HR teachers earn education awards

March 23, 2011

The desire to learn is often instilled in younger learners through the example of influential adults.

Two local teachers have been rewarded for wishing to set that good example, receiving grants to be used toward their own advanced education.

According to Karen Neitzel, Hood River Valley High School principal, the school received word that two high school level teachers had been selected for continuing education grants.

The James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation, based in Portland, announced its 2011 Miller Teacher Awards recipients, including $4,991 for Haley Harkema, HRVHS English teacher, and $2,770 for Brooke LeBlanc, Center for Alternative Learning teacher.

Both teachers had to submit proposals for their continuing education plans. Each outlined desired goals to be reached as a result of the experiences.

Harkema will use her grant to attend the Oregon Writer's Project at Lewis & Clark College this summer.

The rigorous summer school focuses on strengthening teaching skills, allowing Harkema the opportunity to examine current teaching delivery, develop new lesson plans and learn effective methods to improve student's skills.

Over the academic year participants in the program will meet monthly to discuss the challenges and the successes in the classroom.

LeBlanc will use her grant to attend a three-week Spanish language immersion program in San Carlos de Bariloce, Argentina.

The program will provide LeBlanc experience in conversing in Spanish, leading to improved communications when interacting with Spanish-language-based students and their parents.

With improved language skills, LeBlanc anticipates assisting in math classes where only one Spanish-language-skilled teacher now presides.

According to the Miller Foundation website, the organization began the program to combat a major problem facing public high schools: the large number of teachers who drop out of the profession during their first five years of teaching.

In Oregon this attrition was 37 percent, according to a 2008 report by the Chalkboard Project.

To encourage more teachers to stay in the profession and improve their skills, the Miller Foundation offers professional development awards annually to provide public high school teachers with opportunities for growth and development, with the goal of strengthening their commitment to, interest in, and effectiveness in a long-term classroom teaching career.

The ultimate goal is helping teachers pursue activities that will stimulate and nurture student achievement. The awards range from $1,000 to $5,000, depending upon the nature of the individual projects.

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