From Forester to National Teacher of the Year


This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

A science teacher from Prineville, Oregon, in the Pacific Northwest, is the new National Teacher of the Year.

President Bush with the 2008 National Teacher of the Year, Michael Geisen
President Bush with the 2008 National Teacher of the Year, Michael Geisen
Michael Geisen is thirty-five years old. He was a forester. But he decided he would rather work with growing minds than with growing trees. Seven years ago, he got a master's degree in teaching and a job at Crook County Middle School. Crook County has high rates of poverty.

He brought new energy to the science department. He also created school projects to get parents involved in their children's work.

One girl who was recently in his class said he could probably make it interesting to watch grass grow.

During lunch, his students come to his room to talk, get help, visit his turtle and sometimes join him in playing guitar. He writes songs and develops games about science. He says one of his goals as a teacher is to create people who will continue to learn throughout their lives.

Michael Geisen studied forest resource management and graduated with high honors from the University of Washington. 

He says he tries to be creative with each activity. He does not like to use textbooks much. When students know that the work is local and useful to their lives, he says, they start to get interested.

On June first Michael Geisen will begin a year as a spokesman for education. The father of two young children will travel the country and the world.

The National Teacher of the Year program, a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers, began in nineteen fifty-two. The winner is chosen from among state teachers of the year.

President George Bush honored this year's top teachers at the White House last week. He noted that in Michael Geisen's first two years as head of the science department, scores on a state science test rose sharply at his school. And they are still rising. The president's education reform law, the No Child Left Behind Act, expanded testing as a way to measure results.

But speaking at the White House, the new National Teacher of the Year said children are "not just numbers to be measured."

MICHAEL GEISEN: "Students need to know that we value more than just being right all the time. We need to really honor their creativity. We need to honor their desire to learn useful skills that are going to be relevant to the twenty-first century world.

"These are skills such as innovation and creativity, people-skills like compassion and collaboration and the ability not to just know the details but to really see how it fits into the big picture. This is our real challenge, is to educate the entire child."

And that's the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Nancy Steinbach. I'm Steve Ember.