As a credit union founded by 16 schoolteachers, OnPoint has always understood that supporting education is one of the best ways to build thriving communities. Since 2010, the contest has honored educators who work to inspire enthusiasm and creativity in the classroom. The OnPoint Prize Selection Committee was moved by the number of impressive nominations submitted for consideration.
On Tuesday, May 22, OnPoint announced one K-8 teacher and one 9-12 teacher as Educators of the Year. OnPoint paid their mortgages for one school year and donated $2,500 to each of their schools. The remaining finalists (one K-8 teacher and one 9-12 teacher) each received $2,500 for themselves and $1,000 for their schools.
Congratulations to the Educator of the Year Honorees:
Lucas Houck – Educator of the Year
Corbett Middle School • Corbett School District
6-8th Grade | Teaching for 9 years
Passion for teaching
In his own words: "The thing that drew me to education, and will keep me teaching for as long as I can, is the fact that every time I walk in the building I’m surrounded by 240 absolutely unique individuals—some of them funny, many of them challenging, all of them creative and clever and curious—that make me want to be the best version of myself, at least for 8 hours a day. I can’t imagine there’s any other job in the world quite like it."
What others say:
"Lucas has the disposition and knowledge to build strong relationships that get kids involved and wanting to learn. Whether it’s using basketball to learn vocab, or pop songs to learn about the Fertile Crescent, Lucas provides a safe yet fun learning environment for students to take risks. I learn a great deal about how to talk to kids just by listening to him.” — Peter Leone, Corbett Middle School colleague
“Mr. Houck is the glue that gives Corbett Middle School its identity. Every morning he makes our school a community.” — Dr. Randy Trani, Ed.D, Superintendent, Corbett School District
Lucas in the classroom
Lucas's energy, creativity, and passion for his profession have impacted many of his students, parents and colleagues. His was commended for his keen ability to connect with students in a safe, relatable and humorous way. Lucas offers students numerous opportunities to showcase their curriculum comprehension, such as his use of a March Madness-style bracket on ancient China where students develop their own criteria and choose which topics get to move on to the next round. He is described as the school's cheerleader and leads the daily all-school morning meeting.
This year, Lucas began advising the Corbett Middle School Travel Club. During summer vacation, he will take students to France and Italy to see the artwork and Medieval and Renaissance sites they studied.
Janine Kirstein – Educator of the Year
Gresham High School • Gresham-Barlow Schools
Choir | Teaching for 37 years
Passion for teaching
In her own words: "I was majored in music performance at the University of Oregon. When I was asked to help out at a middle school with their choir I fell in love with the kids! I wanted to make a difference in their lives. The feedback one receives from teaching is long lived. The feedback one gets from performing is fleeting! I am the most proud of setting a high bar of excellence for every student. It has provided them the opportunity to feel real success in their life and be proud of their accomplishments. I truly feel this has helped to shape the people they are today."
Praise for Janine
“Janine's commanding presence, obvious love for music, and unwavering expectation for excellence manages to showcase the very best of Gresham High School.” — Kevin M. Lambert, Choral Director, Music Instructor Mt. Hood Community College
“I had never been good at anything in my life, and because of Mrs. Kirstein, I found my passion and it gave me purpose. I received a full ride vocal scholarship to Portland State University, on Janine’s recommendation. I graduated from college and pursued a teaching degree and now direct a high school theatre program. Janine changed my life, and I know I owe a lot of my success to her willingness to invest in me.” — Jeff Schroeder, former student, Theatre Director, Sam Barlow High School
Janine in the classroom
Janine’s passion shapes her students. Through music, she teaches them teamwork, perseverance, and critical thinking skills. In her 16 years as Choir Director at Gresham High School, Janine’s Concert Choir has been named Mt. Hood Conference Champions 12 times. The Gresham High School Concert Choir has placed in the top five at the OSAA State Choir Championships eight times since 2004. The choirs from GHS have won a National Heritage Festival every year since 2003. Gresham High School has won first place at every concert they have traveled for competition.
Sandra Moreno – finalist
Vose Elementary School • Beaverton School District
3rd Grade / Dual Language Immersion (Spanish) | Teaching for 4 years
Enthusiasm for education
In her own words: "Since I was eight, I knew I wanted to be an educator. Growing up in East LA, I knew I needed to be a productive citizen and a role model to those around me. I also realized that when I was trying to teach others, I become a better learner. Life is full of learning experiences. Why miss out? I feel very blessed and proud to serve my community. There is no greater feeling than being loved and appreciated every day by my students."
Praise for Sandra
“She has a drive to inspire and educate students in their future possibilities. She knows the importance of our students seeing people like themselves in high-level careers. In a school who’s student population is about 75% Latino she is passionate about and giving our students opportunities to see themselves in professionals” — Melissa Holz, Assistant Principal
“Sandra’s humility makes her all the more inspiring to an aspiring educator like myself. The principal asked me how it was going and what I thought of Sandra. My response was met with a broad grin and knowing nod of the head: “Tiene la magia: She has the magic.” — Kelsey Mills, student teacher
Sandra in the classroom
Sandra was recognized for integrating technology into her classroom in a variety of innovative ways. This year as part of Signal to Noise, a district-wide program that showcases student film production, Sandra helped her students create a concept for a Spanish telenovela. Students wrote, produced and edited their own entry. Sandra Skypes with classrooms across the country and beyond, and hosts virtual field trips to introduce her students to the world as well as the Spanish language.
Holly Neill – finalist
Valor Christian School International • Beaverton, OR
Math & Science | Teaching for 6 years
Enthusiasm for education
In her own words: "I wanted to work with kids to inspire them to see the world with wonder. I loved being a chemist, but I found myself spending more and more time at schools helping then my own job! Very much a sign that I loved teaching more."
