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Central Washington University

State’s Best Washington Teacher Again Comes from CWU

Monday, September 17, 2018

For the second time in three years, a CWU alumnus is the Washington State Teacher of the Year.

The state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has honored Robert Hand, a Mount Vernon High School (MVHS) teacher, as the 2019 winner, selected from among nine nominated finalists from Educational Service Districts across Washington.

“I could not be the teacher that I am today without the education I received from Central,” Hand said. “I learned so many technical aspects about being an effective classroom teacher.

“Being a teacher is a lot more technical than people may realize,” he continued. “It’s a craft that takes a lot of learning and a lot of work. The education I received from Central really set me up from the beginning to feel confident coming into a classroom as a new teacher.”

Hand earned his MS in Family and Consumer Sciences Education, along with his teaching endorsement, at CWU in 2011. He did so entirely through online classwork.

“At that time, it just wasn’t feasible for us to pick up our daughter, and for my wife to leave her career, and move,” he explained. “So, the distance education program was the best fit for our family.”

Two years after graduating from CWU, which included many substitute teaching assignments, Hand began teaching Family and Consumer Sciences classes at MVHS.

“What led me to teaching was that I knew I wanted to make a difference, do something that made an impact, and make the world a better place,” he said. “I looked at different content areas that I thought would be a good fit for me. When I was researching those, I came upon Family and Consumer Sciences—and I didn’t look past that. It’s hands-on learning that applies to real life. Everything in the field is something that I am passionate about in my own life.”

It’s also coursework for which his students have shown significant passion.

“There is such a demand for classes like this,” Hand said. “We teach classes in our cooking lab all-day long, and they’re full. We have a large student body, around 2,000 students, and at any given time—literally—half of our student body is requesting to be in our cooking classes. We can’t keep up with the demand.”
Along with Beginning Foods, Hand teaches a popular Life After High School course and a Careers in Education class for future instructors through the state’s Professional Educator Standards Board “Recruiting Washington Teachers” program. Hand actually helped develop training modules for that program.

“One of the big things that I like to do with that program is to take students on college visits to see the schools, their education programs, the dorms, and give them a good, hands-on experience with what they have as options,” Hand said. “The program offers a lot of support to help students enroll in college and become successful once they are there. So, I have been to Ellensburg on my own and with my students on their college visits showing them the school. The awesome thing for me is that I have former students right now that are getting ready to head over and start their freshman years at Central. The majority of them are looking to go into the teaching profession.”

Hand also has served as an adviser for MVHS Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America and the school’s Social Justice Club, as a member of the School Engagement and Culture Committee, and the District Equity Team in Mount Vernon. Somehow, he also finds time to bake, which he acknowledged is his favorite culinary pursuit both in school and at home.

“I’ve become somewhat known for the cakes that I bake,” he admitted. “I enjoy making cakes somewhat up to the level of [the TV shows] ‘Cake Boss’ or ‘Ace of Cakes.’ I make my daughter’s birthday cakes, and wedding cakes for friends, but not as a business. It’s a lot of fun to make something delicious and beautiful at the same time.”

While he said earning the award as the state’s best teacher is honoring, humbling, and was unexpected, his focus will continue to be on building the overall FCS program and helping to make a difference at MVHS.

“This is the perfect fit for me—I love this community, this school, all the staff, and my students,” Hand said. “This is a place where I feel I can really make an impact and support students develop the skills to be amazing family members, career leaders, and community members.”

Hand will now be entered into the national Teacher of the Year competition. CWU alumnus Jeff Charbonneau received that honor in 2013.

Media contact: Robert Lowery, Department of Public Affairs, 509-963-1487,

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