Jeffrey Thompson, a Clover Park School District kindergarten teacher at Evergreen Elementary School on Fort Lewis, was selected to receive the 2007 Butler-Cooley Excellence in Teaching Award based on his ability to change the lives of students and the Fort Lewis community.
Thompson is one of three national award recipients and receives a $5,000 cash stipend and travel expenses for the Turnaround Management Association’s (TMA) Annual Convention, Oct. 16-19 in Boston.
Thompson, also known as “Mr. T,” is no stranger to the spotlight-he was the 2004 Disney National Teacher of the Year, the 2004 Wal-Mart Teacher of the Year, an ING Unsung Heroes Award winner and a Lakewood Rotary Outstanding Educator of the Month. A fellow Disney teacher nominated Thompson for the Butler-Cooley award.
A peek into Mr. T’s Jurassic Institute sheds light onto his creative and innovative teaching methods-there, you will find children peering into a handcrafted pit of buried dinosaur bones, drawing pictures of the scene on grids, and counting, measuring and sorting bones, such as the fibula. Like any paleontologist, they can write about, discuss and ruminate on their findings. Students spend several weeks immersed in this world before moving to another.
“They are having so much fun, and doing so much more than reading and writing,” said Thompson. “They have no idea how hard they’re working.”
Parents have embraced Thompson’s unique style too. Thompson gives them learning aids to check out for home activities and time each week to discuss student progress. A space on report cards is reserved for parent grades.
“It was Mr. T’s belief in me as a co-teacher that inspired me to become actively involved in my son’s education,” wrote one parent.
“I’m fortunate in that I have a track record,” Thompson said. “Parents know when they get me for a teacher, they’ve got work to do and we’re going to do this together.”
Twenty-five percent of the five- and six-year-olds in one of his classes assessed as second grade readers at the end of their kindergarten year. Most of the rest of his students assessed beyond the first semester reading level goals for first grade in classes that meet only two and a half hours a day.
Most of Thompson’s students have a parent-typically father-deployed at least a year in Iraq or Afghanistan and 60 percent of Evergreen’s students leave before the school year ends because of a parent’s reassignment.
Thompson neither takes nor makes excuses-“I want students to leave my class fearless in their learning ability. I want them to leave knowing they can do anything. For kids to make such academic leaps takes gumption, a deliberate plan and a knack for improvisation.”
Becoming a teacher had tugged at Thompson since his college days as a business major. Friends pegged him as a natural for the classroom. He worked on his teaching certificate and master’s degree in education simultaneously, while working full time for the state.
“I think about what gets me excited and what something would look like in the eyes and mind of a five-year-old. That takes me where I want to go.”
The Butler-Cooley Excellence in Teaching Award, administered by TMA and funded by the John William Butler Foundation, was established in 2004, to recognize teachers who demonstrate exceptional dedication and skill in shaping students’ lives. The program is named in honor of Leslie Bender Butler and Cindy Butler Cooley, who collectively have more than 50 years of experience as teachers. Nominees must be currently licensed, active teachers in an accredited public or private school, and have at least five years of experience.