Robert Hand, a Mount Vernon High School teacher and Northwest Educational Service District 189 (NWESD) Regional Teacher of the Year, was selected as 2019 Washington State Teacher of the Year. Mr. Hand was selected from a talented group of nine teacher nominees from Educational Service Districts across the state. Currently serving as a Family and Consumer Services Instructor at Mount Vernon High School in Mount Vernon, Mr. Hand is described as “having the ability to challenge students, build relationships with students, and to help many students develop the skills that they need to be successful in high school and beyond,” by Rodrick Merrell, former MVHS Principal.
NWESD Superintendent, Larry Francois said,
“All the regional TOY candidates were extremely impressive. Individually and collectively they demonstrated the best of the teaching profession. Robert’s passion, commitment, and ability to positively connect with all students was evident. We are honored and humbled to have Robert represent the NWESD region and the State of Washington as the 2018-19 TOY.”
The announcement was made in September by Chris Reykdal, Superintendent of Public Instruction, at a ceremony held at the Museum of Popular Culture (MoPOP) in Seattle.
“Each year we celebrate excellent teaching through the Teacher of the Year program,” Reykdal said. “These professionals are dedicated, hardworking, and passionate about the success and wellbeing of their students. Mr. Hand is an exceptional example of what great teaching means in Washington state.”
Hand has been teaching at Mount Vernon since 2013. He has taught Beginning Foods; Life After High School; and Careers in Education, Nutrition, and Leadership. He has also been an adviser for Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America and for the Social Justice Club.
A former student said Hand’s personal interest makes him a special teacher. The student noted that she lived in a low-income home, that English wasn’t her first language, and that she was undocumented. In addition, she said, “I got pregnant at 16. Any other teacher would have given up on me, but Mr. Hand loves to get to know all his students to try to facilitate and nourish their learning experience.
“Mr. Hand got to know my struggles and did what a lot of other teachers didn’t: He actually acknowledged them. After this, he didn’t lower his expectations of me because he knew I was as capable as any other student who had the privileges I didn’t. With Mr. Hand’s support, throughout high school I got to discover my true potential. When I enrolled in Skagit Valley College, I kept that, ‘I can do anything’ mindset that Mr. Hand taught me. I am about to transfer to a 4-year university and pursue a career as an educator. None of this could have been possible without Mr. Hand always being by my side – no matter what.”
Reykdal was impressed by the balance Hand maintains. “Robert cares about his students as individuals,” Reykdal said. “He also makes sure his teaching goes beyond the classroom and relates to the community. As just one example, he led his class to display the flags and colors of 11 of the countries from which students at Mount Vernon High School come.”
Reykdal noted that the relationship to community is reflected in all of the Regional Teachers of the Year. “From engaging civic relationships, studying tribal watershed lands, and to starting an ethnic-studies curriculum, all of the teachers recognize that their work has value when students can relate it to their everyday lives.”
Hand also cares about building and strengthening the teaching profession. He was instrumental in helping to develop an online curriculum for the Recruiting Washington Teachers program for the Professional Educator Standards Board.