Three vie for Educator of the Year award from Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce

Cindy Crumb

Cindy Crumb

PORT ANGELES — What makes a good teacher?

Ask Cindy Crumb, John Gallagher and Ron Jones.

They are finalists for the inaugural Educator of the Year award from the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce.

In honor of their achievements, Crumb, Gallagher and Jones, who retired last year, will join finalists for the 2017 Citizen, Young Leader, Emerging Business, Business and Organization accolades at a Community Awards Gala on Saturday, when the winners will be announced.

John Gallagher

John Gallagher

Ron Jones

Ron Jones

The Educator of the Year award recognizes a private school or Port Angeles School District teacher, coach or educational staff member who has exhibited impressive leadership and achieved exceptional results toward the overall development of youth in grade levels K-12, 2017 chamber board President Jessica Hernandez said.

Tickets are $70 for the dinner at the Vern Burton Community Center, 308 E. Fourth St.

They can be purchased at or by calling 360-452-2364.

Peninsula Daily News is an award sponsor.

First Federal is a platinum sponsor.

There were more than 100 nominations for all six classifications.

The award judges are Ed Bedford, Suzie Bennett, Pastor Paul King, Dr. Roger Oaks, Tina Smith O’Hara, Todd Ortloff, Jane Pryne, Christy Smith, Nathan West and Melissa Williams.

Here are profiles of the candidates for Educator of the Year:

• For Cindy Crumb, 62, becoming principal is a natural progression at what was Choice Community School in 2004 and was renamed Lincoln High School in 2006.

Crumb was a naive 23-year-old freshly graduated from Western Washington University in Bellingham in 1978 when she became drawn to helping at-risk students, she said.

A Seattle native who had moved to Port Angeles when she was 3, Crumb was hired to teach youngsters incarcerated at the Clallam County juvenile detention center.

Her brain told her flat out that teens in juvenile detention were criminals.

“I didn’t know what I was getting into,” Crumb recalled.

“I realized when you start looking at the layers, they are just kids, and education helps them,” she said.

After three years working with detention-center youth, she grabbed at the chance to teach at Choice in 1981.

“I was already committed to kids that were unique,” she said.

Crumb taught English and history at the alternative high school from 1981-98, when she was named assistant principal at Roosevelt Middle School, which she had attended.

She returned to Choice in 2004 as its top administrator.

Crumb, and her husband, Jeff, who manages entertainment at 7 Cedars Casino, have two sons and a daughter.

Crumb, also the district’s career and technical director, emphasizes to Lincoln students and their parents alike the importance of graduation no matter when that happens, even if it’s at 21 years old.

She likes saying that no one ever woke up one day wishing they had not graduated from high school.

“What I want from my kids every day is, when they walk through those doors, [believing that] something good is going to happen,” she said. “If I can project that and they want to get up in the morning and come to school, that’s all I care about.

“I tell kids, ‘This is your way out, when you are here at Lincoln School.’

“They don’t have to think about all the other stuff, court, all the other drama in their lives.

“Everything else will fall into place.”

Lincoln High School teenagers tend to be more independent at 16 and 17 than others their age, Crumb said.

“They don’t fit into that round peg, and sometimes they don’t know it’s OK to not fit in a round peg,” she said.

“I hear it all the time: ‘I would not let my kid go there,’” Crumb noted.

“They have this idea we have a really rough crowd.

“It’s just a matter of getting people into my building and they see, they realize what a great place this is.”

Crumb was nominated by Elisa Simonsen, whose niece, now 33, was a senior in danger of not earning her diploma — and not walking with her classmates on graduation night — until Crumb helped her with extra-credit options at the alternative high school.

“She was there every day after school with my niece, helping her with work to get the extra credit she needed, to be very motivated,” Simonsen said.

“She was very hands-on.”

Crumb recalls Sarah as a teenager who “just had this twinkle in her eye,” she said.

“What we do for kids like Sarah is say, OK, let’s stop and break it down, let’s take a look at what you have to do.

“We are like a family.

“We take care of each other in ways that families do.”

The school Crumb has dedicated her professional life to “allows kids to start over and not have any shame with that,” she said.

• Science teacher John Gallagher, 51, is a people person with his head in the stars and a sure sense of where’s he’s going.

The Port Angeles High School educator left his native New York City right out of high school to attend the University of Washington, where he studied astronomy at the nationally acclaimed program, and never looked back.

“The education was foremost, but getting out of the city environment certainly was a big part of it,” he said. “Too little nature. Come see the stars.”

