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The Betty Henningsen Award is given to the academic year's OutstandingSpeech and Drama Senior Competitor as voted on by their coaches and teammates. The student should display the virtues associated with former, beloved teacher and coach Betty Henningsen.
Remembrances of Betty Henningsen
By Carol Dickinson
Betty Henningsen, known as Mrs. H. to her many students, taught English and coached the speech team at Beaverhead County High School. She was a demanding, understanding teacher who inspired students to strive for the ultimate of their capabilities, to surmount handicaps, and to gain pride within that process of learning. Her classroom leadership reflected warmth, vitality, and a love of life.
One of her endearing qualities as an educator was her high level of enthusiasm. I remember walking into her classroom to find her standing on her desk. When I inquired as to what she was doing, she replied, "This class just can’t seem to remember (something to do with grammar) but they are going to remember it today!" I suspect those students, to this day, remember the concept.
As a speech coach, she approached each meet with this same enthusiasm. When she would get home, she would call me with the results. As you know, the speech and drama bus does not get in very early. Regardless of the time, she would call. She would run down the roster and tell me how each student did. She was so proud of everyone’s success and if a student did not place quite as high as Betty thought he or she should have, she would say, "Next time that kid will place!" She never gave up on a student, always giving them her most and expecting the most from them.
If she were here today, I think she would tell you that one of her greatest successes as a speech coach was a young woman named Betsy Marchesseau. When Betsey came to BCHS she was so shy she would cover her face with both hands when she was called upon in class. Mrs. H. invited Betsy to come out for speech --- she molded her into a state champion. Upon graduating from college, Betsy took a job in Washington D.C. as an expert in agricultural communications where she often spoke at government committee hearings. It took a devoted and enthusiastic coach to see the potential in this young woman and to help her develop to the very best of her abilities.
Shortly before her death in 1991, Betty received a letter from a former student, Rich Brown. An excerpt from that letter demonstrates the high esteem which those speech students held for their coach: "…as an engineer for Dow Chemical, I make numerous presentations to audiences ranging from corporate executives to junior high school pupils. I can’t say that I don’t get nervous before a major presentation, but believe me, each and every time I finish one, I thank Mrs. H. for the poise and speaking skills developed while on her BCHS speech team!"
Under her guidance, the speech teams earned two state championship trophies and finished as runners-up twice. After winning the second state crown, she announced her retirement. When asked to comment on her year, Betty said, "This has been a wonderful year for me as a speech coach. I asked a great deal from the speech team and I always received a great deal. I thank them for making me look good in my final effort as a coach and I learned one thing this year, to be a champion requires hard work and dedication." The Montana Frensie Educational Association named her coach of the year.
Excellence of education in Beaverhead County can be traced to the superior quality of its teachers ---- Mrs. Betty Henningsen was one of those teachers and to those who knew her and were touched by her talents and compassion, her memory is a gift to be cherished.