Educator Awards
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Education Awards

2014 Teacher of the Year

Teacher of the Year and Regional Winners

Katie Brown

Katie Brown
Northwest ESD 189 Regional Teacher of the Year
Bellingham School District | Shuksan Middle School
Seattle Pacific University, MA (Education), 2009
Western Washington University, Teaching Certificate, 2003 & BA, 2000

Katie has taught at Shuksan for the past 11 years. Two years ago she transitioned into her current role as the ELL Specialist. Teaching came as a bit of a surprise to Katie. She realized that she wanted to be a teacher after several different a-ha moments: volunteering at a high poverty school in college, playing soccer with kids during a Costa Rica study abroad and while listening to Alaskan tribal elders teach young people about their history as an AmeriCorps volunteer.

As the ELL Specialist, Katie has implemented a series of very successful ELL family nights where families once hidden in shadows can build community – even across many different languages. In two short years, she has built a program that is admired and respected across her district.

Special Assistant for Family Engagement, Isabel Meaker praises Katie saying, “It is her hard work, dedication and ability to understand different cultures that have made Shuksan a model school for family engagement . . . In a state where student demographics are constantly fluctuating, Katie Brown has set a precedent for other districts to follow.”

Katie has devoted herself to helping her colleagues learn the practice of the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol and cheering them on daily. Assistant Principal Janae says Katie’s influence is felt in every classroom at Shuksan. She is quick to call out colleagues’ success. This authentic praise and her use of peer coaching builds confidence and morale. As a result the percent of ELL students passing the Reading MSP is up 20 points in just one year.

Her work has also increased the overall confidence of ELL students. “Every day I go to her classroom for help explaining the things I am learning in other classes,” says student Jose Mejia. “This year I wrote a graphic novel and she helped me understand how to create a story in my head . . . Mrs. Brown motivates us to achieve our goals in school and in life. She does not tell me I can’t do it. She always tells me not to give up.”

2014 Regional Teachers of the Year

Jeffrey Dunn

Jeffrey Dunn
Northeast ESD 101 Regional Teacher of the Year
Deer Park School District | Deer Park High School
University of Pittsburgh, Ph.D. (English Literature), 1991 & MA (English Literature), 1986
Allegheny College, MA (Education), 1982 & BA (English), 1978

Jeff teaches English at Deer Park High School where he is described as a “kid saver.” Colleagues compare him to the man who walks down a beach throwing individual starfish back into the ocean who understands he can’t save every one, but is committed to saving those he can. Jeff also coordinates his school’s after and summer school programs where students get professional help with tutoring, credit retrieval and project based learning.

This drive to help students discover their individual pathways to success is why Jeff started using standards based grading 15 years ago. And for the past 5 years all of his Reading and Writing Collection of Evidence students have met standard. His own experiences with dyslexia and supporting a child with autism through his education have made him particularly sensitive to the needs of non-traditional students.

Jeff believes in Paulo Freire’s theory that great teachers should first be model students – exemplifying the courtesy, ethics, creativity and determination they hope to cultivate in their students. He encourages his colleagues not to fall into the trap of teaching as they were taught, and he himself breaks the mold by including performance and cross-disciplinary study into his own life and classroom.

Jeff’s principal, Joe Feist, praises him saying, “There are not enough adjectives to describe how effective Jeff is as an educator. He has a positive impact on every student he comes in contact with. Give me a teaching staff full of Jeff Dunn’s and all students will meet standards. He is that good.”

Joshua Schlegel

Joshua Schlegel
ESD 105 Regional Teacher of the Year
Sunnyside School District | Harrison Middle School
Gonzaga University, MA (Leadership and Administration), 2013
Heritage University, BA (Math Education), 2007

Josh has been the Math Coach at Harrison Middle School for the past 4 years. In that time he has led a turn-a-round that is remarkable. From 2009 to 2012 the percent of 7th graders meeting standard in math has jumped from 20.8% to 60.1% Now over half of Harrison’s 8th graders take the new Algebra I class that Josh introduced.

Josh grew up on a struggling farm and imagined a future of continued struggle until his teachers helped him realize his potential. He tries to bestow that gift of farsightedness on his students today, so that they will see past their current reality to their someday possibilities.

