Bushnell University Alumna Honored

EUGENE, Ore. – Sherry Reeder ’17, M.Ed. ’19, a special education teacher at Molalla River Middle School in Molalla, Oregon, has been named one of four winners of the 2024 OnPoint Prize for Excellence in Education Educator of the Year award. This prestigious recognition honors outstanding educators in Oregon and Southwest Washington who inspire students and make significant contributions to their schools and communities. 

Reeder, who graduated from Bushnell University in 2017 with a degree in teacher education and in 2019 with a Master of Education in special education, has always had a passion for teaching. Her commitment to her students and innovative teaching methods have set her apart as a leader in education. 

Reflecting on her journey, Reeder shared that her dream of becoming a teacher started when she was just ten years old. This dream has shaped her career and teaching philosophy, which she encapsulated in the motto she developed during her college years: “involve, influence, inspire.” 

Reeder believes in the potential of every student and emphasizes the importance of giving students a voice in their education. “Involving students in their academics by giving them a voice and a chance to be heard moves mountains and supports students in overcoming barriers,” she said. This belief was vividly demonstrated in a recent lesson she conducted on weight and balance, inspired by her aunt, a Senior Master Sergeant in the United States Air Force. Reeder’s lesson included a presentation by her aunt, hands-on activities, and collaborative projects that made learning relevant and engaging for her students. The lesson was particularly impactful in a rural community where many students have military aspirations or connections.  

Reeder’s approach involves teaching practical skills and allowing students to apply their knowledge creatively. This not only engages students of all backgrounds and abilities but also inspires them to see themselves in future career roles. “As a special educator who believes students can accomplish all things with correct supports, students need to be able to see themselves in the content,” she emphasized. 

Beyond her classroom, Reeder is deeply involved in initiatives that enhance school culture and student engagement. Following feedback from the Youth Truth survey of students’ experiences that highlighted a need for better teacher-student relationships and increased respect, Reeder led focus groups to gather more insights from students. The feedback emphasized the need for personal connections and additional support from teachers. In response, Reeder and her colleagues have implemented several changes, such as personalized greetings during attendance, more interactive class assignments, and “brain breaks” to help students manage their stress. 

One of Reeder’s notable projects is promoting accessible electives for dually identified students, those who qualify for English Learner (EL) services and Special Education (SPED) service, ensuring they have equal opportunities to explore various subjects and discover their interests. This initiative has already positively impacted several students, boosting their confidence and academic performance. 

Reeder also actively connects her students with the broader community. As the assistant coach for the middle school’s Unified Basketball team, she fosters inclusion and teamwork by bringing together students with and without intellectual disabilities. These efforts have not only built a sense of community within the school but also challenged stereotypes and celebrated diversity. 

Her role extends to organizing award nights that recognize student achievements across various domains, ensuring that every student feels valued and celebrated. Reeder’s dedication to fostering a supportive and inclusive school environment has made a lasting impact on her students and colleagues. 

Reeder’s recognition as an OnPoint Educator of the Year is evidence of her answering God’s call and her dedication to her students and innovative approach to teaching. Her work embodies the principles of involvement, influence, and inspiration, making her a deserving recipient of this prestigious award. Moreover, Reeder exemplifies Bushnell University’s core theme of exercising faithful stewardship. She demonstrates respect for the resources entrusted to her and utilizes them in ways that honor God and enhance educational and institutional effectiveness. Through her stewardship, Reeder ensures that the impact of her work is both sustainable and meaningful, bringing honor to the One who has entrusted these gifts to her. 

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