SUNNYSIDE, Wash. — For his work to turn a failing math program into a success story, Harrison Middle School math coach Joshua Schlegel was named Monday the 2013-14 Regional Teacher of the Year by the Educational Service District 105.

Schlegel, a Mabton High School graduate, is credited with helping guide a major upswing in student math scores at the middle school, where he began as a math teacher before becoming a math coach in 2009. As a math coach, he helped teachers implement strategies to improve student state assessment scores.

The announcement came at Sunnyside High School during an assembly welcoming staff back for the new year. Students are back in classes this morning.

Schlegel led school staff in redeveloping the district’s math curriculum in grades six through eight, and within two years scores shot up to rank among the state’s top 4 percent after being among the lowest in the state, according to a news release from ESD 105.

Under his guidance, the rate of sixth- and eighth-graders meeting or exceeding state math standards has nearly doubled within three years, and nearly tripled for seventh-graders, the release said.

He introduced an eighth-grade algebra class his first year at the middle school. Now, more than half of the eighth-graders are taking the algebra class with 80 percent of them passing, compared to the meager 12 percent of students districtwide who met algebra standards just a few years ago, the release said.

School principal Robert Bowman highlighted Schlegel’s efforts in a letter recommending him for the award.

“Josh has established math tutoring before and after school for students, and provided extracurricular math options for kids, most notably math clubs that have gone across the state for competitions,” Bowman wrote. “What’s even more impressive is the change in student perception around mathematics. More students stay after school and/or make up assignments and tests during the regular school day than ever before.”

Schlegel, who also worked as a math instructor for Heritage University and Yakima Valley Community College, was named the Sunnyside School District’s Teacher of the Year in 2012. He began his full-time career at Grandview Middle School in 2006. Before that, he worked as a substitute teacher for the Mabton School District and a teaching assistant at Outlook Elementary School.

He was among three teachers nominated for the regional award. The others were White Swan High School music teacher Jeff Chang and Melissa Brackney of Kirkwood Elementary School in Toppenish.

The regional honor puts Schlegel in the running for this year’s state Teacher of the Year award. Last year, Zillah High School science teacher Jeff Charbonneau was named regional, state and national Teacher of the Year.