As a coach, Josh embraces the idea of a “studio classroom” where his colleagues are free to come and observe, collaborate and reflect on their practice. He has introduced standards based grading and established a culture of continuous learning in his school. Learning for Josh is a fluid experience with no specific start or finish which is why he believes that math and creativity are intertwined - that the very best math classrooms are free-thinking.

“Regardless of whether he is selected as the State Teacher of the Year, Josh is a teacher of the year,” says Harrison’s 7th grade math department. “When everyone around us told us we would fail, Josh backed our choices and got us whatever we needed to get the job done: finding material to meet standards, common plan time, intervention time for math, paid external planning time, the whole time leading us every step of the way.”

Sheila Stuhlsatz

Sheila Stuhlsatz
ESD 112 Regional Teacher of the Year
Kalama School District | Kalama Middle and High School
City University – Vancouver, Administrative Certificate, 2001
California State University – Dominguez Hills, MA (English/TESOL), 1993
California State University – Long Beach, BA (Bilingual Ed & Spanish), 1983

Sheila teaches Spanish at Kalama Middle & High School and says her love for teaching was born of her love for the language. “Yes I can” is her guiding principal both in and out of the classroom. She is a National Board Certified Teacher. Sheila focuses on identifying and engaging a wide variety of learning styles in her colleagues, kids and their families. She credits her 17+ years mentoring individual kids as a 4H leader with helping her hone this skill. She also uses her experience as an elementary school teacher to develop strategies to engage parents of high school students.

Sheila is passionate about supporting new teachers. She advocates for on-site training and mentoring in her district and at the state level through her work as a board member for the Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession. She continues to work towards her goal of helping at least 10% of the teachers in her district earn National Board Certification.

“Sheila’s influence on these children goes far beyond the subject matter,” says 4H parent Elise Conlee. “She teaches a way of life that encompasses a passion for learning, respect for others, and responsibility to ourselves, our family and our community. My own daughter is graduating from high school this year, and I believe she does so as a much different and better person because Sheila has been a part of her life for the past eight years.”

Laura Currie

Laura Currie
ESD 113 Regional Teacher of the Year
Olympia School District | Centennial Elementary School
Central Washington University, BA (Education), 1967

From an early age, Laura was inspired by the stories of her pioneering grandmothers – both teachers. She has taught 4th – 6th grades at Centennial Elementary for 44 of her 45 years in education. Colleagues and parents describe Laura as warm and nurturing with an infections zest for learning.

Laura believes a teacher’s primary job is to create independent problem solvers who know how to take risks. She says teachers should be accountable for all they do. That we should start first with student achievement, but also continue on to consider the social and emotional growth of students, a teacher’s care for his or her colleagues and the work they do outside of the classroom that benefits their whole school community.

Because she is passionate about cultivating a culture of service among students and teachers, Laura organizes several fundraising and service events every year. These fun runs, carnivals, food drives and collections for natural disaster victims sometimes directly benefit the school but also connect students to a larger community. They help build a sense of commraderie in the building, and they nurture compassion for others.

Principal Alice Drummer simply states, “Laura is the fabric of our being and the glue that holds our school together . . . she has the uncanny ability to turn even the most struggling student into a scholar.”

Eric Samson

Eric Samson
Olympic ESD 114 Regional Teacher of the Year
Central Kitsap School District | Central Kitsap Junior High School
University of South Carolina, MA (Science Education), 1988
University of North Carolina – Wilmington, BS (Geology), 1984

Eric has taught science at Central Kitsap Junior High for the past 23 years. He first imagined being a teacher as a TA in graduate school because it combined his love for science and performing. Twenty-five years later he still truly enjoys the company of students and says that teaching is the best way to feel a sense of connection to your community. He is a National Board Certified Teacher.

Eric is passionate about building rigor and opportunity into his curriculum. His new Honors Physical Science program has helped bridge the gap for 9th graders who want to take AP Chemistry in 10th grade. It now enrolls almost 200 students, and Eric is working with teachers at the other Junior Highs in Central Kitsap to start similar programs. The curriculum for the class includes extensive video tutorials that have become a surprising tool for engaging parents.

