2019 Washington State Teacher of the Year

Aug 07, 19

People jumping for joy

Congratulations to Robert Hand (Mount Vernon SD)for winning the 2019 Washington State Teacher of the Year award!

And congratulations to all the regional winners!

Read more to find out who won in your region.

Robert Hand - 2019 Washington State Teacher of the Year

Photo of Robert Hand
Northwest Educational Service District 189

Mount Vernon High School - Mount Vernon
Robert began teaching Family and Consumer Sciences at Mount Vernon High School in 2013. He has taught Beginning Foods, Life After High School, Careers in Education, Nutrition, and Leadership. He has also been an adviser for Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) and Social Justice Club. He has taken students to national competitions where they have earned top honors for projects such as Nutrition and Wellness, Recycle and Redesign, and Advocacy. Robert enjoys taking on new challenges and helping every student realize the potential he sees in them.

Robert is a bundle of energy and positivity. Between classes, music spills from his classroom, and he is in the hall greeting kids with a smile, a fist bump, or a unique handshake he shares with them. Robert makes a point to say hello to every student to make them feel visible and welcome. If you enter his classroom at any point in the day, you might find him teaching students how to deconstruct a chicken and make three meals out of it on a budget, teaching how to balance a budget, or teaching students about what it takes to pursue their dream of becoming a teacher.

Robert also takes advantage of any opportunity he can to perfect his craft and contribute to his school culture. He's been a member of the School Engagement and Culture Committee as well as the District Equity Team in Mount Vernon. He was also instrumental in helping to develop an online curriculum for the Recruiting Washington Teachers program for the Professional Educator Standards Board.

“Mr Hand has gone out of his way to help students like us that encounter many barriers while trying to graduate from high school,” says a former student. “Some of the barriers that I faced were not having English as my first language, living in a low income home, and being undocumented. However there Is one other thing that made It harder for me to focus 100% in school - I got pregnant at 16. Any other teacher would have given up on me but Mr. Hand loves to get to know all his students to try to facilitate and nourish their learning experience. Mr. Hand got to know my struggles and did what a lot of other teachers didn't he actually acknowledged them. After this he didn't lower his expectations of me because he knew I was as capable as any other student who had the privileges I didn't. With Mr. Hand’s support throughout high school I got to discover my true potential. When I enrolled in Skagit Valley Collage, I kept that ‘I can do anything’ mindset that Mr. Hand taught me. I am about to transfer onto a 4-year university and pursue a career as an educator. None of this could have been possible without Mr. Hand always being by my side no matter what.”

Ryan Healy - 2019 Regional Teacher of the Year

Photo of Ryan Healy
Capital Region Educational Service District 113

Ridgeline Middle School - Yelm
Ryan started teaching in 2006 at Ridgeline Middle School in Yelm. He has helped develop a transformative student leadership program focused on character development and social and emotional learning skills. Data results from the program show significantly lower rates of office referrals and fewer suspensions.

At school, Ryan does a bit of everything. He co-advises ASB, organizes 10-15 school wide assemblies or events each year, produces videos and daily televised morning announcements, plans community service activities, and serves as a member of the governance team.

Ryan also works with other organizations to provide character development skills. He is the Character Development Coach for South Sound Roots Academy, a nonprofit providing high quality athletic and character skill training. He works with the Association of Washington Student Leaders to provide leadership programs for middle level students all over Washington. He also works with local high school and college sports teams and theater groups to provide staff and student athlete trainings. He is an executive board member and presenter for the Washington Activity Coordinators Association. He also edits curriculum for Characterstrong, a character development and SEL curriculum company.

Ryan believes that all people can learn to develop their character and practice unconditional love in their lives. He does his best to model that for the students and staff that he works with every day. He believes deeply in the power of developing our character and continues to serve many of his former students and colleagues long after they leave his school. He is fond of saying relationships matter and even more fond of trying to provide others with the tools to build great relationships in their own lives.

“I remember my first interaction with Mr. Healy,” says student Bria Jackson. “He was telling me that he had heard great things about me, and he encouraged me to join the leadership program. I was over the moon excited, and went home to share the news that the Mr. Healy had told me to join leadership. Looking back on it I realize that it could've been anybody; because I was just anybody, but Mr. Healy saw a kid with potential. Mr. Healy has done the same thing countless times to so many different students. He seeks out potential in any student, because he sees that we all have it. After seeking out the potential, he follows through with meaningful classes that teach much more than just poster making skills and how to put on a good assembly. While they're good skills to have, he teaches his students how to love unconditionally and serve others as well. Those are the skills I will utilize every single day for the rest of my life.”

Susan Douglas - 2019 Regional Teacher of the Year

Photo of Susan Douglas
Northeast Educational Service District 101

Almira Elementary - Almira
Robots, rocks, space shuttles, and numbers fill Susan’s STEM and special education classroom. Every student has access into learning with enthusiastic conversations, ideas, and problem solving in the midst of hands on activities.

