PORTLAND, Ore. (Portland Tribune) — Clackamas High School’s Ethelyn Tumalad was named Teacher of the Year for the state of Oregon in a surprise staff meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 29.
Tumalad, who teaches English language arts to sophomores and juniors, arrived in the United States at the age of 5 from the Philippines. In May, she also won an award as Clackamas County’s Regional Teacher of the Year recognizing how her experience as an immigrant has honed her commitment to the values of community, identity and culture both inside and outside her classroom.
“My identity as an Asian Pacific Islander educator and educator of color grounds me in my work,” Tumalad said. “I’ve seen the importance of having positive role models of color; therefore, it is important that students themselves see their advisors work together to build bridges among each other’s marginalized identities. As an educator who always wants to ensure that students become change agents in the classroom, I lead my students with empathy and truly believe that modeling is the best form of education.”
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Since starting as a new teacher four years ago in the North Clackamas School District, Tumalad has taken on multiple leadership roles, including adviser for CHS’s Asian Pacific Islander Student Union; co-facilitator of the school’s BIPOC Educator Affinity Group; and member of the CHS Equity Committee and Educator of Color Advisory Committee. She’s active in the North Clackamas Education Association’s Educator of Color Affinity Group and has championed equity and affinity work on behalf of the Oregon Education Association.
As the Oregon Teacher of the Year, Tumalad received a $5,000 cash prize, with a matching $5,000 going to CHS, thanks to the Oregon Department of Education’s partnership with the Oregon Lottery. Tumalad previously won a $500 cash prize as Clackamas County’s teacher of the year.
Gov. Kate Brown’s video message offered personalized congratulations and gratitude to Tumalad during the Sept. 29 announcement event at an early-morning staff meeting.
“Inside and outside of the classroom, Ethelyn is a strong advocate, a wonderful listener and an empathetic colleague, teacher and friend,” Brown said. “Educators like you are the shining stars our students need.”
Nominations from colleagues recognized Tumalad for “being there,” from walking in a Black Lives Matter march with her students after the murder of George Floyd, to engaging in a thoughtful conversation with a young student grappling with the “whitewashing” of U.S. history. They credited her for leaning into her identity as a Filipino woman and immigrant to support students in finding their own voices, recognizing the beauty of their diversity and being unapologetically themselves.
In a letter of recommendation, a former student described Tumalad as, “hands down one of the best and most thoughtful teachers I have ever had.” The student said Tumalad sees and treats each student that walks into her classroom like family, and looks for ways to change their lives for the better. “She is the reason many kids even came to school … and she taught me how to be myself in a world that’s constantly telling me to be something I’m not,” the letter continued.
“Ethelyn infuses her classroom with community, belonging and empathy — all critical components for ensuring students feel welcome and safe,” said Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill. “As this new school year begins and students work to make meaning of the challenging last 19 months, Ethelyn will serve as an outstanding model for Oregon educators who are working to support the social-emotional, mental and physical needs of their students.”
As the 2022 Oregon Teacher of the Year, Tumalad will serve as a spokesperson and representative for all Oregon teachers. She will also receive year-long professional development and networking with other state Teachers of the Year.