master’s of Education. While at WMC, he was a four-year football letter winner, a member of the M Club, a Who’s Who recipient, business manager for the central board, and was a member of Kappa Delta Pi. 

Leoffler moved to Big Fork, Montana where he taught high school biology, advanced biology, and health enhancement for over 34 years. For 16 years, he served as a middle school principal, district activities director for 18 years, assistant boys and girls track coach for 20 years, head boys track coach for 20 years, and head football coach for five years. 

He also served in various volunteer positions in the community of Big Fork, including volunteering at the state high school track meet and as a member of the Big Fork Volunteer Fire Department for 37 years, seven of those years serving as Chief of the department. He was also a board member for the Big Fork Chamber of Commerce for four years and was a Masonic Lodge member. Leoffler was the Montana Coaches Association Boys Track Coach of the Year in 1985, was awarded the MHSA Service Citation in recognition of his significant contribution to the MHSA in 1999, and received the Class A Conference Service Award in 2005.

“I was very fortunate to meet many people during my time at Western through sports and campus organizations. After graduation, I still had the opportunity to see my college friends on a regular basis through coaching and being involved with other schools around the state where many fellow alumni taught,” he said.