Molly Norton, 8th grade English, American History and Social Studies teacher at Washington Middle School was named the Missoula Middle School Educator of the Year at an assembly on Friday.

Norton received a $1,000 check from Stockman Bank, through the Missoula Education Foundation and its board of directors.

Norton burst into tears when her name was called after the full list of nominees was read and descended the bleachers through a throng of middle school students screaming their support.

Norton explained why she enjoys teaching at Washington Middle School.

“You know, it gets a bad reputation, but I love it,” said Norton, speaking to KGVO News in the school lunchroom. “My students are goofy and fun and I like to be goofy, too, so I think that’s why it’s such a good fit for me. They’re just a fun, interesting age and they challenge me every day. They keep me young and they keep me interested.”

Norton pointed out the challenge of being in middle school.

"Being a teenager and being in middle school is a really vulnerable, challenging time and I want to help make them happier and make them want to come to school," she said. "I'm naturally pretty cheerful and loving, and so I think it's a place where I'm needed."

Norton was asked what she plans to do with the $1,000 gift from Stockman Bank to enhance her classroom.

“We always can use more Chromebooks for writing projects,” she said. “I grade 120 papers every time I give an assignment, so honestly, reading students’ handwriting can be quite the challenge, so anytime I can read typed papers instead of written papers that would be really nice, so may be some technology would be really great.”

The award selections are made through blind review by the MEF student board comprised of high school students from across the district. This year the board received and reviewed a record number of nominations for Outstanding Middle School educators from every school in the district.