The Oregon Small Schools Association (OSSA) is proud to announce it has chosen two teachers for the 2020 Teacher of the Year. They are Noah Elliott from North Columbia Academy in Rainier and Laura Christensen from Gaston School District in Gaston.
Elliott teaches world history, English Language Arts, economics, senior projects and oversees 35 online classes at North Columbia Academy (NCA), which is a charter school in the Rainier School District. Elliott, who is in his fifth year of teaching at NCA, is a decorated veteran of the United States Air Force who served for 22 years. After retirement, he was a substitute teacher for six years while obtaining his teaching credentials through Pacific University.
According to Kim Oblack, Assistant Principal at Rainier Jr/Sr High School, one of Elliott’s strengths is his effective work with at-risk students who are working on credit recovery and/or social emotional challenges. “He has a special gift in connecting with challenged youth and bringing out their true potential. Noah is patient and demands high expectations from all his students,” Oblack said. He knows how to help motivate students to graduate and plan their futures, she added.
Elliott volunteers time to ensure students succeed and is currently planning a trip to Europe with students in summer 2020, where he looks forward to showing students from underserved populations what the world has to offer, Oblack said.
Laura Christensen is a TOSA (Teacher on Special Assignment) in the Gaston School District. Her role is to assist Superintendent and Special Education Director Susy McKenzie with Professional Development, behavior coaching and administrative duties. Christensen also teaches a CTE class for high school students interested in teaching careers.
Superintendent McKenzie said one of Christensen’s strong qualities is her excellent classroom management and her ability to connect with students, instill high behavior expectations and create a wonderful learning environment. “In 35 years of education, I have never worked with a teacher stronger in classroom management than Laura,” McKenzie said, adding that fellow staff members seek her advice and data to enhance their practices, improving school-wide behavior. Christensen’s work on the school’s PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) team has been instrumental in improving the school climate, as well.
In her current role, Christensen works in classrooms providing non-evaluative feedback for classroom management. She also devises plans for individual student success and collaborates with all staff to create routines, procedures and transitions that develop a positive learning environment, including on the playground, in the cafeteria, P.E. and music.
“In a time when many students are coming to school after experiencing trauma, many districts are searching for mental health and behavior supports. Laura has made huge impacts in her classroom, our school and in the entire district,” McKenzie said.
Michael Carter, OSSA Board Chair, said OSSA chose two recipients for 2020 Teacher of the Year because both of them were so deserving of the award. “We had a good pool of candidates, and when it came time to choose, we realized how strong both Elliott and Christensen both were. OSSA is proud to recognize two truly outstanding educators in Oregon,” Carter said.
Elliott and Christensen received their awards on Saturday, November 16th at the OSSA event during the Oregon School Boards Association Annual Convention in Portland, Oregon.
The Oregon Small Schools Association (www.oregonssa.org) is a nonprofit that serves as an advocate for the benefits of rural education and small schools across the state. The purpose of the OSSA Teacher of the Year Award is to recognize the dedication and contributions of teachers that serve small districts. Some of the criteria include: instructional accomplishments, leadership in the classroom, school, and district; innovation in the classroom; and school implementation of innovative or best practice models for teaching and learning. K-12 teachers in OSSA member school districts are eligible.