DCA | Educator

Tammy Fisher speaks after winning the award for Districtwide Educator of the Year at the 50th Annual Distinguished Citizens Awards in Hermiston on Feb. 12.

By the time she was just 10 years old, Hermiston School District’s 2020 Educator of the Year Tammy Fisher knew she wanted to be a teacher.

“That’s when I started teaching swimming lessons. As cheesy as it sounds, it felt like a calling. I loved the opportunity to work with people, to share skills and learn from them. I never falter on that,” she said.

Fisher grew up in Pendleton and before receiving her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, she got her teaching license and literacy specialist endorsement from Eastern Oregon University, where she also studied English.

“I studied it just for fun. I thought I wanted to teach elementary,” she said.

And while Fisher has taught practically every grade level K-12 in her 13-year teaching career, she currently holds a position as an English teacher at the high school. Her literature know-how came in handy after all, much to her surprise.

Her favorite piece to teach is “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller.

“It has really interesting ties to history,” Fisher said.

In addition to teaching her regular curriculum to freshman and junior students, Fisher took on intervention classes brought to the school district this year through the Read180 curriculum. It’s designed to get students who read below grade level back up to speed.

Fisher said that growing up, her brother had trouble learning to read. It’s part of why she’d like to continue studying adolescent reading, a passion which administrators can sense. She was recently nominated for a Read180 educator award.

“My favorite saying of hers is ‘It’s OK not to know, but it’s not OK not to try,’” said student Max Hernandez in her nomination video. “I really feel like that’s what stands out.”

When Fisher isn’t teaching, grading, serving on the educator leadership team for Hermiston High School or advising the school’s National Honors Society, she’s also a building representative for the Hermiston Association of Teachers.

“That was really important to me,” she said. “Part of me thought, I don’t need more to do. But the bigger part of me wants to continue to improve education for students and teachers. When teachers are supported in their jobs they pass those outcomes along,”

She’s also prepping for a few triathlons this spring, including the Walla Walla Onion Man triathlon in May.

“Mrs. Fisher is very dedicated to the constant improvement of her craft,” said Superintendent Tricia Mooney at the Distinguished Citizens Awards last week.

“Not only does she work tirelessly to help students learn and improve, but her students do so at an above-average rate.”

Fisher wasn’t the only educator to receive high praise at last week’s award ceremony. Each year, the district selects an educator of the year for each school.

Hermiston High SchoolIn addition to Fisher, art teacher Nici Silver was selected as an educator of the year at the high school level. Silver teaches AP Media Art and advises the Art Club.

“Mrs. Silver’s classroom is constantly buzzing with activity,” Mooney said last week. “She encourages her students to find ways to artistically improve their immediate surroundings.”

Armand Larive Middle School

Melissa Purswell teaches sixth grade at Armand Larive. She also heads up the Armand Larive Kindness Club.

“Mrs. Purswell cares about every student, whether a Bullpup or not, and she is dedicated to growing them as students and as individuals,” Mooney said.

Sandstone Middle School

According to staff and students at Sandstone, music teacher Daniel Allen is known as “Mr. Awesome.”

“He is a team player, and he epitomizes the idea of how learning can happen all the time, in all kinds of ways, and with all types of students,” Mooney said.

Desert View Elementary

First grade teacher Shelly Lillie recently finished serving on the Desert View leadership team.

“Mrs. Lillie will drop everything to help her colleagues. She always makes time for staff in need and is a champion for students, wanting the best for each and every one,” Mooney said.

Highland Hills Elementary

Marian Koenig teaches kindergarten at Highland Hills. She is known for using rhymes and music to keep her students involved and engaged.

“Ms. Koenig is a dedicated teacher, who instills the love of learning in her students,” said Mooney. “Upbeat and bubbly, her teaching style helps each of her students feel proud of their daily accomplishments.”

Rocky Heights Elementary

A Title I teacher at Rocky Heights, Holly Moss helps coordinate parent nights, gather data and run student learning intervention meetings. “Her patience is unmatched, and her care for others is extraordinary,” Mooney said.

Sunset Elementary

Shawna Yeager teaches physical education at Sunset Elementary School. Her peers know her for her flexibility and caring personality.

“She does not seek attention and is happy to quietly work in the shadows, but Sunset folks know how valuable she is,” said Mooney. “(She’s) a great example of a Sunset Star.”

West Park Elementary

Amy Springstead teaches second grade at West Park Elementary School. According to her peers, she stays ahead of the curve and her students are better for it.

“She strives to create activities and lessons that challenge her students. She is the queen of rigor,” Mooney said.

District Office

At a district level, Pam Schaffeld is the special education facilitator. According to her peers, she is highly organized and driven.

“Mrs. Schaffeld is a solution-oriented individual. She strives to create processes that are easy to understand and that support student learning and needs,” Mooney said.

Mooney was also named as the district’s Administrator of the Year, for recent accomplishments including completing a doctorate in education, being appointed to the Oregon Quality Education Commission and helping the district pass an $82.7 million bond.

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