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Fort Vancouver High School teacher is regional Teacher of the Year

Photo: Bethany RivardFort Vancouver High School teacher Bethany Rivard has been named the Educational Service District 112 regional Teacher of the Year. Rivard is one of nine finalists from around the state for the Washington State Teacher of the Year Award. One teacher will be selected to represent Washington state in the National Teacher of the Year Program.

Rivard teaches English language arts at Fort Vancouver High School, a position she has held for the past nine years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English language arts from Hunter College in New York City and a master’s degree in education from Portland State University.

“It’s a cliché, but behind every teacher is teacher who inspired them to become an educator,” said Rivard, who credits her third-grade teacher, Ms. Trainor, with creating a welcoming, safe and creative environment for her students. “Ms. Trainor inspired me to become the type of teacher I am today. I make sure my students know they are valued. I notice them. I make my classroom a safe place where kids feel like they can be themselves. I hope that they feel inspired to engage academically.”

Rivard works hard to get to know her students and their individual needs and challenges. Teaching at a school where nearly 80 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch and many students speak another language at home, Rivard is especially sensitive to the barriers to success that students face each day.

“An outstanding teacher knows the name and needs of their students and maybe stocks their room with extra food and keeps bus passes on hand,” said Rivard. “An outstanding teacher listens to and respects the diversity within her classroom. If I know my students well, I can naturally differentiate instruction. My classroom runs well because there is a culture of trust and safety within the walls.”

“Bethany is a highly motivated teacher who cares deeply about her students,” said Ken Roberts, associate principal at Fort Vancouver High School. “She has spent her entire career as an educator finding ways to level the playing field for disadvantaged students, specifically undocumented students and those living in poverty, so that they can reach their highest potential. Bethany has done this through her dedication and amazing work in and out of the classroom.”

Students credit Rivard for encouraging them to succeed and pursue their dreams despite obstacles. “Mrs. Rivard believed that every single one of her students were fully capable of doing anything and everything they put their minds to,” said former student and George C. Marshall Youth Leadership Award winner Jose Scott. “I know that I speak for many when I say that Mrs. Rivard believed in me more than I have believed in myself at times.”

Rivard has collaborated with colleagues to create a contemporary international literature course in Vancouver Public Schools and started a writing club at Fort Vancouver High School. As part of a unit on the Holocaust and genocide, Rivard partnered with the Oregon Jewish Museum to bring in Holocaust survivors as speakers so that her students could witness living history. She also partners with the MEChA de UW, a Latino/a student group from the University of Washington and supported Fort Vancouver students in forming their own MEChA club. As an Advancement Via Individual Determination program teacher, Rivard began an early admission process with Washington State University. As a result, 21 of 34 students in the AVID class were instantly admitted to WSU, as statistic that Fort Vancouver High School had previously never seen.

“What makes Ms. Rivard truly special as a teacher is how she makes students feel safe, valued and inspired,” said McLoughlin Middle School Principal Travis Boeh. “I wholeheartedly believe that Ms. Rivard has changed the course of many of her students’ lives. She has an ability to connect with students, make them believe in themselves and provide them the support and tools to find success in school and beyond.”

Rivard is a National Board Certified Teacher in Young Adult/English Language Arts. She is an adjunct professor for Running Start through Central Washington University to offer college credits to her Fort Vancouver students. She also serves as a mentor teacher for Washington State University students during their student teaching experiences.

Rivard will join other nominees from Washington at the state Teacher of the Year Award Ceremony this fall.