Susan started teaching special education at the age of 40, bringing a wealth of life experience from her background in law enforcement, legislative advocacy, and social work to each lesson. In 2014 she began her STEM focused classroom. Susan believes each learner has a unique compilation of stories and skills that build a dynamic classroom, and she gives value to student's entry point into ideas and concepts.

Recognizing the rich local resources, Susan has developed native species and habitat restoration projects and leads students in an Ag STEM Day that involves agricultural professionals in the region. She has initiated numerous after school programs, an anti-bullying student organization, Space Day, robotics program, and a First Lego League team for 2019.

In Susan’s classroom there is a focus on relationships. Lessons and community projects teach civic relationships that elevate a student's understanding of self, and build resilience and confidence. By inspiring them to move beyond present understanding and challenging them to look deeper, she creates space for risk-taking.

Susan knows learning never ends. Whether she is participating in Math or Science Fellows or enrolling in college courses, she is a leader for professional development in her district. Susan has been a youth mentor in her church, organized a community garden, served communities in Guatemala, developed non-profits, and serves on many organizational boards. Respected for her action-oriented leadership approach to social and community issues, she is recognized for her life's commitment to the well-being of all children.

“Students regularly tell me the difference Susan has made in their lives,” says Almira administrator Anna Thomas. “Whether it is allowing students to research a passion project, or spending time after school to tutor a child, the common message I receive from students is, ‘Mrs. Douglas believes in me and listens to me.’ However, her impact is not limited to our school. Susan cares for her community and goes out of her way to honor those who serve our town . . . to Susan, being an educator is not limited to the classroom or constrained to the hours of a school, it is a way of life and is personified in every fiber of her being.”

Kristine Mars - 2019 Regional Teacher of the Year

Photo of Kristine Mars
Educational Service District 123

Hawthorne Elementary - Kennewick
Kris truly believes that all of us have a role to play in education. She works every day to demonstrate that the relationships children have inside and outside the classroom are crucial to helping them reach their potential regardless of their circumstances.

Kris embarked on her educational career after the murder of her husband, Bob Mars, a middle school teacher and coach, in 2004 by two adolescents. Both individuals led troubled lives and struggled in school. Bob had always encouraged her to pursue teaching, seeing Kris' potential to help students succeed. She took that mission to heart and began a whirlwind journey to ensure students from backgrounds similar to her husband's killers avoid the same destructive path. She holds the sincere belief every student can be exceptional.

Kris began teaching in 2012 as a reading specialist at Hawthorne Elementary. She has stayed at the school ever since, becoming a second-grade teacher in 2013, and in 2017, moving into third grade.

Kris' lessons meet each student's needs and her classroom activities challenge them to meet goals. She does this while keeping her students perpetually in motion. Kris uses songs, chants, and dances to give students mental breaks, to reinforce concepts, and make learning fun. She is known for dressing up in costumes to get her students' attention. Neither her room nor her lessons could ever be considered boring.

Kris cultivates relationships with students and their parents so that they know they can accomplish anything. She shares her research, activities, and ideas with fellow teachers so that they can apply them to their teaching. She encourages community members to get involved in the school. She is dedicated to making each sure every student knows their village is there for them.

“We all know a great teacher when we see one,” says assistant superintendent Greg Fancher. “Some folks say the best teachers have an ‘it factor’ that sets them apart from others. It is seemingly intangible and unteachable, and it is often said that some people are just born to be teachers. Kris Mars is one of those people. When you walk into her classroom you just know it is special place. The smiles on the kids' faces, the students' high level of engagement in the lesson, the energy and passion of the teacher for the work of the classroom are signs of the ‘it factor’ in Kris's room. Most importantly, it is a place where kids want to be, a place where they are inspired to learn. Kris is that teacher that every parent dreams of their kid having.”

Tracy Castro-Gill - 2019 Regional Teacher of the Year

Photo of Tracy Castro-Gill
Puget Sound Educational Service District 121

Seattle Public SchoolsCurriculum, Assessment, and Instruction
Tracy lived an entire life before becoming a teacher at the age of 38. She spent her late teens and early adulthood dedicated to raising her children, two of whom are now adults themselves. After leaving her home in Southern California in 2010 to make a new life in Seattle, Tracy began her teaching career.

Tracy always wanted to teach, mostly because of her experiences growing up mixed-race in a vibrant Latinx community. She felt that her identity wasn't reflected in her curriculum and wanted to change that. Tracy knew she had found her dream job when she was invited to teach social studies at Denny International Middle School, one of the most diverse middle schools in the state.

At Denny, Tracy has put in endless hours creating and leading racial equity professional development for the staff. Her commitment to racial equity is reflected in her classroom where she teaches an ethnic studies world history course. Tracy very much enjoys creating a space in which her students of color see themselves in the world's history, and where all students learn from and with each other.

