Erin Green, who taught at The Valley School of Southern Oregon, was named a 2023 Regional Teacher of the Year
Erin Green stands Friday with a mural she helped create at The Valley School of Southern Oregon. Green recently was named Regional Teacher of the Year. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]
On Friday afternoon at The Valley School of Southern Oregon, former language arts teacher Erin Green took a moment to marvel at a mural filled with student handprints. The color spanned the rainbow, with a powerful quote, “Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened. “
Spearheaded by Green during the five years she worked at the Medford School District charter school, the project still gets her emotional, as it did Friday.
“To put your handprint on something and leave your mark, knowing… something beautiful is going to come after it, I just really liked that,” said Green, tearing up. “It’s really important to me that students feel a sense of belonging, no matter who they are.”
Oregon Department of Education recently named Green the Regional Teacher of the Year for 2023, along with 15 other educators throughout the state. She’ll receive $ 1,000 from the Oregon Lottery, according to ODE. Green also was awarded $ 500 from Southern Oregon Educational Service District, which nominated her for the title.
“I was really honored to be nominated – that someone saw something in me and my teaching,” Green said. “And then when I got the call I was selected, I felt like what I have done in my career was really seen and valued. That just felt incredible. “
All Regional Teacher of the Year recipients are finalists for Oregon Teacher of the Year.
“I would be beyond thrilled to receive that honor because that honor comes with some responsibilities and opportunities,” Green said.
Her career has spanned just over 10 years, teaching at some of the Medford School District’s other charter schools, including Logos Public Charter School and Kids Unlimited Academy, where she was an educational specialist for kindergarten through eighth grade.
“I like to joke that I jumped the charter circuit in Medford because I’ve worked for all of them, except Madrone Trail,” Green said.
But at The Valley School of Southern Oregon, which features the innovative Montessori method of learning, the young educator found a home.
“They can self-manage to create something that really matters to them versus being in a classroom and your teacher is saying ‘do this worksheet,’” Green said of the students at The Valley School. “That learning is not meaningful to students and, often, does not feel relevant to their lives.”
She could not have become a Regional Teacher of the Year without some recommendation letters, including one from former Valley School student Isla Montfort, who is a ninth grader at South Medford High School. She explained how Green’s class improved her writing skills by completing an assignment to write a novel. The class culminated in an optional “author’s night” at Barnes & Noble.
“I entered this classroom as a young 11-year-old who feared schoolwork and left as someone who has a better understanding of all language has to offer me. I learned to understand its power and importance in this vast world, ”Montfort wrote. “This is why I believe Erin Green should get the Teacher of the Year Award. If there were more teachers like her, our society would be one made of kind, bright and strong citizens. “
Heather Olivier, a parent of two former students who is an administrator for FACT Oregon, a disability advocacy organization, also wrote a letter praising Green.
“As a parent of a child that has a disability, Erin was thoughtful in adapting her lessons to support my son’s successful inclusion in her class,” Olivier wrote. “Erin advocated to include my son in her class and provide the support that would allow him to be successful with his peers rather than being removed to another setting.”
Green left The Valley School earlier this year but pledges to return to education. She currently is community engagement and outreach coordinator for the Health Care Coalition of Southern Oregon.
“It’s really helping me see what programs are out there for kids,” Green said. “I’m doing some learning right now, so I can assess needs.”
Green says she wants to help marginalized and underserved communities, including children in foster care.
“In my mind, it shouldn’t be an afterthought – that’s a very predictable thing that’s going to happen when someone is displaced and taken away from their family,” Green said.
Her dreams of helping foster kids may have to wait. But Green, as an educator, sees herself as someone who is “planting seeds for change.”
“This is a difficult time – and a really important time – to be an educator because there is so much tension,” Green said. “There’s a lot of distrust now, and it can be challenging to move through that so you can work together to support the student.”
Her formula for change to loosen the tension is not yet clear for Green. She said she is still learning, even as she is a student at Southern Oregon University.
“I don’t know exactly where it’s going,” Green said.
But she knows she loves teaching.
“I know that what I did here matters and that I made an impact on the kids.”
Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.