Debbie Steere

Debbie Steere

2022 Amazing Educators - Happy Valley

Hometown: Happy Valley
Why she is an Amazing Educator:
Despite the challenges of battling cancer and teaching during the pandemic, Debbie Steere never misses a beat, creating a creative curriculum that combines reading and artwork.



While many teachers in Oregon have had a rough past two years, few have battled breast cancer and had the February 2021 ice storm dropped trees on their car.

Despite the immense challenges, Debbie Steere has taken on an in-person and online class load that seems impossible to pull off while regularly squeezing in doctor’s appointments and runs to the pharmacy. Steere is modest about her accomplishments, saying she’s not the only educator at Clackamas Web Academy who has dealt with cancer during the last three years.

“Four of my colleagues have gone through it, and we all support each other,” she says. “It’s a high number for a small school. Our administration has been incredibly supportive too.”

Steere’s friend Amy Nakano says the educator is the type of person who “never complains.”

“Debbie does more than teach,” Nakano says. “Debbie never misses a beat.”

Like many teachers, Steere makes trips to craft and hardware stores to purchase supplies for classroom projects. Once home, she preps projects for hours each Sunday.

Steere’s school provides most of the necessary funding for these supplies, and she received additional financial support recently through her successful grant writing. The North Clackamas Education Foundation provided $480 for Steere’s new drying racks and a portable art cart.

Besides teaching English, Steere rotates in an art-history class where students engage in drawing and photography. She tries to “to bring Shakespeare alive” for students by teaching a unit that incorporates artwork into language arts classes.

“I find incorporating art into the classroom is a wonderful way for students to de-stress as they return to our classrooms from the pandemic,” she says. “During the pandemic kids didn’t have as much opportunity to do those hands-on projects, and be able to socialize while they’re doing those projects in a way that’s not stressful for them.”

Steere is also teaching a Sherlock Holmes-themed literature class this semester.

“Students love solving mysteries. It’s a great way to get students engaged in reading and writing as they search for clues and evidence in the stories,” she says.

Given the immense challenges for teachers during the pandemic, especially if they’re dealing with personal health issues, “other people might have given up by now, cut their hours or retired,” Nakano says. But not Steere, who “starts every week with fresh energy,” her friend says.

When time allows, Steere runs with her chihuahua, Truman. She found time to enter the 5-kilometer Stumptown cross-country race at Mary S. Young Park in October.

“I was slow, but I finished,” she says. “When I was going through cancer in 2020, I promised myself I would celebrate my birthday by entering a race.”

Steere has worked for the past 16 years at the public charter school, after working at Molalla High School for a year. She says her school has long offered “a great hybrid model” for students, with some classes online and some in person, which appeals to students who may need to travel the world as they pursue careers as dancers, for example.

“We get a lot of kids who have maybe struggled a bit, and we are able to help them graduate,” she says.
Steere considers herself “extremely lucky” to work at a school where she serves as an advisor (similar to a mentor) to a group of about 20 students and their families every year. Sometimes she will continue as the advisor for her students through their entire high school careers.

“I have worked with a few families for a decade as siblings work their way through our school,” she says.