Kate Dean

2021 Amazing Educators - Estacada News

School: Estacada High School
Why she is amazing: Dean was named Oregon Biology Teacher of the Year Award in 2012 and the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2015



Though it’s been a tumultuous year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Estacada High School science teacher Kate Dean has still found many opportunities to show students how the concepts they’re learning are applicable to their daily lives.

“This year is perfect for that,” she said. “We pull COVID into our lessons because it matches up so well. We’re able to clear up some misconceptions. We just finished talking about vaccines and why having side effects makes sense.”

Dean, who teaches biology and anatomy, previously received the Oregon Biology Teacher of the Year Award in 2012 and the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2015.

Estacada High School principal Amy Hudson praised Dean’s ability to work with students.

“She is an innovative educator that consistently adjusts her practices to meet the diverse needs of her students,” Hudson said.

The Estacada School District switched to comprehensive distance learning last spring to facilitate social distancing, a change that has brought many changes for Dean and her colleagues.

“It’s been a complete and total paradigm shift as we engage kids and get them to collaborate,” she said. “We’ve been finding virtual experiences and ways to engage the kids.”

Teaching science has been especially challenging during the pandemic since science experiments require chemicals and specialized equipment that students don’t have in their homes.

“There have been a lot more online simulations, or I’ll do the experiment myself and take photos to show them,” she said.

Dean is also working with a new biology curriculum which follows the story of a girl who’s picked up an antibiotic resistant infection.

“The story has really pulled them in,” she said. “Each lesson, the kids discover something else about what happened to the girl. It’s a true story so they want to know what happens at the end.”Along with piquing student interest, Dean thinks that 2020-21 was good time to make the switch to the new curriculum, rather than adapting previous ones to distance learning.

“I wasn’t approaching this year as if I needed to fit my curriculum. Everything was already new,” she said.

For Dean, one of the most rewarding elements of teaching is building relationships with students, and she’s happy that this has been able to continue during distance learning.

“I was pleasantly surprised, even in a virtual setting, that those relationships still get to the same place,” she said.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has presented difficulties for schools across the country, there have been some upsides, Dean said.“Distance learning has been a forced change, but there’s been a lot of valuable information coming from it about how we teach, and the level of personal responsibility students need to take with their learning,” Dean said. “It’s uncovered the idea of being independent learners. Kids are starting to see that, too. It’s been cool to watch those soft skills come into play.”