>For the first time in 35 years, an Oregon teacher, Mike Geisen, has been chosen as a finalist for the National Teacher of the Year award
For the first time in 35 years, a teacher from Oregon has been chosen as a finalist for the National Teacher of the Year award.
   Mike Geisen, who teaches seventh-grade science at Crook County Middle School, has been selected as one of four finalists for the academic honor. One of the finalists will be the 58th recipient of the United States' top teaching honor - National Teacher of the Year.
   The four finalists are Geisen, Lewis Chappelear of California, June Teisan of Michigan and Thomas R. Smigiel, Jr., of Virginia.
   "Oh it was a pretty big surprise to think that my essays were up there in the top four from all the great teachers that submitted them from all over the country," Geisen said. "It's a huge honor not only for me, but also for the school and the community and the state of Oregon. It's a pretty big deal."
   CCMS Principal Rocky Miner was extremely proud of Geisen and his accomplishment.
   "First of all, now it is not only an honor for our school and our school district, but it is an honor for the entire state of Oregon," said CCMS Principal Rocky Miner. "Mike, in his application, stressed what I believe our whole school works on and that is the balance between academic excellence, raising test scores, helping students be successful (with) the curriculum with making connections and building positive relationships with the students, and looking at each child as a whole human being. This is very exciting and to have him be from Crook County Middle School makes it very special."
   "Geisen understands the middle school student and is a natural at making positive connections with them," said Miner. "He is also on the cutting edge of science curriculum and has a tool box full of instructional strategies. Prior to Mike becoming our department chair, we had flat lined at 55 percent of our students meeting or exceeding the state's science benchmark. During his first two years as department chair, our scores went from 55 percent to 72 percent meets and exceeds."
   The excitement about the news was also evident on the Crook County School Board Tuesday morning.
   "I am just ecstatic over the fact that we have that caliber of teachers in our school district and that Mr. Geisen places the education of our students in proper perspective," said board Vice-Chairman Mark Severson.
   "Well, first of all of course there's been a lot of accolades to Mike because he was chosen as Oregon Teacher of the Year," said Crook County School District Superintendent Steve Swisher. He referred to Geisen as a "shining star" and pointed out how Geisen had referred to his fellow teachers, giving credit "to his colleagues and his team for all the work that they do."
   "I think it's a testament to the school, as well as to the work in the school district," Swisher said.
   Oregon State Schools Superintendent Susan Castillo made the announcement Monday.
   "The National Teacher of the Year award honors a representative of all the great teachers in America," she said. "Mike is an outstanding example of excellence in the classroom, leadership, commitment to teaching, and involvement in the community. We are proud of Mike's passion for science, his fun and engaging teaching style, and his phenomenal results in the classroom. This is a tremendous honor for Mike and for the state of Oregon."
   A panel of educators representing the 15 largest national education groups chose the finalists from the 2008 teachers of the year representing the United States, the four U.S. territories, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity. The group will also choose the 2008 National Teacher of the Year. Recognition by President George Bush of the national honoree and the representatives from each state will take place during the week of April 28 through May 2.
   If Geisen wins the National Teacher of the Year designation, he would be released from his teaching duties at CCMS and would travel around the nation, speaking to various groups about education.
   "So basically it would be a year as a traveling ambassador for teachers," Geisen said.
   In his national application, the science educator urged teachers to look at the entire student.
   "Let us all in America sincerely focus on the whole child, not just test scores or future adult success," Geisen wrote. "The further from children one is, the easier it becomes to forget that we are dealing with real live human beings with legitimate needs, desire and feelings. These young people are our equals. They are not simply numbers, conglomerations of hormones or future products. All the latest programs, fads and statistics are meaningless to a child who isn't cared for on a deeper level. Whether you are a teacher or parent, businessperson or retired, young or old, reach deep down into each child with humor, love and compassion and they will learn from you. They will learn much more than just how to read and write. They will learn they are wonderfully human."
   Past Oregon finalists include:
    John Ensworth, who taught at Kenwood Elementary School in Bend. He was the 1973 National Teacher of the Year finalist and went on to become the National Teacher of the Year.
    Gene Doty, who taught at Hillsboro Union High School. He was the 1967 National Teacher of the Year finalist.
    John McManus, who taught at McMinnville Junior and Senior High School. He was the 1965 National Teacher of the Year finalist.
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