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2013 Teacher of the Year

Teacher of the Year and Regional Winners

Jeff Charbonneau
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Photo courtesy of Chris VanAntwerp of VanClub Photography

Jeffrey Charbonneau - 2013 National Teacher of the Year
ESD 105 Regional Teacher of the Year
Zillah High School | Zillah School District
Central Washington University, Master of Education, 2005
Central Washington University, Bachelor of Science (Teaching & Biology), 2000

Get to Know Jeff and the Road to National Teacher of the Year

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.

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.”

2013 Regional Teachers of the Year


Monte Syrie
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Monte Syrie
ESD 101 Regional Teacher of the Year
Cheney High School | Cheney School District
Eastern Washington University, Master of Arts (Curriculum and Instruction), 2009
Eastern Washington University, Bachelor of Arts (Secondary Education – English), 1995

Monte has taught English at Cheney for the past nine years. He is also the English department coordinator. Monte was first inspired to become a teacher in 1985 when a very cool English teacher in black Levi’s® helped him realize he could stay in the place (school) that had become his refuge and offer the same sanctuary to future generations.

Monte believes passionately in teacher accountability. He believes that when teachers fall short, it is not necessarily due to lack of ability, but because the system for holding them accountable has failed to guide teachers along the path of continued growth. He believes teachers can do this for each other, in concert with their administrators. Indeed, his own colleagues testify that Monte does this for them — offering constant inspiration and challenging them to step out of their own comfort zones for the sake of students.

Monte is respected by students and colleagues, alike, for his high expectations and ability to build a safe, trusting environment. Recently, Monte has transitioned to standards-based grading — a move he says has been “the single most important evolutionary step for learning I have taken in my teaching experience.” Because Monte uses standards-based grading, students in his class have individualized learning experiences. He also has committed to a student-led conference model. As a result, students in his class know that he sees the individual potential in each of them and they respond with trust.

“It seems that everything Monte involves himself in is better for it. As a matter of fact, I can say without hesitation, that I personally have become a better teacher because of his resolute efforts,” says Monte’s colleague Alan Harmon. “Various administrators, teachers and students can easily attest to his unwavering commitment to improvement and progress, but that doesn’t accurately communicate his enormous influence on his coworkers, students and school. Suffice it to say, without Monte Syrie, Cheney High School would be a lesser place.”

Eric Saueracker
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Eric Saueracker
ESD 112 Regional Teacher of the Year
Hudson’s Bay High School | Vancouver School District
Portland State University, Master of Science (Systems Science), 2010
University of Idaho, Bachelor of Science (Applied Math: Probability), 2004

Eric is a National Board Certified Teacher of math and science at Hudson’s Bay High School. Since arriving six years ago, he has dramatically increased interest in advanced math and science. Bay’s AP Physics class was once a zero-hour period with dwindling enrollment. Today, they have a robust enrollment of 90 students — many of whom are on Individualized Education Plans or have had discipline problems in the past. Colleagues and students attribute the success of the program to Eric’s skill at integrating numerous learning styles into his lessons.

Eric is convinced that all students have the ability to rise to a challenge — as demonstrated by the wide variety of students who are successful in his classes. He believes one of the greatest obstacles facing education is our failure to respond to the realities of poverty. At Bay, Eric has worked as a part of the Learning Improvement Team to address this issue through adjusting grading strategies to incorporate more frequent assessments and developing a pyramid of interventions. The results have been significant, and Bay was awarded the Washington Achievement Award for closing the achievement gap last year.

As a colleague, Eric is highly collaborative. He is an advocate for teacher-to-teacher observation and believes he and his colleagues should be held accountable in the same way as their students — they must solve problems together, meet challenges head on and focus on working more effectively, rather than simply working more. His enthusiasm and skill have made him a natural choice for numerous committees. Most recently, he sat on the curriculum advisory panel for the district’s new STEM school.

What students value most about Eric is his investment in them. “Many students ask Mr. Saueracker why he decided to be a teacher, and his answer is always the same: He loves being able to have an impact on future generations,” says student Maddie Bode. “He loves to help students find what they are really good at and help them turn that into a career pathway. I don’t think there is a better answer to that question. A teacher who wants nothing more than to help students succeed, not only while they’re at school, but throughout their lives, is the best teacher anyone could ask for.”

Pamelia Valentine
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Pamelia Valentine
ESD 113 Regional Teacher of the Year
Oakland Bay Junior High School | Shelton School District
The Evergreen State College, Master in Teaching, 1999
The Evergreen State College, Bachelor of Arts, 1997

Pamelia is a National Board Certified Teacher of visual arts at Oakland Bay Junior High School. Pamelia’s journey as a teacher is compelling. After a career as a nurse on an Alaskan island, her family moved back to Washington. When her husband was killed in an accident, Pamelia found herself at a crossroads. In an effort to find smaller class sizes for her children, she negotiated a deal with the administrator at the tiny Satsop School. In exchange for allowing her three out-of-district children to attend, Pamelia would teach music. It was this experience that helped Pamelia realize teaching was her true calling.

