Pine Hills principal wins 2017 Professional Performance Award

Miles City native Kimberly Leslie-Cederberg, school principal at the Pine Hills Youth Correctional Facility in Miles City, has received  the 2017 Outstanding Professional Performance Award. 

The award is given by the Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders. 

According to Leslie-Cederberg, the award is given to educational professionals who work with students who have emotional and behavioral disabilities.

Before coming to Pine Hills, Leslie-Cederberg was an English and reading teacher in Townsend for 10 years.

“When I started teaching and working with troubled kids I realized that members of that population are really the ones who need the most support. They benefit the most from education. So that’s just the population that has always been after my heart,” said Leslie-Cederberg.

According to Leslie-Cederberg, when she saw the job opening at Pine Hills she knew it was time to come home. 

She’s now been at Pine Hills for five years.

“The kids are a lot of fun,” Leslie-Cederberg said when asked what she enjoys most about working at Pine Hills. “They’re great to work with. They keep us on our toes and we just have an awesome staff at this school.”

Leslie-Cederberg was nominated by Dr. Kristine Jolivette, who works at the University of Alabama’s College of Education. The nomination was backed by Erin Butts with the Montana Office of Public Instruction.

According to Leslie-Cederberg it was a team effort.

“I think it’s just the way we do education,” said Leslie-Cederberg. “We’ve really focused on hands on learning, building positive relationships with the students. It’s definitely a team effort.”

According to Leslie-Cederberg, when the students know that the teachers care about them they’ll work a lot harder in school. They also really care what their teachers think of them. 

Pine Hills serves junior high and high school students. They currently have 10 teachers for close to 45 kids. 

To help build the understanding between teacher and student the teachers receive different types of training. 

That training includes instruction in the Montana Behavioral Initiative (MBI). According to the MBI website, it  provides teachers with the skills to develop the attitudes, skills and systems that are necessary to help each student enter the community with better social and academic skills. 

Another aspect of the training they provide the teachers is trauma training. 

“Teachers have been through trauma training. Most of these kids have very high trauma in their history. It help the teachers understand them,” said Leslie-Cederberg. 

“Seeing the training she’s done with the teachers, it didn’t surprise me a lot,” said Superintendent   Steve Ray about Leslie-Cederberg receiving the award. “Kimberly and all of the teachers have done a really good job.”

According to Leslie-Cederberg, one of the things that has helped the most is switching the school from a traditional education system to one that is more hands-on.

Some of the hands-on learning includes working in the kitchen developing culinary skills, learning to install dry wall, shop classes, wood-working classes and more. 

“They weren’t successful in a traditional school setting and they were being put in that setting,” said Leslie-Cederberg. “We have a lot of kids who weren’t successful in school in the past. So for them to be able to find ways for them to love learning is really cool.”