Woodland teacher earns national honor

Jennifer Cullison has started several science programs in 12 years at high school

By Brooks Johnson, Columbian Business Reporter

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Jennifer Cullison has some pretty good hypotheses about teaching. Her peers think they deserve to be theories.

The Woodland High School science teacher received a national honor in December for her teaching philosophy and achievements. Cullison was one of 10 teachers chosen as a Claes Nobel Educator of the Year.

“Ms. Cullison embodies all the characteristics of a lifelong learner and models her passion for learning with her students on a daily basis,” said Woodland High School Principal John Shoup in a statement.

Cullison has taught in Woodland for 12 years, and in that time started the honors science and health sciences programs, got the school involved in the national Health Occupations Students of America and started a bilingual biology class.

That and much more earned her a nomination for the Claes Nobel award, for which Cullison competed against 100 other applicants.

“I try to create real, hands-on types of experiences for my kids,” said Cullison, 38. “To make science something that’s understandable and applicable in our lives.”

The Puyallup native said she was hired by Woodland after college and was given free rein to start whichever programs she wanted.

That included Woodland’s Health Occupations Students of America, a student-run group that competes nationally — and does pretty well, Cullison said.

Her newest initiative is the bilingual biology class, which she teaches one period a day. Cullison was in Peru this summer learning Spanish, and she said the experience of teaching in a second language is “a new venture for me.”

This year, after “teaching 11 years with one sink,” Cullison is grateful she has a fully outfitted science lab in Woodland’s new high school, which opened this year.

“The new school is wonderful,” she said.

Cullison said she keeps track of many of her students, some of whom have gone into science careers or are entering medical school.

But so many students could have missed out on Cullison’s instruction had she continued in her doctorate studies instead of switching to a master’s in education.

“I got the best of both worlds,” she said. “I still talk about science and do science everyday, but I also get to teach and inspire the next generation.”

Cullison has also been honored by her alma mater, Washington State University, and has been a finalist for three years running for the national Shell Science Teaching Award.