Ethan Chessin believes that a 14-year-old is capable of producing work that a 44-year-old (who isn’t that child’s parent) finds beautiful, interesting, and useful. This, among so many other things, is what makes Chessin brilliant at his job. A music teacher at Camas High School, Chessin was recently named Teacher of the Year for the ESD 112 region. One of nine Regional Teachers of the Year, Chessin is now in the running for Washington State Teacher of the Year. That honor will be awarded at a special reception in Seattle on Monday, September 11th.
Using music to teach every subject, with lessons on race, prejudice, Islam, poetry, and current events, Chessin is passionate about the power of music.
“Music is part of being human,” Chessin said. “Whether beautiful or brutal, I try to show my students how this is true, and help them see music as a means of communicating meaning.” It’s no wonder that in the six years Chessin has been teaching at Camas High School, enrollment in choir has grown from 45 students to nearly 200. He’s expanded the music department, adding four choirs, songwriting and piano classes, and an orchestra.
With a mission of bringing the world to the school and the school to the world, Chessin has brought musicians, composers, community leaders, culture bearers and more into the classroom. To expose students to every aspect of the music industry, he found funding for a recurring yearlong project that allows students to compose, perform, publicize and put on a concert. In a review of one such concert, The Portland Mercury called the performance, “the most life-affirming night of music I’ve experienced in some time, leaving me downright aglow with joy.”
Being named Regional Teacher of the Year is a rigorous and lengthy process that includes interviews, classroom visits and recommendations. Many remarkable teachers completed the application process and will be honored in their school district board meetings or all-school assemblies, including:
- Meadowlark Clark, kindergarten teacher from Tukes Valley Primary School, Battle Ground School District
- Betsy Barnhart, math teacher from Wishram High and Elementary School, Wishram School District
- Christine Nakae, middle school math teacher from Trout Lake School, Trout Lake School District
- Lynn Nelson, 7th grade science teacher from Cascade Middle School, Longview School District
- Irene Soohoo, reading intervention and history teacher from Pleasant Valley Middle School, Battle Ground School District
- Shelly Spadaro, kindergarten teacher from Lyle Community School, Lyle School District
- Claire Cornish Verity, theatre arts teacher and drama director from Prairie High School, Battle Ground School District