The award wasn’t given for generosity.
But it sure seemed that way after Mike Derzon, who teaches at The Island School, was recently named 2017’s Educator of the Year by the Kiwanis Club of Bainbridge Island.
After the award was announced, Derzon was eager to share — ready and willing to give away the spotlight for being the best of the best at the head of the class.
He said the award belongs to all educators with a passion for teaching.
“I am truly honored,” Derzon said.
And he was quick to praise the other teachers at The Island School for their work as well.
“I wanted to accept the honor of that award on behalf of my colleagues and I who work together to really make the very best experiences we can for our students,” Derzon said.
Derzon took a moment to thank his co-teacher especially.
“I wish I could share the distinction with my co-teacher Betsy Carroll, because it’s really through our partnership that I’ve been a successful teacher and that we together have created a really outstanding fifth-grade program for the last 13 years,” Derzon said.
Derzon wears many hats at The Island School. He co-teaches fifth grade and music, and is also the leader of the Green Team.
The Green Team is an environmental sustainability education group at The Island School which focuses on educating students about proper composting techniques, recycling and alternative energy sources. The group even takes an annual trip to Eastern Washington, where the students get to tour the Grand Coulee Dam, Wild Horse Wind Farm and the Skone &Connors farm.
Joan Henderson, The Island School’s director of advancement, said that while the school is a collaborative community, and many accomplishments are attributable to many hands, “Mike emerges as a leader.”
“He is energetic, upbeat and selfless, and truly inspiring,” she said.
Since graduating from Antioch University in the early 1990s, Derzon has worked as a teacher. He’s spent the last 26 years teaching in Mexico, Colorado, Seattle and finally, Bainbridge.
Derzon says that what’s kept him at The Island School for the last 15 years is the individual attention that each student receives at the school, and not just in the academic realm, alone.
“We are able to think about really teaching what’s most important for each individual kid,” Derzon said.
“One of the main features is that we look at both their academics, as well as who they are as individuals, and what specific things they need to be the best them they can be,” he explained.
“I am just so thankful to teach at a place that looks at each kid’s social needs and emotional needs and that each of them can learn to live with integrity and treat their friends well,” Derzon said.
“I want each kid to be just the very best at being themselves, really growing into themselves,” he added.
For Derzon, seeing the kids blossom as individual people is one of the greatest parts of his job.
“I really love seeing who these kids are as individuals and every single one of them is there doing their best. I know that even if somebody misbehaves or has a bad day, or treats someone in a way that they wouldn’t be proud of, I’m cognizant of the fact that inside each one of them is this outstanding kid; a real individual,” Derzon said.
Derzon said that while receiving the honor is humbling, he is also challenged by the number of quality teachers on the island.
“I’m feeling humbled because there are so many great educators both at my school and across the island. To receive an honor like this is challenging, because I honestly wish it could be given to all the teachers out there who are teaching with their heart and their mind and giving their best efforts,” Derzon said.
“Frankly, it’s hard to receive this when I know so many others are doing such a great job,” he added.
While Derzon would prefer to share his award with the other hardworking teachers of Bainbridge Island, there’s no denying that Derzon has a joy for teaching that few can find in any other profession.
“I just love teaching, teaching has been fun for me the whole time I’ve been doing it. I just enjoy it. It’s good fun,” Derzon said.
“It’s also a ton of hard work.”