Learning with questions: Local science teacher up for award

Glacier Peak High School’s Tami Caraballo is a finalist for the state Teacher of the Year award.

Tami Caraballo (Northwest Educational Service District 189)

Tami Caraballo (Northwest Educational Service District 189)

EVERETT — Glacier Peak High School science teacher Tami Caraballo doesn’t give out homework.

While that’s likely enough to convince her students she’s the best teacher ever, Caraballo’s innovative, hands-on approach has earned her a spot as a finalist for the 2020 Washington Teacher of the Year award.

The Northwest Educational Service District 189 named Caraballo Regional Teacher of the Year in June. She’s since advanced to the state round, and is one of nine candidates vying for the title. The winner will be announced Monday.

Caraballo believes science should be fun. She has students create 3-D models, conduct real-life research and ask lots of questions.

“That’s really the crux of science — you should wonder,” she said. “It’s not about the right answer, it’s about the really good questions.”

Caraballo first started teaching in 1982 because she didn’t get into medical school on her first round of applications. She ended up getting in on the second round, but was enjoying teaching too much to leave it.

“That is not a decision I have ever regretted,” she said.

Caraballo started at Glacier Peak in 1989.

While her students don’t have take-home work, they’re studying hard all 55 minutes they’re in her class. This year, she’s not allowing any phones.

Caraballo works to bring the professional world into her classroom. In her time with the Snohomish School District, she’s started programs in forensic science and biotech that allow students to interact with scientists from those industries.

Many of Caraballo’s students have gone on to work in fields like microbiology or global health research, said Deb Koenig, director of career and technical education in the Snohomish School District.

“She’s just a professional,” Koenig said. “She works really hard and tries to have students understand that in science, there is no right answer.”

That’s the message Caraballo wants to convey to her freshman and sophomore students who might be intimidated by technical vocabulary in science.

“Failure is always an option in my class,” she said. “That’s what I really want is for kids to not be afraid to take a chance.”

Julia-Grace Sanders: 425-339-3439; jgsanders@heraldnet.com.

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