2 Central Oregonians among state Teachers of the Year

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Two Central Oregon teachers were among 16 regional teachers of the year announced Thursday by the Oregon Department of Education.

Jill Plant, a music teacher at the Warm Springs K-8 Academy and Steve Wetherald, a Bend High special education teacher were honored for their work in the classroom.

Oregon teachers bring their ingenuity, flexibility, encouragement and expertise to classrooms every day in support of their students.

During this global pandemic, teachers have overcome constant challenges requiring transitioning instructional models, developing new ways to create important student connections, learning new teaching platforms and so much more.

“Throughout this year of navigating countless challenges and demands, Oregon educators have consistently come through for Oregon’s students,” said Colt Gill, Director of the Oregon Department of Education. “It is with deep gratitude that we celebrate these 16 Regional Teachers of the Year from across the state!”

Wetherald, a graduation coach and longtime special education teacher, accepted the honor in front of his colleagues during a surprise ceremony Thursday morning.

Wetherald has spent his career as a champion for underserved students, helping students feel welcome at school, encouraging them in advanced coursework and motivating many to graduate.

“We are tremendously proud of Steve Wetherald, who is known throughout the district for his ability to engage and inspire students,” said Lora Nordquist, interim superintendent. “He is a tireless advocate who believes all students can find success. Today, we are honored to celebrate his dedication and purpose with this well-deserved honor.”

A longtime educator, Wetherald’s passion for teaching began more than 20 years ago while teaching in South Korea, where he discovered his ability to connect with students who were struggling.

He served as an education assistant for three years before receiving his master’s. Wetherald then served as a special education teacher for at Pilot Butte Middle School and the past seven years at Bend Senior High School as special education teacher and then a graduation coach, where he works with students to keep them on track to graduation.

“In our district, there is no better advocate for underserved populations than Steve. He is amazing at how he communicates, listens, problem solves and plans with students and families,” said Gabe Pagano, assistant principal at Bend High.

Oregon educators were identified through a regional application and selection process facilitated by local Education Service Districts.

Applicants submitted testimonials and letters of support and were assessed on leadership, instructional expertise, commitment to equity, community involvement, understanding of educational issues, professional development and vision by a diverse panel of regional representatives.

Each Regional Teacher of the Year will receive a $500 award from the Oregon Lottery, and is automatically considered for the honor of 2022 Oregon Teacher of the Year which will be announced this fall.

“The Oregon Lottery is honored to be a part of this great program to recognize outstanding Oregon educators,” said Oregon Lottery Director Barry Pack. “Teachers are the foundation-builders for the future. Thanks to their teachers’ hard work, passion, and dedication, students across Oregon are prepared to realize their dreams.”

Congratulations to our 2022 Oregon Regional Teachers of the Year!

  • Whitney Barnes, Vale Elementary School, Kindergarten, Vale School District
  • Rachelle Bell, Takena-Central Elementary School, 3rd grade, Greater Albany Public Schools
  • Wes Crawford, Sutherlin High School, Agricultural Science, Sutherlin School District
  • Jim Donnelly, Hood River Valley High School, English Language Arts, Hood River School District
  • Jandy Eskew, South Baker Intermediate School, 5th grade, Baker School District
  • Jennifer Hampel, North Bend High School, Science, North Bend School District
  • Kerryn Henderson, Parkrose High School, Biology, Parkrose School District
  • Ricci Huling, Agnes Stewart Middle School, Math/Arts, Springfield School District
  • Ronda Johnson, Nellie Muir Elementary School, 1st grade, Woodburn School District
  • Lois MacMillan, Grants Pass High School, Social Studies, Grants Pass School District
  • Jill Plant, Warm Springs K-8 Academy, Music, Jefferson County School District
  • Carrie Sullivan, Dayville School, grades 3-5, Dayville School District
  • Lori Therrien, Oak Hills Elementary School, Special Education, Beaverton School District
  • Ethelyn Tumalad, Clackamas High School, English Language Arts, Clackamas School District
  • Steve Wetherald, Bend Senior High School, Special Education, Bend-La Pine School District
  • Carolyn Whitney, Frenchglen Elementary School, grades K-8, Frenchglen School District

Additional information on the program can be found on the Oregon Teacher of the Year website.

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