Juniper Elementary educator wins state’s top honor

Oregon Teacher of the Year Award goes to Heather Anderson

By Tyler Leeds / The Bulletin

The Bend High School class of 1996 produced one of the state’s best teachers, and she happens to work just 1 mile north of her alma mater.

Juniper Elementary School’s Heather Anderson was named the 2016 Oregon Teacher of the Year at an assembly Monday morning attended by the entire school, the district’s leadership and state Deputy Superintendent Salam Noor, who leads the Oregon Department of Education.

The fourth-grade teacher had no idea what was in store for her when she led her class into the gymnasium, though her students caught on when Noor told the young audience they were “surrounded by excellence.”

After Noor discussed the meaning of the award and asked who the students thought would win in its 60th year, audible whispers of “Mrs. Anderson” sprung from the kids seated on the floor in rows.

After being called up to accept the honor, which comes with a $5,000 award for both teacher and school, Anderson was largely speechless, mustering enough composure to say, “I’m pleased beyond words.”

Anderson came to the district in 2007 after working at a struggling school on the east coast. Her career began in Guadalajara, Mexico, where she taught fifth grade and mastered Spanish.

At Juniper, Noor said, Anderson has focused on closing the achievement gap, something evident in Juniper’s recognition as a model school, an honor reserved for the top-performing, high-poverty schools in the state.

After the assembly, Anderson said she’s “in the profession for the kids, to impact student learning as much as I can.”

She said her deep ties to Bend-La Pine Schools — her mother was also a teacher in the district — made this award “all the more meaningful.”

Recently retired district Superintendent Ron Wilkinson praised Anderson for her role in shepherding fellow teachers through the National Board Certification process, a long and in-depth evaluation intended to recognize the nation’s top educators. Anderson earned the distinction herself in 2005, and Wilkinson said “she’s been a leader in bringing it here.”

“We’ve seen it double in the last couple of years, and it is set to double again,” he added.

As teacher of the year, Anderson will travel to Washington, D.C., in April to meet with President Barack Obama and the U.S. Secretary of Education as part of a teacher-recognition week.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160, tleeds@bendbulletin.com

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