Tracy's dedication to racial equity extends beyond the walls of Denny. She has been working with the Seattle Education Association on the Center for Race and Equity. She helped established the foundation for the Center, including its guiding principles and mission statement. She works with other passionate educators in the SEA to support racial equity teams in schools across the district.

Working with the NAACP, Tracy has lead the charge to bring ethnic studies curriculum to K-12 classrooms in Seattle Public Schools. She has forged alliances with SPS, SEA, and the NAACP to create tools and guidance for educators who want to bring social justice and ethnic studies into their classrooms.

“Tracy Gill has created curriculum that links ancient history to the present day,” says parent Andrea Chorney. “Social justice and ethnic studies are crucial components of the lessons as students continually investigate how the past has shaped the present. Most importantly, history is told from the perspectives of groups that have traditionally been ignored or marginalized in history classes and texts. Students are keenly aware of injustices in society and in their own lives, and my daughter Maddy is grateful to have had a teacher who is willing to address issues of power and oppression head on. Students know that Ms. Gill loves them and holds them to high standards. According to Maddy, ‘Ms. Gill tells the truth, respects us and we have fun learning.’”

Kimberly Miller - 2019 Regional Teacher of the Year

Photo of Kimberly Miller
Educational Service District 112

Woodland High School - Woodland
Kimberly grew up in a small farming and logging community in Western Washington. She earned her Bachelor's degree from Eastern Washington University and her Masters from Oregon State University. Her first teaching job was in Oregon, but her love of Southwest Washington drew her back to Woodland where she has taught for the last 27 years.

Kimberly has a strong belief that students should be engaged in making their community a better place to live and working to help those in need. Her students cater community events. Kimberly works alongside her students in activities such as "Make A Difference Day" which involves working to beautify their town, helping the elderly with their yards, leading food drives, and volunteering at the food bank. Her students have done food demonstrations at the food bank as well as promote bilingual recipe booklets that they produced. Kimberly has been involved in a project called "Empty Bowls" to feed the hungry. This year the "Empty Bowls" event raised enough money to buy 30,000 meals. She loves seeing her students have pride in doing something wonderful for others.

Kimberly is an Advisor for SkillsUSA and serves on the state board. Her chapter was chosen as a "Model of Excellence" this year – one of only twenty-four in the country. She has had eight State Champions who have gone on to the national competition against students from all fifty states, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. Her students have placed 5th, 7th, 7th, 11th, 20th, 23rd and 26th in the nation! Giving students the chance to feel like they belong and can walk with pride is what motivates Kimberly.

“We are so fortunate to have Kim as a member of our team - she truly epitomizes what it means to be a professional educator,” says CTE Director Paul Huddleston. “Kim does an amazing job building relationships with her students while still managing to develop character and motivate them to learn. If you've ever watched her in action, you’ve witnessed a knowledgeable and inspiring teacher that finds ways to make learning both relevant and fun for her students. Kim has created partnerships with our local food bank, Sudexo food services, local businesses. and our preschool that have allowed us to gain a real sense of ‘community’ here in Woodland.”

Michael Clinton - 2019 Regional Teacher of the Year

Photo of Michael Clinton
Educational Service District 105

White Swan High School - Mount Adams
Michael has always been a natural teacher and an avid learner. From a young age he taught his brothers to play sports and ride bikes. Later in school, he would help his peers on projects and even tutor others in science and math. Even as a FedEx driver, he was helping train new employees on their new delivery routes. Teaching is a part of who he is. It is his passion.

As an educator, Michael is devoted to learning and teaching. Not only is he currently completing his National Board Certification, he will be enrolling in a MA of Science Education program this winter. As part of his building leadership team, Michael would frequent his peers' classrooms to learn from them as well. It is his belief that he is a teacher of all disciplines.

Currently, Michael is teaching Biology and Physics. As of last year, he began teaching College in the High School classes through Heritage University. In addition to his engaging teaching approaches in the classroom, Michael engages students outside of the classroom as well. He is currently the Knowledge Bowl and Orca Bowl advisor. In the summer, Michael takes 10 White Swan students to be a part of a unique experience where they spend 15 days travelling and studying the federal and tribal watershed lands of the Columbia River as part of Heritage University's People of the Big River field class.

Michael approaches each day knowing that his preparation is essential to his students’ learning. He tirelessly makes sure that all of his students have opportunities for engagement. He does this through spending time both inside the classroom and out to build relationships with the students, families, and community members of his small reservation town.

