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Oregons best biology teacher

EHSs Kate Dean was recognized as the states top teacher by national association


by: PHOTO BY JEFF SPIEGEL - Estacada High School science teacher Kate Dean was honored last month at the school board meeting, where she was presented with a plaque from the district. Dean was recognized by the national association of biology teachers as Oregons top biology teacher.Originally from northern California, Kate Dean took a long road to get to Estacada, but principal Scott Sullivan and the rest of Estacada couldn’t be happier she made it.

Dean was recently recognized by the National Association of Biology Teachers as Oregon’s top teacher.

After completing her bachelor's degree at UC Davis, Dean stuck around for a couple more years to get her master's degree in science and animal science, which she completed in 1998.

From there, she began teaching science in Alameda, Calif., for eight years before deciding she needed a change.

“I was sick of California,” she said. “I always vacationed (to Oregon), so it was a natural, ‘let’s try this’.”

While in the process of buying a place and moving to Oregon, Dean heard back from Estacada High School that they wanted her to be part of their team. In fact, Dean was brought in with the hope that her background would allow her to revive the agricultural side of science at the school.

Now, eight years later, Dean has done that and so much more.

Dean teaches biology, advanced placement biology, forestry, animal science, equine science and horticulture.

“I’ve had more freedom with electives,” she said. “We have kids with (an agricultural-science) background, so I think it only makes sense that we’re offering those courses.”

In order to graduate, students are required to have three years of science completed, but unlike some other schools, there isn’t a required set of classes that need to fulfill those three years.

“I’m a firm believer that kids need to have biology and chemistry,” Dean said. “But most take physical science, biology and then a third elective.”

Because of her hard work and dedication to her students, Dean was nominated for this national award should she choose to apply.

“I was contacted saying that if I wanted to, I could go through the application process,” she said. “To this day, I don’t know who nominated me.”

Turns out, the nomination came from principal Scott Sullivan, who has been vocal in his praise for Dean and all of the work she does.

“The biggest thing is her consistency in presenting well-structured and effective lessons,” Sullivan said. “I think she’s one of the many stars we have, and it’s nice that people outside the district are starting to recognize there are great things going on in Estacada classrooms.”

So after deciding to go through with the application process, it took Dean a full month to submit the required writing, video and analysis.

Then, in June of this year, she found out that she had been selected as the winner, which earned her a trip to Dallas in November as the state representative.

Kate Fisher, who headed up the selection process for the state of Oregon, said the decision was ultimately very easy.

“There were somewhere around 20 nominations, but it’s a pretty extensive process that candidates need to go through,” Fisher said. “About half of them follow through with the process and then they had to submit a video of their teaching.

“We were really impressed with (Kate’s) teaching video, and that was what distinguished her from the other top candidates. It was really exceptional as she engaged students on a very tough subject, and it was very clear, even in a short vide, that kids know they need to be ready because she wants to engage everyone in the room.”

Fisher also cited Dean’s involvement in school activities beyond the classroom as well.

“She is doing a lot of things beyond what the average biology teacher does in addition to teaching really good biology,” Fisher said. “Aside from an exceptional biology background, she seems to be a really active member of her school community, she does volunteer work in the community with the new school garden and the FFA chapter.

“She is doing a lot of things to promote how important education is and how important it is to be a member of a community where a lot of people might not see college as a necessary thing. She does a lot to help all students realize that education is important and powerful in their lives.”

All of this praise brings a unique experience for Dean, who is extremely humble, and yet, she admits that the recognition is meaningful to her.

“I guess in a sense it makes me feel like all the work I’ve done has been good, so a little recognition is nice,” she said.

Aside from all the recognition, it’s clear that life goes on for Dean and the district, as she’s already back to focusing on the greenhouse she has been instrumental in bringing to life on campus.




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