Rebecca Himschoot teaches science at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School. (Courtesy photo)

Sitka science teacher Rebecca Himschoot secured a spot on the State Board of Education & Early Development, when a joint session of the legislature confirmed her appointment on Friday (4-15-16).


Downloadable audio.

Last month, Gov. Bill Walker appointed Himschoot to fill the one open spot on the nine-member board, which oversees K-12 schools. Himschoot teaches science to second through fifth graders at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School.

When the governor’s office originally asked her to interview for the position, she says she wasn’t initially interested in it.

“It turned out it was a really great opportunity I held nothing back,” she said. “I told them exactly what I’m seeing and what some of the needs are and some of the things that are happening in the schools assuming I would not be asked to serve and when they called and asked if I would serve that radically changed my view of what was ahead.”

Now she says she’s honored for the opportunity and she’s looking forward to being a voice for educators, as the only teacher on the commission. One thing she’s especially supportive of is standardized testing.

“We need to know how we’re doing we need to know how our students are doing and so we can use testing on many levels,” she said. “We can use testing to know how we as a state are doing compared to other states, we can use it to know how our school is doing compared to other schools and we can know how individual students are doing compared to other students.”

Himschoot says testing should not be political. She believes it should be about how trained teachers make the best decisions for their students with the diagnostic tool.

While she was confirmed today, one lawmaker initially objected to her appointment. Eagle river Republican Lora Reinbold said that, while she felt Himschoot was a good teacher, she considered her too compliant with federal education policy.

“We need somebody interested in pushing back in this epidemic federal overreach,” Reinbold said. “Not only in education but in every way.”

Several other lawmakers spoke in support of Himschoot. Sitka democrat Jonathan Kreiss Tomkins said she’s a rock star and she’s independent in her thoughts

“Teenage girls are to the Backstreet Boys as parents in Sitka are to Himschoot,” he said. “She’s got groupies basically.”

Himschoot also sits on the state’s Professional Teaching Practices Commission, which deals with matters of professional conduct and certification.

Himschoot will also be taking a leave of absence to participate in the prestigious Einstein Fellowship next year in Washington, D.C. The program brings teachers to the capital to work on national Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math curriculum for a calendar year. She says the fellowship will not conflict with her state board of education meetings.

Himschoot also won a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science in 2014. Her term on the state board of education ends in 2021.

A few other Sitkans were also confirmed to state boards Friday (4-15-16).
Pam Steffes will sit on the Board of Examiners in Optometry. Jeff Reinhardt is on the Board of Chiropractic Examiners. Celeste Tydingco is on the state Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy Board.