Spotlight is on Mr. Bill Starkey, recipient of the first-ever MSCA Lifetime Achievement Award. Bill was presented with this award on May 25th at Morning Star Elementary School in Bozeman. We are sharing here the words of his colleagues and friends, Susan and Michael Sherman, who have known and worked with Bill for many years. We salute you, Mr. Starkey, for your dedication, passion and for elevating the profession of school counseling through excellent service to Montana kids for more than thirty years! Thank you!
Here is a part of the speech Susan shared at the ceremony:
"Bill has been a school counselor for 30 years with additional years in teaching. His first teaching job was at Star School in Browning, MT where he was inspired to further his education and develop more skills in serving young people and their families with a Master’s in School Counseling and Psychology from University of Montana.
He started as a School Counselor and School Psychologist in Charlo, MT in 1984. He left Charlo because he was offered an opportunity to train with human potential author, Ken Keyes, jr. for a year where he led personal growth workshops for 2 years in NY, LA, SF, Seattle, San Diego and other large cities around the United States. Big cities,travel and hotel rooms caused Bill’s heart to long for a quieter, more simple life back in Montana and the Mission Valley. Bill received a job offer as a Polson Middle School Counselor where he worked for 9 years. An opportunity for change within the district came up and Bill began to serve as a School Psychologist for the district in addition to being Cherry Valley Elementary’s school counselor which initially was K-4, later becoming PreK-1.
While counseling at Cherry Valley, Bill developed his alter ego, Mr. Moose, a rascally, mischief, charismatic character that frequently gets into trouble, but always seems to work his way out of it with the assistance of Bill and his student’s coaching and re-teaching. He has taught students about: safe touch, unsafe touch, unwanted touch, being an Upstander instead of a Bystander, their brain and its ability to heal, grow and change with positive affirmations and therapeutic techniques.
During his tenure in Polson, Bill honed his craft and began to mentor new counselors in the district, including myself, my husband Michael, and two other colleagues. Bill taught me that mentoring is an opportunity for us to give back to our profession and organization. During my mentorship, Bill encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and to adopt an alter ego also, Care Cat. Our partners in healing accompanied us everywhere, shared personal struggles with their communities and received tons of hugs and empathy from their audience, our students.
Bill taught me that living and working on the Flathead Indian Reservation meant we were part of a community rich with a people, history and stories needing to be respected and honored. He developed the Family Heritage Museum where students studied their family heritage, interviewed their family hero and wrote a story about their hero. In preparation for the Museum, Bill asked some of his students to invite their family hero to a class meeting where the student would present his/her family hero and share their stories with their classmates. This was an opportunity for students who might struggle in the classroom to shine with pride amongst their peers, often gaining a sense of empowerment to their education, school, and community. During the evening students brought their family members to share their family's’ heritage and artifacts. Family Heritage Museum was a multi-month, multicultural opportunity to learn and gain tolerance, empathy, and respect for our neighbors.
When Cherry Valley became a PreK-1 school 10 years ago, Bill had to take his craft outside. He took his skills to the playground, playing with 4, 5, 6, and 7 year olds. He wore his snow pants, boots, and donned a goofy hat every day, during morning, lunch and afternoon recess. He taught his young students how to play with each other, to respect each other, and to solve problems peacefully while building snowmen, snow forts, and ice sliding strips (against every teacher’s recommendation). During this time of play therapy, students gained skills in problem solving, coping with difficult emotions, and managing their anger with Bill and Mr. Moose’s support.
Bill always works with the goal to teach empathy and tolerance to his young students which improves the school’s culture. Bill’s Superheroes of Kindness program is just one example of these efforts. With the help of parents and colleagues, Bill made a cape for every student. Polson was gifted with a school full of caped heroes performing random acts of kindness for its fellow citizens.
Susan's husband, Michael, also shared a narrative. Here is part of what he said about his friend and mentor:
"One should count themselves lucky if they have a best buddy like Bill Starkey. I do! . . . . .
Bill and I have been on many adventures together, both personally and professionally. He pursues his outdoor activities with the same ardor as his counseling. I admire his zeal for the mystery of the unknown. He is always seeking a new trail to hike for the premium panorama or the next best counseling practice. No matter how steep each climb may be toward success. All Ironman finishers have to chase and confront many challenges. Bill has displayed Ironman stamina and strength of character in all aspects of his life, especially, at the present time. He is truly a model to be followed. I try to exemplify his eagerness to take on new experiments and constantly look for or create new and improved ways to meet the needs of students, staff and parents. Bill has been my trailblazer and I am fortunate to be following his path.
Gandhi once said, “A journey of 1000 miles starts with the first step.” Bill has inspired and supported my first steps in counseling and many more along my journey, just as he has supported so many students in their steps toward a happy productive life. How fitting that the Montana School Counseling Association has deemed Mr. Moose worthy of receiving this special Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his long walk with students sometimes up steep inclines, but always toward a better view.
Moose can be elusive even in the mountains of Montana. Best buddies like Mr. Moose are even more sporadic. When on wild escapades with my exceptional pal, a few four legged moose have crossed our path. I always consider myself privileged to be the presence of the four and two legged creatures.
I love you Mr. Moose, Bill, Billy Boy, Willy, Uncle Bill, William Starkey. You are my family’s “Starman”
This heartfelt tribute to Mr. Bill Starkey comes with the recognition and appreciation for the fact that he has made a difference in the lives of literally thousands of kids across the state of Montana. He is an amazing counselor, husband, father, and friend. He has dedicated his life to the service of others, now we dedicate this Lifetime Achievement Award to him.