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'You rock my nail polish off!'

Students, staff react to national honors for Mike Geisen
With parent-teacher conferences, Thursday and Friday have been quiet in Mike Geisen's class.
   The chairs sit, neatly placed up on his Crook County Middle School seventh-graders' desks.
   But a combination of notes written on white posters and on the front board show the compassion and respect his students feel for him, now that he has been honored as the 2008 National Teacher of the Year. This marks the first time in 35 years that an Oregon teacher has received this recognition.
   "Mr. Geisen - You're awesome. Good job on winning the national teacher of the year award," wrote seventh-grader Jackie Nelson. "I'm proud to be one of your students."
   "Go Mr. Geisen. You rock my nail polish off!" wrote fellow seventh-grader Kim Thompson.
   Geisen is scheduled to return today from Washington, D.C., and begins his formal educational speaking arrangements in June, including a two-week stay in Japan.
   Although students and staff are ecstatic about the news, there's also a bit of sadness, with students knowing Geisen will not be at the school this coming year.
   "Good job Mr. G!" wrote Kenna Cowan. "We're all very proud of you. Woo hoo. You rock! Now you deserve a golden star. P.S. We'll miss you next year."
   Geisen's class is focused on science, but it also has an eclectic mix of items and displays.
   An Albert Einstein doll sits up on a desk, next to his purple lava lamp. A KISS band rock star doll fashioned after "Catman" Peter Criss sits in a sleepy mode in one of Geisen's shelves, next to a box of 100 plastic bandages.
   When need be to make sure students are attentive, Geisen will put on a quiet hard hat. But there's also a reminder from an elk head that is mounted on a back wall.
   "When the Quiet Hat goes on...be like me, Ed the Elk!" states a cartoon balloon from the mounted elk head. "1) Freeze! 2) Eyes on Mr. G. 3) Ears attentive. 4) Mouths closed. 5) Quietly tap your neighbor's shoulder (if needed)."
   And throughout the poster, as with some of Geisen's other teaching methods, the firm but polite reminder is with a touch of humor.
   For example, an elk is shown drawn in headlights from a red car, freezing. As for tapping a student on a shoulder, another smaller illustration of an elk states: "I would but my legs got cut off!"
   Seventh-grader Sara Ross is one of Geisen's current students.
   "I think it's great that someone from Prineville got it because it's such a small town and he's such a great teacher," Ross said, adding "that we're proud of him coming from Crook County Middle School."
   "He gets down on our level to help teach us different elements of science," Ross said.
   Seventh-grader Jacob Bennett agreed.
   "It's great that he's representing Prineville and Oregon for Oregon," Bennett said. "He makes learning a very fun experience. This will be something that we seventh-graders will have as a memory as we go through school. He makes us feel like individuals."
   Eighth-grader Tiffany Hollis had him last year for science.
   "I think it's great and he deserves it," Hollis said. "He was an outstanding teacher. And I was always excited to go to his class because he made it fun."
   Karlie Grasle, who is a freshman at Crook County High School, nominated Geisen as the Oregon Teacher of the Year.
   "I think it's awesome, especially since it's coming from Prineville," Grasle said. "He really seemed to enjoy what he was doing. It was very easy for him to relate to students."
   A sense of pride at CCMS and in Prineville
   Staff at CCMS have been all eyes on Geisen this week.
   "You know, we caught the link, the link on the Internet. It took us a little bit, but we watched Mike being introduced by the President," said CCMS Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Stacy Smith. "And then we got to listen to Mike speak again."
   "All of us commented on how wonderful it was to see a very poised, polished and how at ease Mike Geisen was at the podium in front of such an important crowd," said a proud Assistant Principal Smith.
   He said Geisen will be returning tonight, Friday, to the Redmond Airport at 8:45 p.m. and the public is welcome to attend.
   "We'd like to have a lot of people there welcoming him home and letting him know how proud we are of him," Smith concluded.