Return to Headlines

Yakima's Megan Anderson-Reilly named ESD 105 Regional Teacher of the Year

Megan Anderson-Reilly's staff portrait Megan Anderson-Reilly, who has made numerous life-changing impacts for students in the classrooms of the Yakima School District’s Davis High School and Washington Middle School, is the Educational Service District 105 Regional Teacher of the Year for 2020-21.

The new Regional Teacher of the Year will serve as south central Washington’s candidate for the 2021 Washington State Teacher of the Year.  Nine educators from throughout the state will by vying for that statewide title, which the Olympia-based Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction will announce during a Facebook Live presentation scheduled for Monday, Sept. 14, at 5:00 p.m.  The eventual recipient of the Washington State Teacher of the Year award will then advance as a candidate for the 2021 National Teacher of the Year award that will be announced next spring.

Anderson-Reilly’s initial tenure at the Yakima School District was during 2003-2007, when she worked at Davis High School as an English language development teacher as well as an instructor of physical science and biology for English language learners. 

She then taught English language arts and science to 5th-12th grade student in Puebla, Mexico, during 2007-2008, after which she was as an adjunct instructor for classes in English as a second language at Yakima Valley Community College from 2008 to 2013.

She rejoined the Yakima School District in 2014, where for the past six years she helped guide significant impacts in working with English language learners at Washington Middle School.  While there, she also started the school district’s first Newcomer Center in 2017.  This fall is marking her return to Davis High School, where Anderson-Reilly is teaching high school Spanish.

In her previous position at the Washington Middle School’s Newcomer Center, Anderson-Reilly assisted in programs promoting language development for native Hispanic students who had moved into the school district from a variety of backgrounds.  Some of her students there were desiring to learn and perform at the same high level of academic excellence that they had achieved in Mexico, while others may have needed language acquisition skills in order to begin making up existing gaps in their ability to read, write, or do math. 

Anderson-Reilly’s innovations at Washington Middle School included having students learn English vocabulary by going into the school office or into another classroom to engage in conversations with students of on-grade-level English speakers.  She also developed a bingo-like game to help students practice word pronunciation and to clarify unknown terms.

In developing the Newcomer Center at Washington Middle School, Anderson-Reilly focused on creating a system to help students adjust to their new school system by providing accelerated language development, building academic skills, addressing social-emotional learning, promoting cultural appreciation, and connecting with families.  The teacher made contacts with newcomer programs at other schools throughout the country to identify processes and resources to use in the one for the Yakima School District.

The teacher also set up a system in which newly arrived students to the Newcomer Center are assigned to a bilingual classmate (designated as an “ambassador”) to help them make connections with the school and their mainstream classes. 

Anderson-Reilly has also conducted numerous professional development sessions for teachers throughout Washington Middle School and the rest of the Yakima School District that focus on best practices in helping them educate the English language-learning students in their classrooms.

“What truly sets her apart is her impact on the school, community, and state level as an advocate for ELL students,” wrote Washington Middle School assistant principal Nick Mifflin in his letter supporting the teacher’s application for the ESD 105 award.  “She works with staff members individually to support ELL students, she collaborates with the district to advocate for equity and supports for ELL students, and she provides scaffolded, engaging supports for ELL students.”

At Washington Middle School, Anderson-Reilly also successfully pursued a service that connects Newcomer Center students with a counselor from an outside agency in order to assist them with their social-emotional needs.

“I believe educators must be leaders in promoting equity for our students,” Anderson-Reilly wrote in her application for the regional award.  “Equity requires putting systems in place so that every student has a chance to succeed.”

Fellow Spanish teacher Leticia Guzman at Eisenhower High School wrote in her letter of support for Anderson-Reilly’s award application:  “Megan researches the best resources available from games to movie clips and uses creative and innovative strategies … and makes learning accessible to all her students and gives them opportunities to think critically, create, collaborate, and ask questions.”

As Anderson-Reilly wrote in her application materials for the regional award:  “My role is to teach language and provide opportunities for students to practice.  Additionally, I must empower students to become independent, confident, and engaged learners.”

The newly named ESD 105 Regional Teacher of the Year earned her bachelor of arts degree in biology and a minor in Spanish from Gonzaga University.  She later enrolled at Central Washington University to obtain her master of arts degree in English and her teaching certification in Spanish, ESL, and bilingual education.

Candidates for the ESD 105 Regional Teacher of the Year were nominated by members of their home school district communities, and were reviewed by a regional selection committee comprised of four school board members and a 2020 high school class valedictorian. 

The four other candidates for the 2020-21 ESD 105 Regional Teacher of the Year award were: 
• Ellensburg High School health and fitness teacher Levi Teasley;
• Ellensburg School District special education teacher Joan Smith of Morgan Middle School;
• Ellensbug School District 5th grade teacher Cynthia Hilburn of Mt. Stuart Elementary School; and
• Sunnyside High School math teacher Geoff La Brant.