Oregon names its 2014 Teacher of the Year - KPTV - FOX 12

Oregon names its 2014 Teacher of the Year

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A special education instructor has been named Oregon's 2014 Teacher of the Year.

Brett Bigham of Multnomah Education Service District has a reputation for being a fierce advocate for special needs students.

Among his many accomplishments, he put together a special daytime prom for his students and has designed guidebooks to help them visit Portland landmarks.

While he loves being in the classroom now, he says that was not always the case.

He admitted that he wasn't always the best student.

Bigham told Fox 12, "All through school, I was a terrible student. I was always in trouble. I was removed from a classroom once."

He went on to say, "All through high school, I was a trouble maker and in college I turned it around and became something different."

The Oregon Teacher of the Year is selected after an extensive application process. Nominees from schools throughout Oregon submitted packets of information that included testimonials and letters of support from their principals, superintendents and colleagues. From the written material, applicants were judged on leadership, instructional expertise, understanding of educational issues, professional development  and vision.

"Brett is a fierce advocate, a dedicated educator, and above all an incredibly caring and committed individual," said Deputy Superintendent Rob Saxton. "I am honored to have this opportunity to recognize him for his outstanding service to our students and our state. Brett has dedicated his career to fighting for the rights and opportunities of our special needs students. He is also deeply committed to supporting his fellow educators and sharing there sources he has developed, so that all can benefit.  He truly is a master teacher and I know he will serve as a wonderful representative for our state's educators as Oregon's 2014 Teacher of the Year."

Brett Bigham teaches in a functional living skills classroom - a classroom designed to help students with disabilities transition from school into the broader world. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), special education students can continue to receive services until the age of 21, and Mr. Bingham's classroom serves students in the 16-21 year range. Working for the Education Service District, Mr. Bigham, or Mr. B, as his students and colleagues affectionately call him, works with students whose disabilities are severe. His students arrive with a complex array of challenges and needs ranging from communications disorders such as autism to students with traumatic brain injury. His students' academic needs also vary greatly. In a given class, he may work with a student struggling to count to five and another who is working on algebra.

"My students are complex and that means my job as teacher is often shifting focus with each student," said Brett Bigham. "Every year I have students with entirely new and different needs coming my way and I need to become the expert. Overall, my job is a combination of teacher, parent and social worker. And no matter what role I'm working on at any particular time, it comes down to being an advocate. I share what I have to share, I work hard to make sure my kids get what other kids get, and, overall, I find that I have become a champion for fairness to people with special needs. And in these roles I have found immense satisfaction in my job."

As a part of his recognition, Bigham will receive a $5000 cash award sponsored by the American Institutes for Research.

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