Eric is committed to giving parents and families more access to important school decisions including course offerings, staffing and scheduling. He believes providing opportunities for parents and students to thoughtfully evaluate their schools will help rebuild public trust in our schools.

Eric’s positive outlook has a tremendous impact on his community. “If attitude is everything, then we can all learn from Eric Samson,” says Principal Jeremy Monroe. “He is never without a smile. He moves quickly and purposefully and everything he does is done with enthusiasm. He comes to work every day thinking he’s landed his dream job.”

Amy Abrams

Amy Abrams
Puget Sound ESD 121 Regional Teacher of the Year
Kent School District | Northwood Middle School
Western Washington University, BA (English & Education), 1987

Amy teaches 8th grade English Language Arts at Northwood where she focuses on empowering both students and families. Amy says her own experience as the parent of two students who didn’t fit the traditional mold had made a tremendous impact on how she approaches working with an increasingly wide variety of learning styles.

Amy believes family and community engagement is critical to student success. She suggests schools build in opportunities to teach parents how to participate in school. She creates meaningful and long-term service projects and encourages students to explore what their community means to them through reflective writing.

Amy is passionate about Common Core State Standards and the opportunity for equity they represent. She is committed to helping bring these academic standards to life through interactive lessons. She advocates for more specific modeling and better collaboration from elementary to middle to high school to ease transitions from one set of standards to the next.

Principal Colleen Nelson praises Amy saying, “Amy exemplifies all that is great about public schools and quality teachers. She is a believer and a doer. Amy comes to work every day and is guided by her strong beliefs about the power of education and her compelling drive to serve others.”

Bernice Hanan

Bernice Hanan
ESD 123 Regional Teacher of the Year
Pasco School District | Chiawana High School
Walla Walla University, BA (Spanish), 1980

Bernie started teaching Spanish at Chiawana this fall. She spent the past 9 years of her 33-year career teaching in a dual-language kindergarten classroom at Maya Angelou Elementary. She was instrumental in its creation and implementation. Bernie continues to be a key resource for other teachers interested in dual-language. She also teaches at Pasco’s annual summer Spanish camp for teachers and school employees.

As a dual language teacher, collaboration was at the heart of Bernie’s teaching. She is a definite leader and expert in her field, but also very sensitive to the feelings and viewpoints of all team members. She sets an example of mutual respect combined with determined focus on student achievement.

Bernie’s style of teaching is focused on relationships and that focus expands to include parents and families. At Maya Angelou she organized monthly family meetings to build community and empower parents with mini take-home lessons for their students.

Bernice’s former principal, Luann Nunamaker praises her saying, “I am always in awe when I am in her room watching her interact with her students. She is relentless in her quest to make sure that each child understands what she wants them to do as a result of her lesson. The students in her classroom support one another, and risk taking is not only encouraged but honored.”

Matthew Brewer

Matthew Brewer
North Central ESD 171 Regional Teacher of the Year
Soap Lake School District | Soap Middle & High School
Central Washington University, BS, 2005

Matt teaches science and is the department chair at Soap Lake Middle & High School. Nearly every student who graduates from Soap Lake will have taken at least one class from Matt. For him teaching truly is a calling. He describes it as what he was born to do.

Matt is passionate about providing opportunities to students and families in his remote community and combatting the devastating effects of poverty on student achievement. He organizes math and science nights and arranged to host Central Washington’s portable planetarium in an effort to create a culture of scientific inquiry in his community. His expert use of new media is building a new set of skills into his curriculum, exposing students to research from around the world and giving his colleagues fresh ideas for their own classrooms.

Matt believes teacher evaluations should be personal and specific. He advocates for substantive accountability and argues that if we expect teachers to treat each student differently then we must view teachers as individuals with unique strengths and challenges.

“Matt is not only everything written on his resume and more, he truly cares for each and every student,” says Principal Rick Winters. “He will spend many more hours on the job than anyone could anticipate and produce incredible results with new and innovative twists the pique student interest. Rarely do you find such an intelligent person with the patience to match.”

   Updated 9/23/2013

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