Diedre Young, who earned two bachelor’s degrees from Central Washington University, has been selected as a nominee for People Magazine’s Teacher of the Year. Young has advanced to Round 2 of the competition, in which the public will determine the winner of Readers’ Choice People Teacher of the Year Award. People may vote online at http://specials.people.com/teacherofyear/. Voting ends September 5, 2013, and the winner will be named in a later issue of the magazine.
Young is the 9-12 grade science department head for Ridgway Christian School in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, one of the most violent cities in the nation.
Young admits that it was a bit of an adjustment when she came to live in Pine Bluff, a move decided by her husband’s promotion. “The culture was just so different,” she explained. “Plus the poverty and the ever-present violence in the area—I needed to find some way for my students to overcome that.”
Her innovative approach to teaching science has made even the most reluctant student an enthusiastic participant. She does an astronomy night with telescopes and a lecture by her son, who is an astrophysicist. She also puts on a CSI night, where students from all different grades get involved in solving the “crime.” Her classes regularly go on field trips to area zoos, caverns, and museums.
"I ask myself daily, 'Did I guide a student in a positive direction today?'" said Young. "Students who struggled are now considering college."
According to People, “Young works with virtually no budget yet in seven years, has created two science labs (paid for by grants and donations), a robotics team, and helped three students win spots to compete in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. This year alone 23 of her 36 science fair entrants participated at the state level with eight placing. This year two seniors in Young's class earned $1.2 million in scholarships. Young also has adapted her lessons for kids with special needs, with behavioral issues—and for those who simply come in saying they don't like science. She wins them over with critters to study in the classroom, a weather blog maintained jointly with a German school, and an astronomy night that parents attend too.”
Young, who graduated from East Valley High School in 1977, received her bachelor’s degrees from CWU in 1982 (Allied Health) and 1985 (Biology). In addition to her allied health degree, she also earned a certificate in medical technology.
“I actually started out at the University of Washington and transferred to Central,” she related. “It was absolutely the best thing I did. It’s small enough so I didn’t feel like I was just a number, but large enough to have really great programs. It’s a great school and I’m thrilled I graduated from CWU.”
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