As students leave the halls of Baker High School and the lights are turned off for summer vacation, Superintendent Don Schillinger will be pulling his office door closed for the final time.
By Sherry Vogel
This administrator, educator and coach is stepping away from a career that has spanned over four decades.
Don Schillinger was born in Wolf Point, and raised on a farm near Circle with a brother and sister. He received his high school education at Circle High School, graduating in 1965. He then attended the University of Montana for three years before enlisting in the United States Army. After his discharge, he returned to the U of M on the G.I. Bill. Schillinger earned a BA in Economics in 1973 and a BA in Business Education in 1974. He said he chose teaching because he always liked school and he was hoping to coach as well. He felt it was a career he would enjoy.
Don landed his fist teaching/coaching position in Ekalaka in1974. He taught business education and coached Bulldog football, basketball and track. In 1982 he got a call from Jim Stanton, a friend who was superintendent in Baker. Stanton informed him that a position in Baker was coming open for a vice principal, football coach and athletic director (7-12 grades). He jumped at the opportunity. “There weren’t many jobs open in education with that combination,” added Schillinger. Then in 1990, he became the Baker High School principal. In 2006, he was promoted to superintendent.
Don has had many rewarding experiences over his long career. Helping to steer the Baker High School football team to six state championships is at the top. He treasures the relationships he has developed with his assistant coaches and players. These have developed into long term friendships. Many of these relationships have had long lasting effects. He was also honored by being inducted into the Montana Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2000. This was followed by his appointment into the National Coaches Hall of Fame in 2009.
The honors do not stop here. Just this spring Schillinger was recognized at the spring Montana Assoc. of School Superintendents for his service as a superintendent in Montana. Among his rewarding memories of being District #12 Superintendent is that he helped in the development of the new $16 million Longfellow School and the new football field at the high school. Also, he is happy to have had the opportunity to attend the last three legislative sessions on behalf of School District No. 12. He fought to keep oil and gas monies in Eastern Montana instead of going to the state’s coffer budgets.
As an educator, Schillinger has noted many changes in technology. He said, “When I taught business education in those early years, I remember when most of the typewriters were manual, only a few were electric. Now technology has come so far with computers and all.”
Among Schillinger’s proudest accomplishments are his three daughters: Kelli is a physician’s assistant in Helena, Michelle is a pharmacist in Fargo, ND, and Shawna is an educator at Baker elementary.
Schillinger concluded, “In closing, I would particularly like to thank my wife Nancy for her love and support. I am very happy that I chose the education field and coaching to be my profession. I am happy my family and I were able to live in the Ekalaka and Baker communities over the past 42 years.”