Jacques, Turley, Pierson and St. Vincent Healthcare recognized at BCS Awards of Excellence

At a reception Wednesday after an all-schools Mass and annual awards ceremony, at which four people were recognized for their work with Billings Catholic Schools, one bespectacled face was notably absent. Dr. Craig Pierson, a Central High chemistry teacher and the 2016 Billings Catholic Schools Educator of the Year, was already back at work in his second-floor classroom. He was packing for the school’s Discover Night, an open house for prospective students and their families scheduled to take place that night in the gym. “He just takes it on himself to do whatever needs to be done,” Harrington said. “He’s the spirit of Billings Catholic Schools.” When asked about his display, Pierson slipped naturally into educator mode while pulling out bottles of gasoline, alcohol and water, followed by chemistry models, a strip of rabbit fur and a metal rod. After setting up the bottles to release their liquid in a vertical stream, Pierson intended to rub the metal rod on the rabbit fur, creating a positive charge that would pull liquids with oxygen molecules, like alcohol and water, toward the rod and elicit no reaction from substances without, like gasoline. Pierson called it “chemistry magic,” but it’s not magic that his students mentioned when asked about the person who had received the loudest cheers earlier. Senior Jade Harrison had Pierson for seventh period chemistry when she was a freshman. “He’s super fasciniating and enthusiastic with every subject he lectures about,” Harrison said, recalling how Pierson would break out class with a cheer of “Go Rams chem seven.” Nels Mork, a junior in Pierson’s Advanced Placement chemistry class also noted Pierson’s energy. “He really loves his subject, and he shows that in his teaching.” Pierson began as a substitute teacher in School District 2 before other educators encouraged him to get his master’s in education at Montana State University Billings. For 15 years now, he’s taught at Central High. Pierson also holds a Ph.D. in chemistry from Pennsylvania State University and a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Montana. He said watching students grow, including those who struggle with chemistry, keeps him excited and committed to education. Billings Catholic Schools president Shaun Harrington said the students notice. “When they see someone work that hard for them, they appreciate it,” Harrington said.

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