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Four local teachers honored by foundation

ABHUTCHISON, Sierra Sun

Everyone has a teacher at one point in their life who makes an incredible impact on their future. One local organization, the Excellence in Education Foundation, has set out to honor such teachers in our community annually.

The year 2000 marks the second year the foundation has honored exceptionally committed and innovative teachers in the Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District.

This year’s recipients of the foundation’s Linda Brown Fellows Program are Robyn McCartney of Kings Beach Elementary School, Lois Moore of Glenshire Elementary, Vicki Decker of Sierra Mountain Middle School and Dean Nordby of North Tahoe Middle School.

Named after longtime TTUSD teacher and founding Excellence in Education board member Linda Brown, the fellows program was created to promote excellence in teaching. The honor is presented to teachers who set their personal expectations high and make learning exciting on a daily basis. Each recipient will receive a $1,500 cash grant to be spent in any way that enhances student or teacher academics during the 2000-2001 school year.

This year, the fellows program awards were presented to two full-time teachers from the elementary grades (K-5), and two full-time teachers from the middle school grades (6-8). In each category, one teacher was chosen from the Truckee area and one from the Lakeside area. The selection committee was comprised of nine Excellence in Education Foundation board members who made the selections from a field of nominations.

Dean Nordby, noted by one nominator as the “coming attraction for 4th and 5th graders, who instead of being scared of this transition are excited to begin middle school and the band program,” is the band director and music instructor for North Tahoe Middle School.

This year is his 11th year at the school, but he has lived in the Tahoe area all of his life.

“I’m teaching in the school I graduated from,” Nordby said.

He said he was completely surprised by the award for doing what he claims is “the best job in the world.”

“I was thrilled to death,” he said. “A lot of teachers do a really great job, so to even be selected in that group was a really great honor.”

Another comment made by a nominator was, “Much of what Mr. Nordby has as a teacher is personality … a unique ability to relate to students with a flamboyant sense of humor, while demanding high standards, discipline and musical excellence.”

Vicki Decker, who has been teaching for 16 years, has been at Sierra Mountain Middle School for nine years teaching humanities, language arts and social studies to sixth graders.

“Sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders are my favorite age of students,” Decker said. “I really like the middle school child. I can really empathize with having a foot in both worlds – the world of the child and the world of the teenager. They’re emotionally, physically and socially changing rapidly and teaching them is very challenging. You have to be aware of the whole child.”

Her colleagues are obviously supportive and impressed by the classroom environment Decker creates.

“[Decker] makes learning fun and demands a lot. What a great combination. Every day is a new learning adventure if you’re lucky enough to be a student in Vicki’s classroom,” wrote one nominator.

She, too, was both honored and humbled by the award.

“I was stunned,” she said. “We have an incredible cache of teachers at our school, so I felt honored.”

Robyn McCartney, a first grade teacher at Kings Beach Elementary School for 12 years, has been teaching for 25 years, and like the other fellow recipients was humbled and delighted by the honor.

“I was certainly surprised and very flattered,” she said. “When I looked at the list of teachers I was very flattered – there are just some excellent teachers here.”

Her “love, energy and patience are the seeds that fosters the love of learning,” said one nominator. Another wrote that she is “a teacher who makes a real difference … truly extraordinary.”

Lois Moore, a fourth grade teacher at Glenshire Elementary, was said to touch the lives of almost every child who walks through school doors.

“There is no doubt that every student who walks down the graduation aisle at Glenshire Elementary has been touched in a very positive way by Lois Moore … [She] goes above and beyond to create interesting, exciting and varied programs,” said a nominator.

All teachers said they are not sure yet exactly how they will spend their $1,500. They all are hoping to impact as many students as possible with the extra funds.

“My passion, my niche is literacy,” McCartney said. She is thinking about spending the money on buying new books and literacy tools or using it to take students on educational field trips.

“I’m sure I won’t have any problem spending the money because I have a lot of ideas up my sleeve,” she said.

Nordby said his ideas include purchasing low-cost instruments for students, music and music stands for the classroom.

“I don’t yet how I’ll spend the money,” he said. “With the door open so wide, it’s hard to figure out what I’m going to do. I’m hopefully going to come up with the needs we have here at the school.”


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