Jeff Charbonneau

Jeff Charbonneau

Jeff Charbonneau was awarded “Teacher of the Year” by President Obama.
Image: WaOSPI via Flickr CC

In a world where we are bombarded by negative news on a daily basis, it is refreshing to hear about someone making a difference for good.  That person is Jeff Charbonneau, of Zillah High School in Washington State.  He was recently awarded the honor of winning National Teacher of the Year by President Obama.

Think of all the teachers in all the schools across America. This guy won, and that means a lot.

Charbonneau begins each day by saying, “Welcome back to another day in paradise” without a hint of sarcasm.

The 35-year-old teaches chemistry, physics, engineering and architecture. Though these are challenging subjects, Charbonneau wants students to know they can succeed.

In order to foster interest, Charbonneau founded a statewide robotics competition and helped create an ecology program where students go on hiking excursions that can be up to two weeks long.  He is even the yearbook advisor.

“I fight a stigma,” Charbonneau wrote in his application for the Washington State Teacher of the Year.  “Students hear the words ‘quantum mechanics’ and instantly think ‘too hard’ and ‘no way.’  It is my job to convince them that they are smart enough, that they can do anything.”

Jeff Charbonneau is a teacher who wants all of his students to go to college.  Yet, he knew that may be a challenge for some of his students who come from low-income families.  Never one to be daunted, he came up with ways to earn college credit while still in high school.

He went to several local universities and got them to award him adjunct faculty status.  That way, he is qualified to give college credit to students who take his science classes.  Now other teachers in the school are doing the same.  His passion for education is truly inspirational.  He believes in his students and in the system.

“We are not a nation of failing schools. When I hear that I literally cringe,” he said. “There is so much going right with education that we ignore.”

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