Praise for Holly
“She has a gift to see the potential of each of her students and create situations both inside and outside her classroom to build up each child’s personal strengths.” — Angie Taylor, Head of School, Valor Christian School International
“Holly is always trying new methods of presenting content. One area that has been particularly fun to watch has been in her instruction of cell replication in biology. Holly has transformed the lesson far beyond a lecture, to the point where our students learn the process primarily through hands-on modeling. With this method, the students are empowered to decipher the significance of each step in the process, and by the end, they understand its beauty inside and out. I am always eager to see what Holly will come up with next.” — Paul Donelson Secondary Educator, Valor Christian School International
Holly in the classroom
Holly’s enthusiasm to teach her students about the scientific process is evident in the variety of lessons that she develops and through her coaching of the competitive science team. She partnered with Ecotrust so her students could test out a real-world forestry software that models different forestry practices. The highlight of the year is the annual carboard boat race for her Physical Science class where students design, build and race a cardboard boat that must carry one or more team members.
2018 Circle of Excellence
In addition to the Educator of the Year finalists, OnPoint is pleased to announce the 2018 Circle of Excellence. These six outstanding educators received a $1,000 cash award plus a $500 donation for their schools.
West Sylvan Middle School • Portland Public Schools
Counselor | Teaching for 9 years
“He is a tireless advocate for students and uses his counseling skills to get real results that help our students, families, and school be successful in a variety of important areas. He is a great school counselor!” — Hope Monaghan, former student
Ricky is essential in developing a culture of equity and diversity through a variety of innovative programs and a dedication to his student’s health and happiness. He runs a ukulele group, where he hand-selects the students based on their personal needs. This class doubles as both a ukulele instruction class and a personalized goal development class. At the end of the school year when the students achieve their individual goals (increased attendance, for example) they are able to take home their ukuleles.
Sisters High School • Sisters, OR
English & Leadership Studies | Teaching for 5 years
“Matt creates such a warm and welcoming environment, the joy of discovery, the excitement to learn and a willingness to try. All his students and Sisters High School staff know that Mr. Bradley is there for them in good times and bad. Matt has set a high standard for himself and members of the staff have raised their personal bars in response.” — Joseph Hosang, Principal Sisters High School
Matt uses creativity and innovation to engage his students with unique lesson plans that provide a deeper understanding of course reading. As the school's Activities Director he has developed programs that encourage student engagement, such as the Superfan program, which hands out gift certificates to the first 20 students that go to the Superfan event-of-the-week. Each week, a different activity is chosen, which has resulted in increased student attendance throughout all of the variety of activities available through the school.
Cascade Heights Public Charter School • North Clackamas Schools
6th Grade | Teaching for 15 years
“She is an innovative leader on campus and doesn’t accept any reality as finite, instead pushing forward to think outside the box for ways to improve learning outcomes for the children she works for.” — Kristin Macy, Principal, Cascade Heights Public Charter School
In 2014 Angela's 3rd grade students paired with their 6th grade ‘buddies’ for gladiator day. The two classes worked together to build an amphitheater which is still used on campus as a space where students can sit or use as a quiet space. Other classes sometimes use the space as an ‘outdoor classroom’. Their work was a lasting gift to the school community. Every year at the end of the school year, she takes students and parents to MacGyver State park for a stargazing campout. Students and parents enjoy food, games, and explore the skies with telescopes brought by the Rose City Astronomers.
Floyd Light Middle School • David Douglas School District
7-8th Grade Math Intervention | Teaching for 10 years
“I have had the pleasure of volunteering in Ms. Geurts’ classroom and seeing her kids blossom over time. To watch low performing students with no confidence in themselves, or their abilities, transform into high performing, self-confident individuals is invigorating. Students who have been behind the curve for years, leave her class with not just the ability to successfully solve equations, but with new-found confidence that carries them through the remainder of their educational careers. To say that her students show significant learning would be an understatement.” — Beth Wilson, classroom volunteer
J has a natural talent for identifying and differentiating student needs and learning styles to create specialized lessons that help them thrive. J teaches students that there are a variety of solutions to every problem and that getting a wrong answer is as important to learning as getting the correct answer. Although children may be identified for Math Intervention because of low performance, by the end of the year most students will meet or exceed their growth goals.
Tom McCall Elementary School • Redmond School District
3rd Grade | Teaching for 7 years
“Cameron orchestrates all the excitement and wonder of his 3rd graders masterfully in leading students to answer their own questions. Teaching students how to learn is the most powerful skill we can foster and the fortunate students in Mr. Glogau’s class are learning how to learn every day.” — Michael W. Nye, Assistant Director of Instructional Technology, Redmond School District
Cameron's Sea Turtle Rescue assignment facilitated student design of a Sphero-powered cart that could deliver water and food to “sea turtles” being quarantined in another part of the school. Each team of students created the code directing the robots. When Cameron shared the lesson with Sphero, they published his assignment/activity making it available to teachers all around the world.
Levi Anderson Learning Center • Beaverton, OR
Language Arts & History | Teaching for 21 years
“Richard goes beyond encouraging his students to live their dreams by showing them what that looks like in real life.” — Lisa Bates, Principal Levi Anderson School
Rich uses art and writing assignments to give his students a voice and a safe outlet to explore curriculum and talk about anything. Through his creation of Fort Vegetable, the school garden, his students came together as a team to clear the land and sow the beginnings of a new kind of community. Five years later, it continues to be a resource for teaching through hands-on work and in-class curriculum, as well as providing fresh produce and lessons about healthy lifestyle choices.