Washougal High educator named ‘Regional Teacher of the Year’

Science teacher Donna Schatz will compete for state award later this year

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Washougal High School teacher Donna Schatz, the Educational Service District 112's 2024 Regional Teacher of the Year, "consistently goes above and beyond to support the learning and growth of her students," according to Washougal High Principal Mark Castle. (Contributed photo courtesy Washougal School District)

Educational Service District 112 (ESD 112) has named Washougal High School educator Donna Schatz its 2024 Regional Teacher of the Year.

Schatz, a science and career-technical education teacher, will compete for the 2024 Washington State Teacher of the Year award, to be named later this year by the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

“Ms. Schatz is an outstanding teacher who consistently goes above and beyond to support the learning and growth of her students,” Washougal High Principal Mark Castle stated in his 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.”

Schatz has been an “advocate for equitable teaching practices and a leader in Washougal High’s shift towards learning standards-based grading through collaboration with the administration,” according to a news release from ESD 112.

“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,” the news release stated. “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.”

In addition to her teaching duties, Schatz also serves as lead member of the school’s instructional and building leadership teams, which endeavor to increase the use of high leverage teaching strategies that improve outcomes for all students.

“Whenever possible, I make connections to what the students know and experience every day,” Schatz said. “This includes adapting the curriculum to give students ownership of their learning.”

Washougal High student Michaela Lister nominated Schatz for the award, noting the “welcoming, inclusive, and caring environment” she creates in her classroom.

“Mrs. Schatz has the best teaching style I’ve experienced,” Lister stated in a 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.”

Schatz focuses on connecting students to local concerns, such as the city of Washougal’s water runoff and stormwater management issues. In May 2022, some of Schatz’ students shared their ideas about green infrastructure projects that could benefit the community with Washougal City Council members.

“Developing these partnerships brings real world opportunities into the classroom,” Schatz said. “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.

“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. 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.”

Schatz earned her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Willamette University in Portland and her master’s degree in education from Portland State University. She has taught at Washougal High School since 2014.

“My teaching philosophy is that students learn best when what they learn applies to the world around them,” Schatz stated on her classroom website. “The standards that I teach are rooted in questions and phenomena of the world. I believe that every student is capable of learning.”