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Molalla High School Art Teacher won regional teacher of the year, and was among four finalists for Oregon Teacher of the Year

The Director of the Oregon Department of Education, Colt Gill, paid a visit to Molalla High School this month with a pair of checks in tow—one for Art Teacher Alissa Tran and one for the school.

Back in May, art students announced at an assembly that Tran had been named the Clackamas County Regional Teacher of the Year. Then Gill's December visit served to announce that Tran went on to be named as one of four finalists for the Oregon Teacher of the Year award, which ultimately went to Mercedes Muñoz of Franklin High School.

As a finalist, Tran received a check for $2,000 from the Oregon Lottery and the school received $2,000 as well.

COURTESY PHOTO: JESSICA COY - Director of the Oregon Department of Education Colt Gill (center) presents $2,000 checks to Brad Berzinski (left) for Molalla High School and to Art Teacher Alissa Tran (right). The checks come because Tran was named as a finalist for Oregon Teacher of the Year.

"Needless to say, we are very proud of Alissa," said MHS Principal Brad Berzinski. "She's a tremendous leader not only at Molalla High School but throughout the district. She is an amazing art teacher, but also a wonderful mentor and advocate for all students. She is constantly working to improve support systems for students and has been a key leader in our equity work as a district."

In response to the honor she received, Tran expressed thanks to those who educated her, those who have educated alongside her, and those whom she has educated.

She took it way back, thanking her teachers at Rickreall Elementary, LaCreole Middle School, and Dallas High School as well as at University of Oregon and Pacific University.

"I am the proud product of the Oregon Education system and so fortunate to be able to work within it," Tran said.

She also thanked her parents, Edward and Rebecca Penna, both retired art teachers and "the best educators [Tran] will ever know."

She went on to thank her colleagues and former students at West Salem High School, where she got her start, and her colleagues and students in Molalla.

"To my colleagues in Molalla: this award could easily go to any of you too, truly," Tran said. "I am so fortunate to work with passionate, dedicated, hopeful, and caring professionals every day. The heart you all have for our students is phenomenal and the comradery you show me strengthens me daily.

"My students, my cherubs, my kiddos, my reason for happily waking up at 5:30 in the morning and battling traffic to be with you," she continued. "I have learned more from each of you than any book, workshop, or professional development could ever offer. When you share your stories, dare to be your authentic selves, and challenge the status quo you change the world for the better. You have so much power and influence and I hope you will use that to help others."

The educators' applications were assessed on leadership, instructional expertise, community involvement, understanding of educational issues, professional development and vision by a diverse panel of regional representatives, according to ODE.

Like Tran, Muñoz, the 2020 Oregon Teacher of the Year, is involved in her school's equity work. She is a special education learning specialist at Franklin High School, who has been involved in the recruitment of historically underserved students in Franklin's Advanced Placement Program. In one of her letters of recommendation, she was referred to as "a force of nurture."

Along with the honor, Muñoz and her school each received $5,000, and she will serve as the face and voice of educators across the state this year.

"Every student deserves a teacher who is unwaveringly committed to their success," Gill said. "As a special education teacher, Mercedes delivers daily hope and encouragement to a wide range of students with varying academic, social and emotional needs. I look forward to her impact as a model for all teachers across our state this coming year."

To nominate someone you believe is deserving of being named 2021 Teacher of the Year, visit Nominations must be submitted by Jan. 31, 2020.

Kristen Wohlers
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- MHS art teacher named regional Teacher of the Year

- Portland educator is Oregon's 2020 Teacher of the Year

- Franklin High instructor named Oregon 'Teacher of the Year'

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