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Robot Competition Founder Named Nat. Teacher of the Year

The Council of Chief State School Officers today announced Jeff Charbonneau, a high school science teacher in Washington state, as the 2013 National Teacher of the Year.

Charbonneau, a National Board-certified teacher with 12 years of experience, teaches chemistry, science, and engineering at Zillah High School in Zillah, Wash. He holds degrees in science and education from Central Washington University.

Among other resume highlights, Charbonneau is the founder and director of the Zillah High School Robot Challenge, a very cool-sounding engineering competition for which he has raised some $25,000 in donations and grants. Presumably thanks to his fundraising efforts, the competition is open to all schools in Washington free of charge. Here's a taste of what's involved:

All operations performed by the robot must first be written in computer code by the students. As such, students must learn the computer language P-Basic. The program makes use of students' mathematical and problem solving skills by requiring keen attention to detail and mathematical ingenuity to get the robot to perform at its highest level. Additionally, the robot needs to be physically assembled and wired. This allows for an increased understanding of electrical currents and circuitry.

According to the CCSSO, Charbonneau's teaching philosophy is oriented around the use of interactive learning experiences to build students' confidence and engagement in the sciences. "I greet my students in class every day by saying, 'Welcome back to another day in paradise,'" he says. "The reality is that paradise must be built, maintained and improved each day. It removes the words 'can't,' 'too hard' and 'impossible' from our vocabulary."

Along with the 2013 State Teachers of the Year, Charbonneau will be recogized by President Obama in a ceremony at the White House tomorrow. We'll have a complete report from the event, so stay tuned.

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