Meet Oregon’s 2020 Regional Teachers of the Year


SALEM – Today the Oregon Department of Education, in partnership with the Oregon Lottery, announced Oregon’s 2020 Regional Teachers of the Year.

“Today’s educators must be equipped with more skills than ever before to meet the unique and important needs of each student they serve,” Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill said. “Recognizing these outstanding regional teachers is a privilege and their commitment to the calling of teaching deserves our thanks.”

Oregon educators were identified through a regional application and selection process. They submitted letters of support from principals, superintendents, colleagues and students for consideration, and were assessed on leadership, instructional expertise, community involvement, understanding of educational issues, professional development and vision by a diverse panel of regional representatives.

So who are these incredible teachers? Meet Oregon’s 2020 Regional Teachers of the Year:

Dave Case, Hood River Valley High School

When Dave talks to people considering a teaching career, he tells them, “just know you won’t be teaching history, or math, or English — you’ll be teaching kids.”

And Dave has lived by these words. In his 25-year career at Hood River Valley High School, he’s grown the history program from 20 students to well over 100. He’s contributed to a culture well beyond teaching history, having coached sports, advised the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance, and helped students run a student-news program.

Susie Chaney, Reedsport Community Charter School

After watching her aunt and grandfather find great satisfaction in teaching, Susie Chaney decided that this was a career in which she could invest her life.

Susie loves teaching with a passion. Given the choice, she would do it all over again just to be able to work with the teens of her community and help them see hope and options in their future.

“I have been made a better person, more patient, caring, and concerned because of my students’ strength in adversity, perseverance in dire circumstances, and their true grit.”

Manda Currier, Buff Elementary School

Manda Currier is a Special Education Teacher who’s served students with varying needs and backgrounds for 19 years. She believes in building relationships, acknowledging struggles, removing barriers, addressing deficits, and working hard.

“We need passionate, introspective and collaborative colleagues and lawmakers to help ensure that the desired success of our students comes to fruition.”

Katelyn Dover, John Tuck Elementary School

“I believe with every ounce of my being that relationships are the most important tool in a classroom and the best way to increase student outcomes.”

Katelyn Dover holds a strong belief in the potential of every child, and the importance of parent partnership in the classroom. Katelyn has seen students fighting grown-up battles learn to read and thrive in a classroom that feels safe and caring. In the classroom, Katelyn teaches kindness and compassion alongside academic concepts and strives to create a community in which all students are welcome and vital members.

Joshua Dunnell, Farm Home School

Joshua Dunnell works with students at Farm Home School, a residential mental health treatment center in Corvallis, Oregon. He knows working in a residential mental health treatment center can make a huge difference in the lives of students and thoroughly enjoys seeing students make academic and treatment gains.

“Failure can be a new beginning, because tomorrow is always an opportunity to change the world through relationships. This is why I teach.”

One of his favorite things is building professional relationships with his students and bringing a smile to their faces with positive comments and words of encouragement.

Jon Fresh, Westview High School

Jon Fresh is a twenty five-year veteran special education teacher. He is is the program teacher for the Emotional Growth Center, a specialized placement for students with severe emotional and or behavioral issues.

Jon believes that establishing positive relationships with students is the foundation of learning. He is passionate about working with students in overcoming barriers that impact their learning.

“Building the bridge between students and learning happens when we acknowledge their past and invite the entire school community to be part of their fight for success.”

Renee Klein, Marcola School District

Renee Klein is a creative, energetic, and enthusiastic teacher at Mohawk High School in Marcola. She has taught many different subjects, and has a passion for continued learning, growth, and trying out new skills. This passion has carried over into her classes, sparking excitement for learning.

“It is our job, as teachers, as administrators, as human beings to find the inherent value in each and every one of our students, and help them grow.”

She started a competitive robotics program at MHS, which has shown remarkable growth and success. Within this program, student-led teams design, build, and program robots to complete a variety of tasks in a game-based skills challenge.

Tia McLean, Helman Elementary School

Tia McLean is a kindergarten teacher who infuses her classroom with songs, dances, languages, multi-modal learning, community service, outdoor education, mindfulness and community partnerships.

“Teaching is the most beautiful and blessed profession. It has and always will be the true testament of the human spirit.”

She’s always looking to enhance equity, diversity and inclusion, teacher leadership, health and wellness, cultural preservation and teacher’s unions.

Mercedes Muñoz, Franklin High School

Mercedes Muñoz has been a Learning Specialist at Franklin High School since 2013, and has been instrumental in the development of the Special Education push-in model at Franklin. She has participated as a member of the FHS Equity Team, served on the Safety and FHS Poetry Slam Committees, and is a strong advocate for the recruitment of historically underserved students in the Advanced Placement Program.

“While being an educator can be daunting, tiresome, and even frustrating–the great moments are what we live, breathe, and die for.”

TJ Presley, Pilot Rock Jr./Sr. High School

TJ Presley spent ten years in the business world, working his way up through three Fortune 500 companies in various leadership roles. Then he relocated with his family to Eastern Oregon, and returned to school with the intention to pursue a career in education. This new career path would allow him to serve his rural community as a leader, positive role model, and coach.

“Think back to the reasons you chose education as a career path, and bring the same energy as you did the first day of school.”

Charles Sanderson, Woodburn Wellness, Business and Sports School

Charles Sanderson has grounded his eighteen year teaching career in a philosophy he describes as “Mirror, Window, Bridge.” He seeks to ensure all students see themselves, see others, and develop the skills to build bridges of empathy, affinity and understanding between communities and cultures that may seem vastly different.

On the first day of school, Sanderson greets every student by name and leads the class in a trilingual version of Luis Valdez’s poem “In Lak’ech,” emphasizing the importance of empathy and respect. Then the classroom flips, and Sanderson becomes the student while his Russian speaking students become teachers, centering their language and culture–something that traditionally only occurred within Russian language classes.

“Each student brings potential and possibility, and it’s up to us to keep pushing and digging and discovering new ways of ensuring that all of that potential blossoms, grows and thrives.”

Janel Sorenson, Sutherlin Middle School

At the age of sixteen, Janel Sorenson discovered her passion for educating while teaching swim lessons. She has taught children from preschool through eighth grade and every subject in between. She is currently teaching middle school science, coding, and robotics.

Janel loves the challenge of making learning hands-on and engaging for every student. If she can integrate technology, she will. Her primary focus every year is to build relationships with her students. Those relationships allow her to reach the discouraged learner and spark their curiosity.

“We are a profession of optimists. Our best selves think the future is worth our time and energy, which is powerful.”

Alissa Tran, Molalla High School

Whether in the role of teacher, advisor, mentor, council member, or advocate; the focus is always about the students.

“If I’m going to claim that every bit of seat time counts, I better make sure that my classroom feels humanizing, relevant, rigorous, engaging, valuable and empowering.”

Her focus is on rigorous content, real world connections, and fostering an artistic community have empowered her students to become well-rounded Renaissance people. She has taken on leadership roles within her building, district, and beyond to challenge the status quo and continue advocating for staff and students.

Each Regional Teacher of the Year will receive a $500 award from the Oregon Lottery, and is automatically considered for the honor of 2020 Oregon Teacher of the Year which will be announced in September.

Annually all 50 states, U.S. territories, Washington, D.C. and the Department of Defense Education Activity name a teacher of the year. Last year, Oregon’s Teacher of the Year program expanded to include the celebration of exemplary educators from every region.

About Author

Marc Siegel is the Communications Director for the Oregon Department of Education. The Oregon Department of Education fosters equity and excellence for every learner through collaboration with educators, partners, and communities.

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