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Princeton teacher named Educator of the Year
Teaching science at a small high school like Princeton is more than just getting students to understand themselves and the world around them.
Although that is a big part of it, it is not everything, according to third-year teacher Natalie Behr, who was named Region 2 Educator of the Year last week in Redding by the League of California High Schools.
In addition to teaching seventh- through 12th-grade science, biology, physics, anatomy and physiology, Behr, 25, is a class adviser, cheer coach, a member of the school site council and occasional announcer for sporting events. She also involves herself in local events, such as the annual Portuguese Festa.
"When you work in a small school like Princeton, you just become part of the community," Behr said. "At Princeton, there is no such thing as 'that is not my job.'"
Principal Cody Walker said it was Behr's willingness to go above and beyond being a good teacher that got her his nomination for Educator of the Year, an award given to a high school teacher in each of the 11 regions within state.
Behr will be honored at the state California League of Schools' conference in February in Sacramento. She, along with the other regional award winners, will speak, and a state Educator of the Year will be selected at that time.
Behr was also nominated for the award by her former student, Chad Zoller, who graduated in 2012.
"Natalie is an excellent teacher," Walker said, "but it was more than her abilities as an educator or her dedication that I choose to nominate her."
Although science test scores have climbed since Behr joined the staff in 2012, it is what she does both inside and outside the classroom that makes her an educator worthy of the prestigious award, Walker said.
"Like most of our teachers, she lives in Chico," added Walker, "but she is always here. Natalie gives so much more than inspiring students in science and setting them on pathways into medical careers."
And while dedication to her students and the Princeton community firmly established Behr as a finalist for the region's Educator of the Year award, it was Behr who won over the panel of judges when she spoke about why she became a teacher.
"In all seriousness, I became a teacher by accident," Behr recalled. "Call it serendipity."
As a biology major at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Behr had planned to become a doctor, and her life was consumed with labs, hospitals and research.
She said she had no interest in the field of education or a career dealing with children, until she took a science education class her junior year to fill credit requirements.
It was this particular class and the inspiration she received from her professor, that set Behr on a path to teaching.
It was there she realized that what she loved about science was explaining the unexplainable, searching for answers to puzzles, problem solving and experimenting. It was there she discovered she too had a gift for sharing her love for science.
Behr said that as much as she loves science, the love of only the subject does not make a good teacher.
"In Princeton, I have the unique opportunity to teach my students through junior high and high school. I watch them grow and develop and change into the young adults they will become. I became a teacher because I know my true place is not to be responsible for saving lives, but changing them," Behr said.