SEATTLE – A Washington state science teacher who helped transform his small school into a place where nearly every student graduates with some college credit was named national teacher of the year.
Zillah High School’s Jeff Charbonneau is state teacher of the year and was announced Monday as the national winner by the Council of Chief State School Officers.
Principal Mike Torres said Charbonneau, 35, has added a lot to the school located in Washington’s Yakima Valley and has inspired other teachers to push themselves.
“Jeff is one of our many instructors that make Zillah High School a special place,” Torres said. “The level of passion that he has for teaching is contagious.”
Torres also gives Charbonneau credit for helping push more kids to continue learning after high school. Ninety percent of last year’s graduating class went on to continue their learning, either at college, in an apprenticeship program or the military.
Those numbers have a lot to do with a program Charbonneau started to help students get college credit for the classes they take at the high school but not through Advanced Placement tests. Seventy-two classes at Zillah High School can result in credits from Central Washington University, Eastern Washington University or local community colleges.
The teacher-of-the-year program began in 1952 to focus public attention on excellence in teaching. The winner is recognized by President Barack Obama in a White House ceremony, scheduled for today.
Charbonneau started teaching in 2001 at Zillah, the same school he attended. He teaches chemistry, physics, engineering and architecture. He also runs a statewide robotics competition and serves as yearbook adviser for the 400-student school.
His favorite part of teaching is being present at the moment of discovery for a student.
“When they get it and they have that ‘aha moment.’ There’s really nothing that matches that,” he said.