“In my 26 years of teaching, I have encountered a few teachers like Michael Clinton who aspire not to teach well, but who instead make student learning the center of their pedagogy,” says colleague Thomas Sheppard. “It is a subtle difference. Those who focus on the former know their content matter and design tests to see if students have mastered the topic. Those who focus on the later, know their students, guiding them to master as much as they can, but also helping students learn about learning and seeing the connection between the learning happening in their various subjects. These teachers are also adept at helping students learn the complexity of a topic by using references to popular culture or to cell phones. In my experiences, these are the teachers who leave behind a legacy that follows the students forever, and are thus legends In our schools.”

Karen Doran - 2019 Regional Teacher of the Year

Photo of Karen Doran
Olympic Educational Service District 114

Roosevelt Elementary - Port Angeles
Karen is a nineteen-year veteran of teaching, who began her career in Mountainair New Mexico near her family’s farm. She has a true sense of adventure and desire to experience different cultures around our great country. She has spent time in New Mexico, Arizona, Florida and Washington and currently teaches highly capable 5th and 6th graders at Roosevelt Elementary in Port Angeles.

Karen earned her elementary education degree with a science endorsement from the University of New Mexico. She is currently working on her National Board Certification and a masters degree in elementary mathematics. She understands that education is ever changing, and her ability to be an effective teacher is dependent on being a learner. She is driven to stay current and implement research-based practices in the classroom.

Karen's love for math shows through her instructional delivery and her belief that every student can learn math at any level. She continually strives to improve her instruction around mathematics through research, education, and collaboration. Throughout her school and district, Karen leads multiple engaging and needs-based professional development sessions around mathematical instructional practices.

Her understanding of the importance of relationships is evident in Karen’s skill as a mentor. She opens her door to others for observation and eagerly collaborates on ways to improve instruction to meet the needs of students.

For the past 4 years she has hosted an after school Math Club to challenge students in developing their mathematical thinking. In addition, she has taken students to the local Math Olympiad competition where students always bring home ribbons, medals, and great memories. Karen is helping create a building culture focused on respect and student success.

“Karen not only invests in her own students, she also supports instructional shifts that benefit all children,” says assistant principal Jennifer Van De Wege. “Karen has devoted extensive time and focus to becoming proficient with the math practices. Her understanding of the practices and the fundamental shift that is created in math instruction influenced her to propose a district wide change in the elementary math curriculum. She is keenly aware of the need for all children to have math experiences that enhance their critical thinking and deep level engagement that impacts their number sense and ability to creatively solve problems. These skills translate across all curricular areas and are foundational for success in any prospective vocation. Karen's tireless advocacy for evolved math instruction will have a lasting impact on the future of all students in the district. The excitement the students have for math in our school is tangible as a result of Karen's efforts.”

Mathew Brown - 2019 Regional Teacher of the Year

Photo of Mathew Brown
North Central Educational Service District 171

Manson Middle School & Manson High School - Manson
Mathew Brown is began teaching music at Manson Middle School and Manson High School in 2005. Over the past 12 years he has taught choir in grades 7-12, band in grades 5-12, jazz band, drumline, and a guitar/piano course. He is also beginning his third year of leading the Okanogan Valley Orchestra, a local community orchestra.

Matt is driven to build, build, build. Manson’s Middle and High Schools are home to just over 300 students in grades 6-12. Ninety percent of the middle school students and over one third of high school students elect to take his band classes. Matt’s music ensembles have consistently grown in size and have received numerous awards.

Matt is a strong advocate for music education and believes that every district – big or small – deserves excellent music education. To help propel this message, for the past two years he has served as the Small Schools Curriculum Officer for the Washington Music Educators Association. In this role, Matt writes quarterly articles for the association's magazine. His topics range from teaching with positivity and using technology in the music classroom to building a vivid music program wherever you teach. He has also presented numerous times at the state and regional conferences on similar topics. Passionate about making assessments relevant, he also serves on the OSPI Arts Cadre.

Matt is a true believer that any teaching job can become your dream job if you have the will to make it so. Each year Matt continually looks forward to stretching what is possible for him, his students, and the community at large. Holding firm to his conviction that curiosity, creativity, and collaboration make teaching one of the most vibrant and rewarding of careers!

“In the 10 years that I’ve attended Manson schools, it has been astounding to witness the transformation of the music program under Mr. Brown’s direction,” says Donny Vanderholm. “I can personally vouch that I would not be the person I am today if not for the many teachings of Matt Brown. Mr. Brown creates a learning environment that is comfortable and enjoyable to all who take part,” says student Donny Vanderholm.

“Students are accepted with open arms no matter what level of knowledge or musical ability, and all students are guaranteed to show drastic improvements by the time the walk out of school at the end of the year. Mr. Brown’s constant positive attitude is a driving force that encourages all students to work their hardest and never talk bad about themselves or others. He has taught me that every single person is capable of greatness. All you need is a good work ethic and a positive attitude. This is a mindset that is ingrained into every student who is lucky enough to walk through the doors to his classroom.”

Originally posted on OSPI’s Site

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