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Mercedes Muñoz named teacher of the year
By The Skanner News
Published: 08 October 2019

Every year, each of the 50 states, U.S. territories, DC, and the Department of Defense Education Activity names a teacher of the year. The Oregon program began in 1955, expanding last year to honor teachers in each region of the state.

Last week the Oregon Department of Education named Mercedes Muñoz of Franklin High School (FHS) in Portland as the winner of Oregon’s Teacher of the Year 2020.

As a learning specialist at FHS since 2013, Muñoz has been instrumental in the development and implementation of the special education push-in model. She is a member of the FHS Equity Team, as well as the FHS Safety and Poetry Slam committees.

Muñoz says that “teaching is a revolutionary act of social justice that empowers children to evolve and grow.”

She is also highly involved in the recruitment of historically underserved students in Franklin’s Advanced Placement Program.

“Mercedes is a living embodiment of grace under pressure, said Andy Clark, Portland Public Schools. “She consistently leads tough conversations with staff and administrators around issues of race and equity for students. Mercedes is the rare teacher who not only meets the needs of her students but anyone around her. When she sees a need, she fills a need.”

“Great educators are at the heart of student success in Oregon’s public schools,” said Governor Kate Brown. “What Mercedes has done to advance equity and inclusion at Franklin High School, especially with students from historically underserved communities, is a great example of the standard we must continue to strive for to ensure that every student in Oregon, regardless of their background, has the opportunity to learn and achieve.”

In a letter of recommendation, Muñoz was referred to as “a force of nurture.” In her role as department lead for special education at FHS, Muñoz is seen as a champion in advocating for the learning needs of all students and ensuring they are seen, heard and prepared for the transition from high school.

Through a partnership between the Oregon Department of Education and the Oregon Lottery, the Oregon Teacher of the Year receives a gift award of $5,000 as well as a special fund to cover all travel costs for the year. In addition, a matching monetary gift ($5,000) goes to the Teacher of the Year’s school. The winner also receives gifts and recognition from the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), founder of the National Teacher of the Year Program. Finalists also receive a $2,000 cash award, and regional winners each receive $500.

The Oregon Teacher of the Year is selected after an extensive application process. Teachers are nominated by administrators, students and colleagues. They are assessed on leadership, instructional expertise, community involvement, understanding of educational issues, professional development and vision.

As the 2020 Oregon Teacher of the Year, Muñoz will serve as a spokesperson and representative for all Oregon teachers. She will represent Oregon at the Washington Recognition Week for Teachers of the Year in Washington, D.C. and will receive professional development and networking with other state Teachers of the Year.

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