Washougal High School’s (WHS) Donna Schatz has been named 2024 Regional Teacher of the Year by ESD 112. Schatz is a Science, Career and Technical Education (CTE) teacher, who also volunteers as a lead member of the WHS instructional and building leadership teams, increasing use of high leverage teaching strategies that improve outcomes for all students.
“Ms. Schatz is an outstanding teacher who consistently goes above and beyond to support the learning and growth of her students,” said Mark Castle, Principal for Washougal High School, in a letter of recommendation. “She has a gift for designing learning activities that are scaffolded, engaging, and relevant to both the students and the content standards.”
With nine years of teaching experience, Schatz has been an advocate for equitable teaching practices, and a leader in WHS’s shift towards learning standards-based grading through collaboration with the administration.
As a Science and CTE teacher, Schatz believes that what defines her as a teacher is her focus on adapting to each individual student’s needs, with a willingness to “deviate from the original lesson plan” to allow each student to engage fully in the lesson. When students had difficulty connecting with a particular assignment, Schatz responded by learning what her students were passionate about, and figuring out a way to create an equitable learning environment that both encouraged their passions, while also satisfying the learning objectives at hand.
“Whenever possible I make connections to what the students know and experience everyday,” said Schatz. “This includes adapting the curriculum to give students ownership of their learning.”
One of Schatz’s students, Michaela Lister, nominated Schatz for the award based on the welcoming, inclusive, and caring environment she creates in her classroom at Washougal High School.
“Mrs. Schatz has the best teaching style I’ve experienced,” Lister wrote, in her nomination letter. “She makes sure her students understand the material and encourages us to ask questions… Mrs. Schatz is the easiest person to talk to and everyone participates in her class because she is very respectable, kind, understanding, and relatable.”
One of the areas that Schatz focuses on in her classes is making a connection to issues related to the local community and region. One recent example was when students learned about water runoff and stormwater management issues that the city of Washougal is currently dealing with. Focusing on local community concerns, students were able to present to the city council during a special session, receiving feedback from council members and receiving encouragement to reach out to specific departments in the city with their ideas.
“Developing these partnerships brings real world opportunities into the classroom,” says Schatz. “With experiential learning, students have a voice inside and outside of the school and learn that their ideas are as important and valid as the adults around them.”
This ties into Schatz’s main message she hopes to impart, as this year’s Regional Teacher of the Year.
“As society grows and changes, we as teachers have to change too. It will take us out of our comfort zone, but growth always does,” says Schatz. “I tell my students that the uncomfortable feeling we get when we learn something new is our brain growing and making connections. That feeling of struggle is a physical change in our brain happening. Now I am asking us, as educators, to embrace the same.”
As Regional Teacher of the Year, Schatz will have access to unique professional development opportunities from OSPI, as well as opportunities to speak to local and statewide education leaders about issues important to her and her students. She will be presented with a plaque commemorating her award at an upcoming ESD 112 board meeting.
The Washington State Teacher of the Year will be selected later this year during the annual award ceremony. For more information, visit OSPI’s website.
For additional details, or to request an interview, please contact Justine Harnahan, ESD 112 and Washougal School District Communications Manager.