ZILLAH — Zillah High School chemistry and physics teacher Jeff Charbonneau is one of four finalists for the National Teacher of the Year Award.
Charbonneau was named this year’s state Teacher of the Year by the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Regional Teacher of the Year by Educational Service District 105.
A 1996 Zillah High School graduate, he has taught chemistry, physics, engineering and architecture for 11 years. He’s credited with expanding learning opportunities under the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program at his high school and other schools throughout the state.
He initiated programs allowing high school students to obtain college credits in science, physics, architecture and engineering and last fall became the first teacher in the state to offer five credits in chemistry through Eastern Washington University.
In 2008, he started a program called Zillah Robotics Challenge, a robotics competition that offers students a hands-on approach to math and science. He was able to secure enough donations to acquire more than 80 robot kits that are loaned to schools — public and private alike — throughout the state at no cost.
Students in the program have six weeks to learn how to assemble and program their robots before competitions. The program has reached more than 850 students in 43 schools in the past four years.
He has also helped create a student backpacking, hiking and ecology program. Since its 2002 inception, students have gone to Yellowstone National Park, the Beartooth Mountains and on the Pacific Crest Trail.
The Council of Chief State School Officers runs the National Teacher of the Year program, and a panel representing 15 national education organizations chose four finalists from winners of state awards for teachers of the year. The national winner will be announced and recognized by President Barack Obama during a White House ceremony.
The other three finalists are Rhonda Holmes-Blankenship of Maryland, Alex Lopes of Florida and Heidi Welch of New Hampshire.