Now in her 13th year as a teacher, Pamelia has risen to the level of teacher leader at her school, in her community and at the national level. As the leader of her School Improvement Team, she has shepherded her school through a transition to standards-based learning and is currently working on the design of a school-within-a-school model for students who have gotten into trouble with the law. Pamelia also believes passionately in maximizing the use of school facilities for the benefit of the community and has worked with the Shelton Schools Foundation to open a community school at Oakland Bay. She was also recently elected the Pacific Region Middle Level Director for the National Arts Education Association.

In the classroom, students say Pamelia leads by example — giving her all every day. She encourages them to challenge themselves and reminds them that being “different” is a good thing. Colleagues admire Pamelia’s ability to infuse her arts classes with reading, writing and math, and she is a much sought-after collaborator and mentor.

Principal Bracken Budge praises Pamelia saying, “Her classroom is truly a positive, safe and rich learning environment that provides students with educational opportunities well beyond the basics of visual arts. Furthermore, Ms. Valentine puts students first, believes that all students can achieve at high levels, and does not give up on anyone, even those who have given up on themselves.”

Richard Newell
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Richard Newell
Olympic ESD 114 Regional Teacher of the Year
Central Kitsap High School | Central Kitsap School District
University of Hawaii at Manoa, Master of Arts (European Languages and Literature), 1987
Southern Oregon State College, Bachelor of Arts (Spanish, Education), 1979

Richard is a veteran teacher who has spent the past 25 years teaching Spanish at Central Kitsap. He has spent 21 of those years as the World Languages Department Chair. Richard’s life was forever changed by a study abroad experience in Mexico when he discovered a love for Spanish and a new perspective on the world. This is an opportunity he hopes to replicate for as many students as possible. Planning youth mission trips, encouraging students apply for exchange programs, and volunteering for the Summer in the USA program for Basque teens are just a few of the ways Richard works to broaden the experiences of his school and community.

Richard connects with students through a carefully measured combination of enthusiasm, individual attention, humor and mutual respect (which he calls the “X” factor). Parents marvel at how quickly he identifies their students’ potential and students credit Richard’s dedication both in and out of class with helping them successfully complete the AP Spanish exam.

Colleagues call Richard’s energy inspiring, and point to the numerous students who study abroad as proof of his impact on Central Kitsap. On the national level, Richard has graded AP exams for the College Board.

His colleague Randy Templeton says Richard’s impact is far reaching. “He employs a variety of techniques and is innovative in adopting new approaches to the teaching of language. Students who might have initially enrolled in Spanish just to get the requirement out of the way, are soon anxious to continue to study the language as well as the culture and history of Spanish-speaking nations. Countless former students have gone on to study Spanish at the university level and now use the language in their jobs. We have Mr. Newell’s teaching expertise and infectious enthusiasm to thank for that.”

Darcy Smith
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Darcy Smith
Puget Sound ESD 121 Regional Teacher of the Year
McMicken Heights Elementary School | Highline School District
Washington State University, Master of Arts (Education), 2001
Washington State University, Bachelor of Arts (Human Development), 2000

Darcy began teaching at McMicken Heights in 2001 as a first-grade teacher and has taught sixth grade for the past six years. Since her experience as a counselor for Camp Opportunity — a camp for abused and neglected children — Darcy has been committed to creating a safe haven for kids.

Darcy loves teaching sixth grade. She works hard to build the confidence of each student as they transition to junior high. Darcy focuses on making sure students have the tools to become critical thinkers and to articulate their often passionate opinions about the world around them. Students begin by testing out these skills with each other as Darcy facilitates discussions on religion, civil rights and other contentious issues. Her ability to engage students with a relevant curriculum and teach them essential communications skills help Darcy’s students make tremendous strides in reading — often 2 – 3 years’ worth of growth.

Darcy has always focused on marginalized populations. In her role as an educator, she is passionate about closing the achievement gap. Her spare time is filled with a popular after-school group for girls and advocating for immigrant students. Darcy has helped families study for the citizenship test. She is a passionate believer in the Dream Act and has organized community meetings to educate the public about creating better pathways to citizenship.

It’s this passion and genuine belief in students’ abilities that makes Darcy more than just a teacher. “Sometimes we come across a few rare people who change our very foundation for the better. I had the opportunity to have someone like this as one of my sixth-grade teachers,” says former student Denisse Quintanilla. “Since then, there has not been a single person who has taught me more. Every important thing I’ve ever learned has its roots in Mrs. Smith’s classroom at McMicken Heights, whether it is a lesson about language, acceptance, history or breaking stereotypes.”

