GSE graduate Brett Bigham, MS ’02, Oregon’s Teacher of the Year and this year’s guest speaker at the GSE Academic Hooding Ceremony, has been named a recipient of the 2015 California Casualty Award for Teaching Excellence.Mr. Bigham will be recognized at the Salute to Excellence in Education gala to be held in Washington, DC, on February 13, 2015. He is one of 39 recipients across the country who have been nominated by their NEA state affiliate. Each educator’s school will receive a $650 award, and five finalists will be selected to receive $10,000. One finalist will be named the nation’s top educator and receive an additional $25,000.
Brett Bigham is a transition teacher at the Multnomah Education Service District (MESD). He works with youth aged 17-21 who graduated from high school on a modified diploma. He first gained notice in local media for organizing a prom each year for east Multnomah County transition students. He has also written and published field trip guides for students on the autism spectrum.
“The state of Oregon is lucky to have such an outstanding role model as a teacher for all teachers and all educators across the state,” said Rob Saxton, Oregon Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction, as he honored Mr. Bigham as Oregon’s Teacher of the Year. He is the first special educator and the first openly gay educator to receive the award.
“Here’s an example of a person that you really need to get to know,” said Barbara Jorgenson, superintendent of the MESD. “He is one of the best role models I have seen in a long time for kids. I’ve seen a lot of teachers through all of my years here, and I don’t think there’s anybody as outstanding as Brett is. He speaks his heart and soul with everything he does.”
The NEA and the NEA Foundation are partners in the award, which is sponsored by California Casualty. “We give these awards annually to honor and promote excellence in education and to elevate the profession,” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “Educators like these are critical to their students’ academic success, and they deserve national recognition.”