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50 Years of Progressive Education in Missoula, Montana

Fifty years ago in 1971, Sussex School was born.

It was a year of bell bottoms, tunics, and pantsuits.

Marvin Gaye released “What's Going On” and Rod Steward’s “Maggie May” topped the charts.

Walt Disney opened Disney World in Orlando.

The Vietnam War continued to be waged.

Crude oil production peaked.

Apollo 15 launched into space, marking the 4th landing on the moon.

The Kennedy Center for Performing Arts was inaugurated in Washington DC.

The 26th amendment passed, lowering the voting age from 21 to 18.

It was a year of innovation, exploration, and radical change.

And, right here in Missoula, Montana, a small, progressive school was formed by Bente

Winston and a small group of committed parents who were looking for a different sort of education for their kids.

This unique, homegrown, cooperative school, where parents used to teach, clean classrooms, and write policy, has now grown into a successful K–8th grade independent school with 120 students, 21 staff, and over 400 graduates.

The small house on Sussex Street has evolved into a 3.5-acre campus with six buildings and a 1.5 million dollar budget, all the while maintaining its progressive roots and child-centered approach.

Just as in 1971, at this school, childhood is celebrated and preserved.

At Sussex, critical thinking, courage, creativity, and citizenship is fostered so kids can become their best selves and take their knowledge and experience to communities near and far.

We are so grateful that in 1971 Bente Winston realized her vision for Sussex School, bringing great joy and community to so many students and families in Missoula, MT and beyond.


Joellen Shannon serves as the Sussex School Interim Head of School. Joellen works with faculty and staff to successfully operate the approximately 120-person school. Joellen began working for Sussex in 2013 as the Development and Marketing Director, bringing two decades of nonprofit capacity-building experience to the role. In 2017, she – together with Daphne Braun – became the co-director of the school. In 2021 she moved into the role of Interim Head of School.

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