• Franklin teachers Mercedes Munoz, Anne McHugh win awards

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    Mercedes Munoz and Anne McHugh

    Mercedes Munoz and Anne McHugh, teachers at Franklin High School.

    Two teachers at Franklin High School have won significant awards for their service to students. Mercedes Munoz won an Oregon Regional Teacher of the Year Award, and Anne McHugh won a Presidential Innovation Award for the Pacific Northwest from the Environmental Protection Agency.

    Oregon Regional Teacher of the Year: Munoz, a Special Education teacher, was one of 12 teachers who won the regional honor, which comes with a $500 prize. She was informed of her selection with a surprise pop-in during a Wednesday class by Franklin Principal Chris Frazier and Joe LaFountaine, PPS Area Assistant Superintendent for High Schools.

    "You are an incredible example of the dedicated educators in Oregon," wrote Colt Gill, Director of the Oregon Department of Education, in her award letter. "The Blue Ribbon Panel facilitated by Multnomah ESD was inspired by your commitment to rigor in your daily instruction and leadership in school equity efforts."

    Munoz has led Franklin’s Special Education efforts since 2014 and is renowned for her classroom management and ability to connect with students. She is a staff leader who is on the school’s equity and professional development teams, and is a dedicated user of data in making decision.

    "Without a doubt, she is the strongest team member we have and an invaluable asset to our Franklin students, staff, and overall community," her fellow Franklin Special Education teacher, Andy Clark, wrote in a nominating letter. "Mercedes consistently goes beyond what is required of a teacher and never asks for recognition or thanks for the many tasks she takes on in any given day.”

    By winning the regional honor, Munoz became a finalist for the 2020 Oregon Teacher of the Year Award that will be announced in September. The state award, which is given by the ODE in partnership with the Oregon Lottery, includes a $5,000 gift to the winner, another $5,000 to the winner's school, plus a fund to cover the winner's travel costs for the year.

    The state award, which started in 1955, has been bestowed on a Portland Public Schools teacher four times, the last in 2018 to Matthew Bacon-Benes of Mt. Tabor Middle School.

    EPA Presidential Innovation Award: McHugh, who is teaching Environmental Science and Physics this year, earned an award that recognizes educators “who incorporate environmental education in their classrooms and teaching methods.” She will receive a $2,500 prize with which she can further her professional development in environmental education (she plans to improve her coding skills and develop an integrated microbiology/bioinformatics CTE elective), and Franklin also will receive $2,500 to fund environmental educational activities and programs.

    McHugh is in her first year at Franklin after teaching in the Beaverton School District. She says her students’ choices drive what they investigate in class, and her approach is to tackle questions neither she nor her students know the answers to.

    This year, her Environmental Science students worked on desktop hydroponics systems to explore how different aspects of the food chain affect one another, with research done in collaboration NASA researchers. Students will present their findings remotely to scientists at NASA’s Ames Research Center.

    “I prefer hands-on experiences,” student Vanessa Pizzuto said. “I can say ‘I did this. I kept the fish alive! Next I’d like to look more at the algae.’”

    McHugh said she hopes to use the $2,500 school prize to further the aquaponics research and the collaboration with NASA as part the Next Generation Science Standards Biology classes she will teach next school year.

    “I am very excited to be able to further provide environmental education opportunities for students at Franklin and in PPS broadly,” she said.

    Read more about Anne McHugh and her Franklin students