Jeff, a National Board Certified Teacher, began teaching science at Zillah High School in 2001. He has been instrumental in creating a series of demanding STEM offerings in his small, rural high school. This year, students will be able to earn college credit in four of Jeff’s classes. To accomplish this, Jeff has become an adjunct faculty member at Yakima Valley Community College, Central Washington University, and Eastern Washington University.
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Jeff is a whirlwind on a mission. He reminds himself that each day is the most important day of the year for his students, and he fills his plate with responsibilities — both in and out of the classroom — designed to engage all kinds of students. Like many great teachers, Jeff is an advisor to a host of clubs including drama and science. As the yearbook advisor, Jeff led his students in an historical preservation project to digitize all of Zillah’s yearbooks from 1919 to 2002.
Jeff has also designed an exciting robotic challenge open to students from across the state, independent study opportunities, a hiking club that completes community service projects on their trips, and much more. The robot challenge alone has served over 850 students from 43 school districts over the past 4 years. These opportunities, combined with his innovative instruction, have dramatically increased the interest in science at Zillah. This year, over 60 percent of juniors are registered for Chemistry and one third of seniors will take Physics.
Jeff embraces every opportunity to encourage and support colleagues. As an online instructor for both National Board candidates and ProCert, he has been able to mentor teachers across the state. Jeff refutes the notion that we are a nation of failing schools, by reminding educators and community members of the many improvements we have made. He points to our continued efforts to educate all children as evidence of our resiliency.
“I am fortunate to have Jeff as an instructor at Zillah High School,” Principal Mike Torres says. “But I am even more fortunate to have him as a teacher for my own children. Both my son and daughter have taken classes from Jeff and they have expressed that he is the type of teacher every student deserves to have. He is innovative, enthusiastic, challenging and motivating. He takes a personal interest in every student. As a parent, I see how Jeff has motivated my children, not only to learn the content, but also to become advocates for learning in general. It is what makes him a standout.”
What is the National Teacher of the Year? The National Teacher of the Year is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers which coordinates a rigorous selection process. Washington’s Teacher of the Year is selected from a group of finalists who represent our nine Educational Service Districts and Tribal Schools. Anyone can submit a nomination for Washington’s Teacher of the Year. Nominations for 2014 are open now.
How was Jeff selected? Jeff was selected as one of four national finalists in January 2013. This decision was based on the written application he submitted in November 2012. Jeff interviewed with the National Teacher of the Year selection committee over the course of two days in March. The President will honor Jeff and all of the State Teachers of the Year at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, April 23.
What’s next for Jeff? Jeff will now serve as the 2013 National Teacher of the Year for the 2013–2014 school year. He will travel nationally and internationally as an ambassador for America’s teachers. Jeff will return to the classroom in Fall 2014 when his year of service ends.
— From Seed to Apple: Inspirational stories and lessons learned from Washington’s Teachers of the Year
I start out every lesson in my classroom the same way, saying “Welcome back to another day in paradise.”
I know it’s a pretty dorky cliché, but what do you expect? I am, after all, a high school science teacher. As such, dorky sayings are kind of my thing. But the reality is, I really do believe that we are in paradise.
Ah, but therein lies a secret... Even though I welcome my students to paradise every day, I have never explained to them why I believe it is so. In total, very few students in my 12 years of teaching have figured out why I “welcome them to paradise."
At least, that is what I used to think... Read the full story