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William W. Salonen
Morningside Elementary School
Great Falls Public Schools
Great Falls, Montana
Bill_salonen@gfps.k12.mt.us

A sense of fun, creativity, and adventure underlie Principal William W. Salonen’s approach to motivating students, inspiring staff, involving parents, and ensuring a positive school climate at Morningside Elementary School. Establishing yearly themes, such as “Rock and Learn,” Salonen enjoys jitterbugging with kids in the cafeteria, putting on a “Sock Hop,” and inviting students to sing holiday songs while “roasting” marshmallows by a faux fire from TV monitors in the hallway. He makes positive phone calls home yearly for each student, rewards exemplary behavior, and is game to wear whichever superhero costume students vote on. Beneath Salonen’s playful exterior, though, is an experienced administrator seriously dedicated to forging partnerships that help students and families, supporting teachers comprehensively, and guiding and mentoring new principals. In 2011, Salonen teamed up with a local interfaith church to encourage other churches to adopt a neighborhood school. To date, five have done so, providing schools with clothing, food, labor, paint, playground equipment, and more. With staff support as a leadership priority, Salonen facilitates weekly academic and behavioral RTI meetings, sits in on classes with struggling students, and models instructional strategies for parents to use at home. The school’s superintendent says of Salonen, “He displays common sense, team-building skills, political savvy, and a genuine regard for humanity.” Salonen holds a B.S. in Elementary Education from Montana State University, an M.A. in Education of the Deaf from Western Maryland College, and a Principal Endorsement from the University of Montana.