Washington state teacher of year: 4th grade teacher from Seattle

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SEATTLE — A Seattle elementary school teacher who begins his day playing the guitar and singing with his students was named Monday as the Washington state teacher of the year for 2015.

Lyon Terry, a fourth-grade teacher at Lawton Elementary, specializes in helping students improve their writing and vocabulary. During his tenure, 4th-grade writing proficiency rates of Lawton students on statewide exams have gone up more than 10 percentage points.

He volunteers with scouts, local sports leagues and runs the school's safety patrol. Terry started a Walking School Bus program after he learned many of the students walk to school.

The graduate of Reed College in Portland, Oregon, and Portland State University worked in the Highline School District and in New York City Public Schools before coming back to the Pacific Northwest to teach at Lawton.

The nationally board certified teacher has worked at Lawton since 2005.

A colleague from Lawton called Terry a one-of-a-kind teacher who makes everything fun.

"He makes every school year memorable," said Kelsey Fatland, who teaches kindergarten at Lawton and had a child in Terry's class. "He's always reinventing himself," she added.

She recalled the year Terry brought his second-graders on a bike ride to a local park, and another time, he got all his students involved in cleaning up another park.

Terry's students write every day and he reads out loud to them.

His mother was a teacher, but Terry said he had no interest in following in her footsteps until after his first experience working with young people when he discovered what a difference one person can make.

"Teachers, we change the world. My mom was my first example of that," Terry said.

Unlike most people in this national award program, Terry was not nominated by his school principal. He was nominated by a parent of a student in his class.

The other regional teachers of the year are Linda Carney of Shadle Park High School in Spokane; Spencer Martin of Sunnyside High School; Sharon Conditt of Woodland High School; Barbara Page of Aberdeen High School; Kimberly Witte of PineCrest Elementary School in Bremerton; Glen Landrus of Asotin High School; Lisa Snyder of Robert E. Lee Elementary School in East Wenatchee: and Barney Peterson of James Monroe Elementary in Everett.

Terry's acceptance speech focused on all the other finalists, saying, "This is only partially my award."

He said he would focus during the next year on advocating for great people to choose teaching as their profession, because the state and the nation will need a lot more teachers to make education reforms succeed.

"We are on the precipice of great things," he said.

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