REDMOND, Ore. - Dr. Nicole MacTavish, Principal of Redmond High School, announced Tuesday that Mark Winger, Redmond High School Career Technical Education Teacher, was named Deschutes Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4018 Teacher of the Year.
Winger, who has taught in the Redmond School District for 13 years and who teaches Construction and Wood Technology at Redmond High School, was surprised and humbled by the award which honors teachers who embody community involvement and patriotism through their work with youth.
For Winger, it is very hard to accept this type of public recognition. "The part that makes me feel good is that I was never a vet and this is a way I can give back to those who serve us so well. This is my way of giving back to our community when I was never able to be part of a service. "
Winger has a very personal connection to those who serve. "My brother was a Vietnam Vet and he has been dealing with issues related to the War since he served." Winger describes how his brother never felt welcomed back to the United States after the Vietnam War.
Winger, with deep emotion, described how it was the students at Redmond High School who finally made his brother feel welcomed. "We had a Living History Day here at Redmond High School. The kids at Redmond High gave him his first ‘Welcome Back.'"
Those who know Winger know that public recognition is something that makes him very uncomfortable. Winger always wants the spotlight to be on the work his students do. "I love what I do and I hope that it shows."
"We couldn't be prouder of Mr. Winger. He represents the best of Redmond High School. He is an amazing professional, hugely active in the community, and everything he does, every day, is student-centered," said Nicole MacTavish, Redmond High School principal.
Cameron Gunther, a student in Winger's Advanced Construction class said, "Winger has not just been my wood shop teacher, you can talk to him about anything. He always makes time for kids. He always puts himself second and kids first."
ustin Ontjes, also a student in Advanced Construction, agreed, "He is a good guy. He helps his students with whatever they need. He has taught me a lot of skills, getting me ready to graduate, ready for the big world."
Neither Gunther nor Ontjes were surprised Winger won this honor; they both think the world of him.
Gunther stated, "He is really involved. He really cares."
Ontjes added, "I'm surprised he hasn't won it before!"
Winger's Construction and Woods programs are well known throughout the community.
One of the program's far reaching projects is creating beautiful wooden signs that adorn many area fire and police stations such as: Redmond Police Department, Gresham Fire Department, Tillamook Police Department, Deschutes County Sheriff Department, Crooked River Ranch Fire Department, Sunriver Fire and Rescue, Bureau of Land Management, and Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire District.
Winger's classes are currently working on a sign for Black Butte Ranch Fire Department.
Judith Fergen-Meyer, Deschutes VFW Post 4108 Youth/Scholarship Chairperson stated that Winger was nominated by fellow teacher Susan Foster, who teaches Special Education classes at Redmond High School.
According to Foster, "He teaches his students the woodworking and hand carving skills they need to complete these signs, and then he assists the students in creating a presentation to donate the sign to the organization."
In addition to teaching construction and woodworking to regular education students, Winger makes a point to bring his teaching to highly impacted Special Needs students. According to Foster, "He has not only welcomed students with disabilities into his classes, he advocates having students with the most impacting disabilities."
Winger chose to become an educator after the events of 9/11. According to Foster, "He took his grief and fear and turned it into passion, using his teaching abilities to mold the youth of Redmond into citizens that respect community, country and individuals, and to give honor and respect to the brave individuals that give selflessly to ensure our safety each day."
Six independent community member judges chose Winger's nomination from the field of contenders. Meyer stated that the judges seemed particularly impressed with Winger's work both with Special Needs students and with his significant work, "helping students know what it means to be a community member."
From here, Winger's nomination packet will move on to compete with teachers from all over Central Oregon, VFW District 10. If Winger wins the District 10 competition, he will move forward to the state level competition.