Century teacher finalist for national award
A Hillsboro teacher is one of four Oregon teachers named finalists for the national LifeChanger of the Year award, which recognizes great teachers across the country.
Presented by the National Life Group Foundation, the annual award is meant to acknowledge the nation's top K-12 teachers and educators.
In Hillsboro, Century High School teacher Jeff Gower was named one of Oregon's four nominees, alongside Beaverton middle school teacher Susan Duncan, Gresham-Barlow teacher Deanna Yucho and St. Paul teacher Oralia Vargas.
The four teachers join hundreds of others from across the nation. Only 17 award winners will be selected this spring.
Gower, an options and proficiency-based learning teacher at Century High School, was nominated by Century Principal Martha Guise.
"I have known Jeff Gower for 20 years," Guise wrote in her nomination letter. "…There are very few people in this profession with as true a heart for teaching and students as Jeff. I am deeply honored to work with an educator of his caliber."
Gower works with more than 300 students in the school's Options program each year. According to Guise, Gower works with at-risk students to help them graduate on time, and Guise said Gower's work is being felt across the school.
"Our school attained a 91 percent graduation rate last year, and Mr. Gower's work was part of the reason for that number," Guise said. "Every student can find a place in his program. He works with me to find a way to celebrate every time a senior attains their diploma, and they can feel that sense of achievement and know that they can overcome obstacles to achieve a goal. Mr. Gower is coach, counselor, teacher and sometimes a gentle voice of reason, coaxing students back to school."
Guise said Gower is a model for the district and administrators have turned to him more than once for guidance about keeping students engaged. The program is made up of online, offline and proficiency-based learners.
"Mr. Gower cares about building relationships and trust, assessing student abilities, and encouraging students to learn," Guise said. "His patience is infinite, which is vital. He knows these students are dealing with many other challenges, and he knows that it can take many attempts to find success. Jeff's students will come to school to work for him, when few other adults can help them find success."
If Gower is selected as one of the LifeChanger award winners, Gower could win up to $10,000. The winners will be announced at surprise award ceremonies at the teachers' schools.
According to the National Life Group Foundation, each of the nominees make positive impacts in students' lives and demonstrate exemplary leadership at their schools. The organization's top five Grand Prize finalists will be flown to Bermuda in mid-May for the awards ceremony.