Betty Jean “BJ” Geda Olson passed away Dec. 11, 2019, at Powers Cottage in Billings, holding her grandson Jordon’s hand. Betty Jean was born in Camas, Washington, to Earl and Mabel Clemons, on April 26, 1934.
She received her BA Degree from Central Washington College of Education and her Master’s Degree from Northern Montana College (MSUN) in Havre, and started her dream of “making a difference in the lives of children.” She taught at Spokane, Washington; Glasgow Air Force Base; Havre; Glasgow and finally Medicine Lake as a teacher and principal. BJ had been committed to education in and outside the classroom. She was one of the first four teachers selected to serve on the Certification Standards and Practices Advisory Council to the Montana State Board of Directors, State President of the Honorary Teacher’s International Society of Delta Kappa Gamma, State Board of Directors of the International Reading Association, Montana delegate on the NCATE (National Council Accreditation Teacher Education) on which she served terms evaluating Boston University, Fordham University in upper Manhattan, University of Montana, Montana State University and others. She also served as an advisor to Western Montana’s School of Education, supervisor at Northern Montana College (MSUN), supervisor of Havre Public Schools program of Individualized Instruction, supervisor of NMC’s (MSUN) learning lab, did demonstration teaching for NMC (MSUN) and had given multiple educational in-services, workshops and seminars throughout Montana and surrounding states. BJ also served as coordinator of the Northeast Montana Kindergartens and as a specially trained teacher in individualized instruction. She assisted various schools with their kindergarten curriculum and materials.
She had been distinguished as a Merit Award Teacher by the National Council of Geographic Teachers, was a state candidate for the Montana Teacher of the Year, has been featured numerous times in Who’s Who in American Education, Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers and Who’s Who Among American Women.
BJ retired after 42 years doing what she absolutely loved; educating children with the belief that “all students can learn and succeed, but not always on the same day or in the same way.” BJ spent several winters in Mesa, Arizona, with old and new friends until Parkinson’s made it too difficult for her to travel. She moved to Billings in 2015 to live with her daughter, then to Powers Cottage on the campus of St. John’s United in 2018.
BJ is survived by her husband Conrad Olson, beloved dog Stormy, brother Bill (Connie) Clemons, son Scott (Karla) Geda, daughter Ann Geda, grandson Jordan Wall, granddaughter Genna (Colton) Gondeiro, grandson Scott (Tabitha) Geda, stepson Chad (Kristi) Olson, granddaughter Erin (Zaniel) Dell, granddaughter Alexa (Mark) Olson, granddaughters Ashley, Taylor Olson and Risa Hedges, stepchildren Dawn Jacobson, Scott Olson and numerous nieces, nephews, cousins, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Betty Jean looked forward to her visits with Liz Summers, Shirley Farrell and Cheryl Zorzakis at the cottage, and regular correspondence from Betty Jean Callies Melby. We would like to thank Dr. Echeverri and his nurses Judy and Carrie, Synergy Home Care and the many Care Angels who took care of our one of a kind mom at Powers Cottage during her last year. BJ is also survived by the hundreds of students she had the honor of “teaching.” She was very special to everyone she met. Her favorite color was red, remember the “The Red Rug”?
Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 19, at Michelotti-Sawyers Mortuary, 1001 Alderson Ave. Services will be at 11 a.m. Friday, Dec. 20, at Michelotti-Sawyers Mortuary. Burial will follow at 12:30 p.m. at Yellowstone Valley Memorial Park.
If you choose to send a memorial in her name, please make it to Delta Kappa Gamma, Education Scholarship so she can continue to help educate the children of Montana.