Yvonne Ullas is always on the go, making time for each student in her first-grade class at Naches Valley Primary School.
As her students sit cross-legged on the floor, reviewing how to tell time, Ullas bursts out “Alone I am smart …” Together, the kids complete what is obviously a familiar lesson, “… but together we are brilliant.”
Colleagues say Ullas keeps her mind going all the time, too, attending weekend education seminars and conferences and summer college courses on the latest educational techniques and innovations.
With that get-up-and-go, Ullas has won the state’s annual Teacher of the Year Award.
“I’m just so honored to be recognized for doing something I truly love,” Ullas said Tuesday. “I can honestly say there’s never been a day that I’ve woken up and said I didn’t want to go to work. Teaching itself is such a positive thing.”
Ullas, chosen from nine regional finalists Friday, was asked not to talk about it before the official announcement Wednesday by state Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergesen.
A 21-year teaching veteran, including 11 years at Naches Valley, she said she found plenty to learn in other classrooms.
“I have so many friends who are great teachers, and they’ve been doing the same things I do, but to think some teachers now look up to me because of this award, that’s a hard concept,” Ullas said. “I still look at others, and I wish I could do what they do in their classrooms.”
She said one of her favorite projects was a kindergarten-through-middle school curriculum encouraging friendships between non-disabled and disabled students. Besides serving as the basis of her master’s thesis, it won her the US West Washington State Outstanding Teacher award in 1994.
“Yvonne cares about children,” principal Karen Craig said. “She has an infectious enthusiasm for teaching that helps each child develop to their very best potential, and her desire to help all children achieve is reflected in the way she works with them in the class.”