Tai Quirke has won many awards, loves teaching students critical thinking, how things work

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Tai Quirke, surrounded by members of the Gresham-Barlow School Board and the superintendent, as she received the districts excellence in teaching award in May.  The National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) named Tai Quirke, a biology teacher at Barlow High School, Oregon's Biology Teacher of the Year for 2018.

"I'm lucky and I'm grateful to be recognized," she said. "But I teach with some really awesome teachers and I am no better than they are. And my students make me better every day."

Quirke, 43, has earned a slew of awards through the years. Most recently, she was honored by the Gresham-Barlow School District with its Excellence in Teaching Award for the 2017-18 school year.

The mother of two graduated from tiny Graceland University, in Lamoni, Iowa, with a degree in biology and secondary education. She began her teaching career in Shawnee Mission in Kansas and after two years there spent a year at a middle school in Wilsonville.

She then transferred to Reynolds High School while also coaching volleyball at Barlow. After five years she moved to Barlow and has taught biology at Barlow since 2004.

Quirke said she loves teaching science.

"Science is inquisitive. It's all about how things work. I find it fascinating and interesting," she noted. "The world around us is so interesting. It's always changing. From the time I began my career to now, I've changed what I teach, 15, 20, even 30 times."

She said even if students don't particularly care about science, the discipline teaches them many life skills such as critical thinking, integrity and thinking outside the box.

When she's not teaching, she and her husband, a counselor at Barlow, spend a lot of time watching their daughters on their sports teams. She also likes to cook.

Quirke and Barlow both will receive certificates from NABT, and the award recipients will be honored in an awards ceremony in November at the association's conference in San Diego.

While she appreciates the award, Quirke said, "It's just my job. In my head, it's just what I do."

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