Susan Luinstra: An exemplary Teacher Leader in the Arts
By Monica Grable
Arts Education Director
The education realm, and arts education in particular, is filled with teachers of great heart, depth of knowledge, innovation and dedication to collaboration.
Susan Luinstra is one of those exemplary educators, and her teaching – no doubt – will be with her students for life. In 1974, fresh out of college, Luinstra began a 38-year journey at Bynum School, a one-room schoolhouse near Choteau, where she remained for the entirety of her lively career. Teaching every possible combination of K-8 throughout those years, she has had the privilege of being the sole teacher for many students whose school years were spent at Bynum.
A member of the first cohort of Montana Teacher Leaders in the Arts, Luinstra’s sense of leadership in the arts is a great inspiration to her peers. Her passion for the arts and its influence in developing self-confidence and a sense of community is her driving force, fueled in part by the upkeep of a tradition begun by her predecessor, Ira Perkins, who also spent his career of 53 years in Bynum.
Each day, as beautifully chronicled by NBC’s Harry Smith in early 2017, Luinstra and her students (as with Ira Perkins and his students before her) began each day by putting on vintage records and dancing, as well as singing along to old-time traditional songs. Visual art also held a place of prominence in her classroom teaching, and as one component of integrated learning.
Named Montana Rural Teacher of the Year in 2007, Luinstra’s profile was elevated even further the following year when she was named National Rural Teacher of the Year by the National Rural Education Association, leading her to speaking engagements and panel discussions in front of her national peers.
Although she retired from the classroom in June, Luinstra is continuing to serve the arts education community through her role as president of Choteau Arts, a community arts organization offering classes, concerts and outreach experiences, and through availing herself as a resource for colleagues across Montana.
Photo: Susan Luinstra: Passion for the arts and its influence