Tessi Sims

Tessi Sims, who teaches first grade at Harrisburg Elementary School, has been named the Oregon Small Schools Association Teacher of the Year for 2017.

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A first-grade teacher at Harrisburg Elementary School is the recipient of the Oregon Small Schools Association's 2017 Teacher of the Year award.

Tessi Sims is in her 16th year at Harrisburg and her 22nd year of education total. She grew up in Harrisburg, as did her parents, and all of them went to Harrisburg Elementary School.

Sims said she always knew she wanted to be a teacher. Her cousins didn't look forward to family gatherings much, she said, because she was the oldest.

"Every holiday I would line them up and teach them," she said, laughing. "I would boss them and I would teach them." 

In her nomination letter, Principal Carol O'Connor said Sims isn't at all bossy — she's just good at effectively motivating her students and fostering an atmosphere of trust and respect.

"She demonstrates a sincere interest in her students and expresses a serious concern for each and every one of them," she wrote. "Year after year, the students in her classroom show tremendous improvement, not just in reading, writing and math, but socially and emotionally as well."

In a statement from the organization, Michael Lasher, OSSA executive director, said Sims rose to the top because her highly effective teaching and dedication to her students "are outstanding examples of what small district teachers do throughout Oregon to give their students the best education." 

Sims received the award Nov. 12 as part of the Oregon School Boards Association's annual convention in Portland. She'll be invited back next year as a featured speaker.

"I've been telling people that it feels so good to be honored for something I honestly love to do. It feels a little unfair," she said. "It's pretty rare to have a career or job I look forward to every morning, to come see my kiddos."

In addition to teaching, Sims serves on the School Wide Improvement Plan committee, Pro-Social Committee, Report Card Committee and Back-to-School Committee.

"I'm thrilled I get to represent Harrisburg because it's such a great district," she said. "I'm the lucky one to have a job that I do love." 

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