Gallagher has always been enamored with astronomy, an affection that grew from his first memory, at age 3, of watching Neil Armstrong walking on the moon.

“That warped me from there,” Gallagher quipped.

Gallagher graduated from UW with a degree in geology after changing his focus.

“Not having the contact with people and working in the lab by myself wasn’t for me,” he said.

The teaching bug bit him in his early 20s while working as a science interpreter — a docent — at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle.

“To me, I wanted more to explain science than to do it,” he said. “I wanted that interaction with other people.”

His students appreciate that. He’s liked so much by them that they don’t get in trouble to please him, said the woman who nominated him for the award.

“Kids have trouble in other classes, but they like Mr. Gallagher so well, they want to be good for him,” said Leslie Robertson, whose two daughters were in his class.

“He’s engaged, he meets with every one on a regular basis, he goes over their grades no matter their level of success.

“He really, genuinely cares for each and every one.”

Gallagher has been a science teacher at Port Angeles High School since 1995.

He and his wife, Janette Bush, an Olympic National Park volunteer, have a son, James, 19.

Gallagher taught eighth and ninth grades in Idaho from 1989-95 before honing in on grades 9-12 when he and his wife moved to Port Angeles.

“I get to see my kids all four years,” he said.

Gallagher said it’s important to make honest connections with teens personally, emotionally and academically.

He turns his lessons into stories, including the history of how scientific discoveries were made, and connects the subject matter to their own lives.

“You could be the next person to make this discovery,” Gallagher tells them. “I talk about how they have to guide their own future, they determine what happens.”

A good teacher builds subject matter “into what the future could be for those kids,” Gallagher said.

Among his accolades, Gallagher was 2017 Regional Teacher of the Year. He was recognized with a 2011 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science, a 2009 state Science Teacher of the Year, the 2002 Port Angeles High School Teacher of the Year and the 1995 Idaho state Regional Science Teacher of the Year — at his first junior high school job, in Twin Falls, Idaho.

Ron Jones, a professional musician at age 14, directed the school district’s orchestra and jazz ensemble for about 5,000 students for 42 years before he retired in June 2017.

He has a two-part key to being a successful teacher, which he’s really been ever since he was a teenager giving guitar lessons to other students to help his own guitar teacher cover his schedule.

“The key is one, that you have to love your work,” Jones said. “And you have to love the people you work for, and the people you are working for are the kids.”

Now 67, Jones was a Pasco High School ninth-grader in the mid-1960s who played bass and rhythm guitar in his rock group, The Pastels, a top-flight, top-40 cover band getting booked six months in advance, when he learned a variation on that lesson.

“You were entertaining the crowd, and you learned what worked and what didn’t,” he said. “Your audience changes, but you still have to do that thing, you still have to make it relevant.”

Jones’ junior high school orchestra director and his band teacher inspired him to teach, taken as he was by their energy and what they brought of themselves to their teaching.

A few years after Jones left The Pastels and became a teacher himself, he wondered, ‘geez, did I make the right choice,’ ” he said.

It was all about the music, and there just wasn’t enough of it playing on the road, he said Friday.

“There are things that, for example, are expressed where you are listening to a performance and someone is singing in a group and you get that chill running down your spin,” he said.

“There was always this piece of being able to share music with other people, whether as a performer, doing a concert for a big crowd or working with students and teaching them how to play music and then giving them insight into what music is all about.

“That is more powerful than any of the rest of it.”

Jones started teaching fourth to 12th grade school district string students in 1975 shortly after graduating from Eastern Washington University with a degree in music education and performance, traveling from school to school to teach music to the school bands.

Retired Stevens algebra teacher Carol Sinton, who nominated Jones for the award, remembers him and his impact on her students, and their excitement over the trips Jones organized to Carnegie Hall.

“That they dedicated their time to actually practice, and [then] playing on a Saturday night with the symphony, was amazing. He just seems to make them want to be the best that they can be.”

Jones started the quadrennial, week-long orchestra trips to New York City in 1989, taking students and parent chaperones to what Jones calls the cultural center of the world to perform in the iconic concert venue.

“It positively opened students’ eyes to what they could do,” Jones said.

Jones and his wife of 33 years, Debbie, have four children ages 37-43.

These days, Jones is conducting a children’s string workshop in Port Townsend and later this winter will be adjudicating competitive student performances for the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association/Washington Music Educators Association.

He also was recently named to the Washington Interscholastic Activities Hall of Fame.


Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at

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