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Local Teacher Named Washington Teacher of the Year

Evergreen High School in Vancouver receives $10,000 educational grant from area Wal-Mart Supercenter on behalf of Wal-Mart Foundation

VANCOUVER, Wash., Oct. 1, 2007 – Wal-Mart announced that Kathleen Larson, a teacher of the deaf at Evergreen High School in Vancouver, has been named Teacher of the Year in Washington in the 12th annual Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club State Teacher of the Year program.  Larson was honored during a  surprise ceremony at the school today, and in her honor the school received a $10,000 grant from the Wal-Mart Foundation.

“This award is to recognize those teachers who go the extra mile for their students and instill a love of learning long after graduation,” said John Anderson, manager of the Vancouver Wal-Mart Supercenter located on Southeast 192nd Avenue.  “The associates at our store honored Ms. Larson as a local Teacher of the Year winner in May, and we are so proud that she is being recognized as a state winner.”

Larson, who resides in Portland, began teaching at Evergreen High School in 2000.  Her colleagues say she has played a vital role in establishing an accepting environment for deaf and hard of hearing students being mainstreamed into a large general education community.  “She is a gifted teacher whose leadership is respected, sense of ‘team’ appreciated, and impact on community is noteworthy,” said Debbie Renner, an educational sign language interpreter and staff assistant at the school.  “Bridging deaf and hearing cultures has created a caring community environment within our high school.”

That caring environment is found in Larson’s class, where she works to go beyond just instilling a sense of pride in academic achievement for her deaf and hard of hearing students.  “The effort the student puts forth must be of personal value so the success will be all the more meaningful,” explained Larson on her Teacher of the Year application.  “When that occurs, self esteem grows and this experience will lead to more success in the future.  Ultimately, by the time these students graduate, I need to help them realize they can succeed on their own.”

In addition to receiving a $10,000 grant for Evergreen High School, Larson also received a personalized Teacher of the Year leather tote, a crystal apple trophy, business cards, a Teacher of the Year certificate and a one-year membership to Phi Delta Kappa International, a professional education association and Wal-Mart’s partner in the State Teacher of the Year program.  Representatives from PDK selected Larson from among teachers throughout Washington for her contributions to the field of education and to her school. 

Wal-Mart’s Teacher of the Year program is one of the largest teacher recognition efforts in the country, giving back more than $5 million this year alone to the schools of winning teachers.  Since the Teacher of the Year program began in 1995, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has honored nearly 30,000 teachers nationwide and donated more than $22 million to local schools.  In 2006, the company provided more than $57 million in support of educational initiatives. 

The Teacher of the Year program begins each February when each Wal-Mart store, Sam’s Club, Neighborhood Market and distribution center accepts nominations from their community – parents, educators and school children – for local “Teacher of the Year” honors.  Nominations are compiled and each of the company’s 4,000-plus locations surprises a local teacher with a $1,000 donation to their school in their honor during National Teacher Appreciation Week in May.  Local winners have the option to complete a comprehensive application form for the state winner phase to be reviewed by PDK.  All 51 state winners, as well as a winner from Puerto Rico, are now being announced and will automatically be considered for the national Teacher of the Year award to be announced in November.

“Teachers today face many challenges as they work to educate our children,” said Dr. William Bushaw, executive director of Phi Delta Kappa.  “Wal-Mart’s Teacher of the Year program gives the winning teachers recognition for a job well done and for making a difference in their students’ lives.” 

How Winners Were Selected

According to Bushaw, several criteria were used to evaluate the applications and determine the winners.  Applicants answered four essay questions; judges gave each answer a numerical score.

1.    What do you consider to be your greatest contribution to students?
2.    What self-initiated practices, programs or projects have you implemented to produce a high level of student achievement?
3.    What do you consider to be the most critical issue in education that affects students?  How do you attempt to respond to this and inform others of the importance of this issue?
4.    At what level and degree are you involved in community volunteer work?  Describe how your involvement has influenced your teaching and impacted your community at the local and state level and beyond.

Applicants also submitted a current resume and two letters of recommendation – one from an immediate supervisor and one from a colleague, a community member, a student’s parent or a student. 

About Phi Delta Kappa International
PDK International is an association of education professionals committed to high-quality education, with particular emphasis on publicly supported education, as essential to the development and maintenance of a democratic way of life.  The work of the organization is grounded in the tenets of research, service, and leadership.  Founded in 1906, PDK represents educators at all levels of the profession and supports their work through publications, advocacy, research, and professional development opportunities.  Member chapters are active throughout the United States, Canada, and abroad.  Visit www.pdkintl.org to learn more about PDK International.

About Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT)
Every week, millions of customers visit Wal-Mart Stores, Supercenters, Neighborhood Markets, and Sam’s Club locations across America or log on to its online store at www.walmart.com.  The company and its Foundation are committed to a philosophy of giving back locally.  Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) is proud to support the causes that are important to customers and associates right in their own neighborhoods, and last year gave more than $270 million to local communities in the United States.  To learn more, visit www.walmartfacts.com, www.walmartstores.com, or www.walmartfoundation.org.

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