A lifelong love for learning

by: BRENT MACGREGOR AND KARA MICKEALSON - Crook County Middle School seventh-grade teacher Mike Geisen covers a science lesson with his students.

From an early age, Michael Geisen showed a curiosity about the world and its infinite splendor around him.
   "Michael, when he was growing up, was always interested in trying new things," said Ken Geisen of his son, who was born in Seattle. "He was always very good at whatever he tried and I think that gave him a lot of confidence in the things he's doing today in some of his innovative teaching styles," "Not only was he always interested in trying new things, Michael is very artistic and was interested in putting together displays," Ken said.
   Growing up, the future science teacher would assemble boards for science fairs.
   "And he really always enjoyed doing science projects and he usually spent most hours of the last couple of nights finishing up projects," Michael's father recalled, chuckling.
   The pride shows in Ken's voice when he talks about his son.
   "As a parent, I'm absolutely popping," said Ken. "Our buttons are popping. My wife Lisa and I are very proud. Lisa and I are very, very proud of what Michael has been able to accomplish in his short career as a teacher."
   "Once he was a candidate for National Teacher of the Year, we knew that there was a high probability that he would win," Ken said. "As the National Teacher of the Year, Michael will be a strong advocate for students as he believes strongly in the development of the individual beyond just grades.... His philosophy is to totally develop the student, not just teach them science. And we're extremely proud of him and Jennifer (Mike's wife). We're not only proud of what Michael has accomplished, but we're also very proud of Jennifer for the support and help she has given him."
   Ken added that in Kentridge High School, Michael worked with a lot of middle school students in the nondenominational Young Life program and this showed his father that his son had promise as a teacher.
   Geisen graduated from Kentridge High School in Kent, Wash., in 1991 and Ken said both the Oregon Teacher of the Year and the Washington Teacher of the Year for 2007-2008 graduated from the same high school, although the Washington recipient graduated a few years before Geisen did.
   A respected colleague
   Likewise there's a feeling of pride in the air these days at Crook County Middle School, the district and in Oregon with today's news of Geisen's award.
   One such person is Principal Rocky Miner, who hired Geisen.
   "For the middle school, I believe that it really highlights and validates systems, programs and beliefs that we practice daily," said Miner. "Our whole staff works very hard at balancing high academic achievement with building positive relationships with our students. We have a school that stresses teamwork and has a high level of collaboration. It's a school that is full of teachers with can-do attitudes who are committed to the success of each one of their students. Mike is a representative of what we all believe in and work at accomplishing. He is very deserving of this recognition and it is an honor to our school, our district and our state."
   "I am so proud of Crook County Middle School and Mike Geisen," Miner said. "I'm thrilled with the focus and attention this is bringing to Mike. Again he is very deserving of this honor."
   Miner said because of Geisen and other teachers working together, "we've received a strong rating on the Oregon report card two out of the last five years."
   "And the middle school had never received a strong rating prior to that," he said, since the state report card system started.
   "He is respected by everyone in our building as a leader and an educator," Miner said. "Mike understands the importance of having exciting and interesting lessons, utilizing successful instructional strategies and making positive connections with his students. These are the ingredients of a master teacher."
   "I've worked with Mike for six years," said fellow science teacher Tawnya Lane, who agreed with Miner's assessment. "He's a tireless inventor and creator of new ways to teach science concepts (songs, animated Power Point presentations, games, etc.). He inspires everyone around him to try a little harder, be a little better. He's a very encouraging colleague and I always feel better about life after talking to him. Mike's a great teacher and a great leader. It couldn't happen to a more deserving guy."
   Miner said that not only is Geisen a "master teacher, but he takes a strong leadership role within our science department and staff. He is respected by everyone in our building as a leader and an educator. At CCMS we have shared leadership. Mike is the department chair of our middle school's science department."
   Eighth-grade science and leadership teacher Rob Bonner also complimented Geisen, particularly for his creative teaching style.
   "Teaching the same subject, we have worked closely together," Bonner said. "I have come to appreciate greatly his talents and style."
   "Mike's classroom is the type of place that has movement, action, 'noise' and involvement," Bonner added. "Passing by his room, there is almost always commotion of some kind. It might be music coming from his guitar (he often writes songs about the subject matter) or role playing to get a point across. If I were to sum up Mike's teaching style in one word, it would be unpredictable. The kids know what they are going to learn, but they have no idea how they are going to learn it. Mr. G. seems to have a 'bottomless bag' of ideas from which he pulls, because of his creativity. Because of this, kids are essentially hanging onto his every lesson, and definitely excited to come to class."
   "There are not enough words to express our excitement for Mike," said Tina Dunaway, a language arts teacher at CCMS. "He deserves this award. We are extremely proud of him. We are blessed to have a teammate like him. He goes the extra mile and makes us all better teachers. Great job, Mr. G!"
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