Jolene Zagaris was named Educator of the Year by the Nyssa Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture in February. Zagaris is a Nyssa Elementary School teacher. (Submitted photo).
Jolene Zagaris was in the sixth grade when she realized she wanted to be a teacher – she even “vividly remembers” a drawing she created of herself as a teacher.
She not only realized her dream, but went on to win this year’s Educator of the Year Award from the Nyssa Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture.
Zagaris is a teacher at Nyssa Elementary School.
Her path to honors began with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a reading endorsement from Western Oregon University. After teaching for two years, she took a year off to attend Western Conservative Baptist Seminary, where she met her husband, Lance. They have two children, one of whom is also a teacher, and two grandchildren.
Teaching in Oregon, Idaho and Washington, she arrived at Nyssa Elementary 11 years ago, attracted by the K-1 “loop” offered there. A loop is where students keep the same teacher for two grades. Zagaris had not taught a loop before and was excited to try it.
Spending two years with students has many positive aspects, giving her the opportunity to get to know the kids and their families. The loop also makes the transition from kindergarten to first grade much smoother.
“Teachers can have a profound impact on the lives of children,” said Zagaris.
Her first class will graduate from Nyssa High School in 2019; she has followed them through their years in the Nyssa School District.
Having been raised on the Oregon Coast and after spending several years in the Portland area, she says she likes the feel of the community and enjoys the rural area.
Zagaris says her desire to teach has been “more of a ministry” than a career choice. She views her classroom as “a place where children are valued, cared for, encouraged, and met with unconditional love and challenges that extend beyond academics.”
Zagaris was honored at this year’s chamber banquet in February.
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