Zillah educator on State Teacher of the Year award: 'I've been so blessed'

ZILLAH, Wash. -- Zillah science teacher Jeff Charbonneau was named Washington State's Teacher of the Year after taking home the regional title last month.

KIMA got the chance to go inside his classroom at Zillah High School a day after winning the prestigious award.

"Welcome back to another day in paradise."

It's a phrase Charbonneau uses to begin every class and represents his teaching philosophy.

"Paradise is not found, despite what Milton says. It's not lost overnight either," said Jeff Charbonneau. "It's something that needs to be built, maintained by sweat equity and hard work."

It's what this year's Washington State Teacher of the Year asks his students every day; to put in the work.

In return, students say they get one-on-one help and a teacher who goes the extra mile.

"I had a D, but for him helping me on my tests and allowing me to re-take them and getting that help, I got better on it," said Zillah High School Senior Jachelle Gorham. "Because of him being my teacher, I passed."

Many students simply call him "Charb."

Over the years, he's formed partnerships with universities and colleges so his students can earn college credit for his science classes.

His success is written on the wall; one of the first things you see when you walk into Charbonneau's classroom is a wall covered with student pictures and thank you letters.

Jeff says these relationships are the true rewards of his teaching.

"I'm exceedingly proud and exceedingly happy for them," said Charbonneau.

Charbonneau said his award is a testament to the quality of education in the Yakima Valley.

His involvement at Zillah High School extends far beyond the classroom. He's active in the school's drama, yearbook and robotics programs.

"I honestly, don't have any hobbies except for school. I've been so blessed for the last 12 years that I firmly believe I have not gone to work a single day. I've gone to school," Charbonneau said.

Charbonneau is now in the running for National Teacher of the year, which will be announced next spring. That means a trip to the White House to meet the president win or lose.

His prize for the state honor includes cash and grants to use in the classroom. Some of which he'd like to use to expand the robotics program.