Montana's Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau will be among those honored as distinguished alumni during homecoming at the University of Montana.

Juneau said the honor was a surprise that came out of the blue a few weeks ago.

"I received a call one day from Bill Johnston, the Director of the Alumni Association, informing me that I had been chosen by a committee they had put together to receive one of the distinguished alumni awards," Juneau said. "It was a surprise then, and truly an honor to be listed among the other luminaries at homecoming."

Juneau, a member of the Mandan and Hidatsa tribes and descendant of the Blackfeet Tribe, she is the first American Indian woman to serve in a statewide elected office. She recounted her experience at the University of Montana.

"I was a graduate of the law school in 2004," she said. "I worked in education for awhile, I was a teacher and then became the director of Indian education at the Office of Public Instruction. I took a break to go to law school and clerked at the Montana Supreme Court for a year, then, I returned to education where I eventually decided to run for this office."

Juneau said she has seen many changes in education in her two terms as Superintendent of Public Instruction.

"We're not participants in many of the 'opt-in' federal programs, and there have been waivers offered to the states," Juneau said. "For instance, we are not a Race to the Top state, and do we are really able to take advantage of state initiatives, such as our 'Higher-Clearer' standards in math and reading, otherwise known as Common Core, and really provide time and space for teachers to implement that in our public schools. My discussion with teachers across the state is that they're very excited about these new standards, and to provide the help students need to meet these new higher standards."

"We have a new online assessment we're transitioning to this year to measure the new standards," she said. "For the first time ever, we'll have a common measure to see how our Montana students stack up against other states, and I think we'll do pretty well."

Others who will be honored at homecoming include Eric Sprunk ’86 of Beaverton,Ore.;Elizabeth Vinson Kohlstaedt, Ph.D. ’89 of Helena; Charles Hood ’61, M.A. ’69 (posthumously awarded); and James Murray ’76 of Washington,D.C.

Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau