Shenandoah names Teacher of the Year

Kara Bates, right, agroecology teacher at Massanutten Regional Governor's School in Mount Jackson, talks with students Isabella Hall, left, 18, and Leila Husain, 17, both seniors at East Rockingham High School. Bates was recently named Shenandoah County Teacher of the Year. Josette Keelor/Daily

MOUNT JACKSON — Agroecology teacher Kara Bates loves what she does.

Recently named Shenandoah County Public Schools’ Teacher of the Year, the 36-year-old Massanutten Regional Governor’s School teacher said part of what makes the job for her is that students want to be there.

“Today they were designing packages,” she said.

Using two sheets of computer paper and a foot of Scotch Tape, they needed to figure out a way of supporting the weight of two textbooks. A lesson designed for one classroom block took two blocks, Bates said, because students “kept wanting to get better and better.”

“It’s so rewarding to see that happen,” she said. “That’s what learning should be.”

In preparation for the end of the school year, her students have been completing projects like an active solar heating system for the school greenhouse, a model of a hydro-electric dam to use on smaller bodies of water or a green roof.

“It’s something they choose for themselves,” she said of the projects. “They learn so much more than they would, because it’s something they’re interested in.”

At the governor’s school, housed at Triplett Tech in Mount Jackson, at least 75 percent of Bates’ time is required for collaborative efforts with other teachers.

“Because we have to be so collaborative, it’s important that we have that time,” she said. Lessons are from 7:50 to 10:15 a.m., she said. The rest of the time, she’s grading projects or planning.

The extensive preparation enables students to see the implications of their studies in their other classes — environmental science, statistics and English, which they study on alternate days.

“We have classes not necessarily offered at the home school,” Bates said.

The governor’s school draws from public schools in Shenandoah, Page and Rockingham counties and the city of Harrisonburg, and she said students have to apply for and be selected to the school. Students take all four classes as juniors and advanced versions as seniors. Bates’ class is available as a dual enrollment course at Lord Fairfax Community College in Middletown.

An agroecology teacher for seven years, she previously taught all ages of schoolchildren as an environmental educator for the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District.

Calling her Teacher of the Year title “an honor,” Bates said she was surprised to hear her name announced at the district’s Celebrating Our Successes awards banquet on Tuesday, which recognized each of the school divisions’ school-named teachers of the year, as well as employee of the year and team of the year.

But the decision made sense to Superintendent Jeremy Raley, who said the title recognizes Bates’ demonstrated leadership in the classroom and success in her field.

“I know that Kara is truly going to be an ambassador for our school division,” he said.

“Her instructional practices are cutting edge, and she’s doing amazing things for students.”

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com