Brian Sites
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Brian Sites
ESD 123 Regional Teacher of the Year
River’s Edge High School | Richland School District
Heritage University, Master of Education, 2006
Eastern Washington University, Bachelor of Education (Social Studies), 2003

Brian is a National Board Certified Teacher of math and social studies at River’s Edge High School, an alternative school in Richland. Brian focuses on building relationships and resiliency at River’s Edge, which he believes creates lasting results for his students.

Many of his students have had little or no academic success, so building their confidence is a key component of Brian’s instruction. He reminds them to dream big and plan for college or a trade after high school. Then he works to offer consistent support through counseling, instruction that targets each student’s deficiency and relevant technologies. He even helps them complete the FAFSA for federal financial aid to college. The results speak for themselves. Not only do 70 percent of Brian’s students have a post-graduate plan, but he is often singled out by graduates as the reason for their success.

Brian is a force in his community. He involves himself with numerous service organizations in an effort to build lasting school and community partnerships that support and fund innovative programs and resources. Most recently, Brian spearheaded a $100,000 fundraising effort to provide a free daycare center for teen parents. At the state level, Brian is continuously advocating for National Board Certification and alternative education. His elected officials know and respect Brian, and look to him as an expert resource.

“Brian embodies what the future of education in America will become,” says School Board President Rick Jansons. “He is more than a teacher. He is a coach, an advocate for life and learning, a motivator and an accountability partner for his students. He continually innovates and looks for new ways to reach his students, and his efforts have directly increased graduation rates in the programs he’s created.”

Barbara Fry Quintasket
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Barbara Fry Quintasket
North Central ESD 171 Regional Teacher of the Year
Paschal Sherman Indian School | Omak School District
Eastern Washington University, Master of Education, 1992
Heritage College, Bachelor of Arts (Elementary Education), 1986

Barb is a 26 year veteran teacher. Currently she teaches 6th – 9th-grade science at Paschal Sherman Indian School. It was a criminology practicum in college that convinced Barb she’d rather be a teacher and use education to keep kids out of jail.

At Paschal Sherman, Barb’s classroom hums with the sound of chirping crickets while fingers swipe across iPad screens. Her curriculum, based on state standards, is a unique blend of Native American language and culture and science menus. There are no traditional textbooks in Barb’s classroom. Instead, students are using the technologies and research materials of today.. The result is a classroom full of confident scientists with the ability to collaborate or work independently to solve problems.

Barb is also committed to building cultural understanding and community between students of varied backgrounds. For the past four years, she has been a leader in the Connections Through Science and Adventure program, which uses hands-on experience and field study to build camaraderie between students from Paschal Sherman and Omak High. In her school and around the community, Barb takes on numerous volunteer commitments. She sits on committees and has provided leadership for fundraising, Title IX and a local preschool. She also takes senior portraits for students who can’t afford them. On the national level, Barb has worked with NASA to design an earth science curriculum from a Native American perspective.

Barb’s principal, Raymond Leaver, praises her rapport with students saying, “She is one of the most nurturing educators that you will meet. Using this quality and her knowledge of Native American culture gives her the ability to motivate the most unmotivated student. I have observed the most at-risk students thrive in her class and they, in turn, treat her with great respect.”

Rick Gile
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Rick Gile
Northwest ESD 189 Regional Teacher of the Year
Everett High School | Everett School District
U.S. Naval War College, Master of Arts (National Security and Strategic Studies), 1994
University of Oregon, Bachelor of Science (Business Administration), 1979

Rick is the Senior Naval Sciences instructor at Everett High School where he began teaching in 2007. He first felt a spark for teaching in the cockpit as a Navy flight instructor. Today, Rick is focused on encouraging leadership and honor in future generations.

Since arriving at Everett, Rick has rescued the Naval Junior ROTC program from near collapse. The program has nearly tripled in enrollment and students have contributed over 3,000 service hours to their community. Members of Rick’s NJROTC are admired as community leaders, and in 2011 the unit was recognized with the Navy’s “most improved” award.

Colleagues and students say Rick’s instruction is spellbinding, and it is this gift, along with the gravitas he brings to the profession, that makes Rick such a successful teacher. Rick says teaching is mostly about helping people find their way. He believes there may be many more great teachers in our communities working in other vocations and that the teaching profession is hungry for these fresh perspectives. Rick’s students acknowledge him as a great mentor and a hero. They perceive his classroom as a place to win honor, and they rise to the occasion.

“Commander Gile has made an enormous impact on my life,” says student Eimi Omokawa. “He has helped me understand the struggles and importance of leadership, patience, hard work and dedication to academicsand every aspect of life. I am not the only student he has affected to such a great extent. There are many others who would happily write multiple pages about Commander Gile’s benevolence and wisdom — each with their own experiences with and anecdotes of this remarkable man.”

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