Super Stuart Spotted on Mt. Ellis Campus

He scales buildings with a harness and thin rope. He crops photos late into the night. He climbs trees in snowstorms to get the perfect shot. He sets up explosions for eager students and hunts birds with binoculars. Who is he? Super Stuart—a.k.a. James Stuart, Mt. Ellis Academy’s one-man science department, rock climber and photographer.

Like every teacher at a small Adventist boarding school, Stuart has learned to be a jack-of-all-trades, while making learning fun. “He’s hilarious,” said Charisa Ransom, MEA junior. “He can raise one eyebrow and make these great expressions.”

“Mr. Stuart knows his stuff and makes it understandable,” added Garrison SinClair, MEA junior. “He explains everything in-depth and makes sure that you understand it.” The advanced biology class recently traveled to eastern Montana over a weekend on a birding adventure—another example of how Stuart goes above and beyond the call of duty to involve students in hands-on science.

In addition to his regular duties, Stuart co-taught a rock climbing class second quarter. “He taught us how to tie knots, belay and all of the technical stuff about climbing,” says James Gustafson, MEA junior. The rock-climbing craze started last school year when Stuart taught a rock-climbing mini-course on the school’s fire escapes. Students were so enthusiastic that they requested a regular class, which Stuart has happily taught.

As an avid amateur photographer, Stuart took an interest in the Ellisonian, MEA’s yearbook. When he offered to take on the responsibilities of yearbook sponsor in addition to his regular teaching load, Chelsea Hunt, yearbook editor and MEA senior, was overjoyed. “Mr. Stuart was a huge help with the yearbook this year. He put in incredible amounts of time and effort—we couldn’t have done it without him.”

He’ll do anything for a good shot—even climb a tree in a snowstorm to take a photo of the group who climbed Mt. Ellis to raise $10,000 to help the Hurricane Katrina victims.

And speaking of shots, Stuart coaches the MEA soccer team during the soccer season. “He’s a better soccer player than any of us on the team,” said Johnson Turner, MEA junior. “That means he really knows what he’s talking about, and it makes him a really great coach.”

Stuart isn’t the only Super Stuart. For the past two years, his wife, Ingrid, has coordinated community service projects for Mt. Ellis students with Eagle Mount—a local nonprofit group that works with special-needs children. She also helped plan a MEA mission trip to Guachochi, Mexico, last year.

In his "spare" time, Stuart is working on his master’s degree—which involves research during the school year and a heavy class load during the summer. His goal: to be a better teacher and a more knowledgeable scientist.

There’s no doubt about it. James Stuart and his family embody the essence of a small school. Their enthusiasm for Christ bubbles over into other areas outside the curriculum—making Mt. Ellis a better place for each student that attends.

July 01, 2006 / Montana Conference
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Anita Strawn de Ojeda, MEA English and Spanish teacher