Story last updated at 2:33 p.m. Thursday, May 30, 2002

Otter Beach director named Rotary educator
by Carey James
Staff Writer

photo: news
  Photo by Carey James, Homer News
Jeanne Parker  
Jeanne Parker, teacher and program director of the Otter Beach Education Center, was named Rotary Educator of the Year last week after receiving numerous nominations from the community.

Tom Craig, Homer Kachemak Bay Rotary's vocational committee chair, said parents of past and present students nominated Parker with letters of glowing recommendation, such as one parent who said, "We guarantee you that we've never met a more dedicated, skillful educator with such an intuitive feel for how to inspire children to learn than Jeanne Parker."

Parker said receiving the award was an honor, especially since her work with Otter Beach has been a labor of love.

"It's really huge to get this kind of recognition," she said. "Otter Beach is my dream school."

Parker said the school, which offers education services for up to 24 students grades kindergarten through third each year, assesses students equally on physical, social, emotional and academic skills, and places emphasis on areas such as movement and conflict resolution.

The movement-based learning, Parker said, allows children to spend time each day on the center's indoor jungle gym, activity she said helps develop neurological synapses that are essential for learning.

Also key to the center's education program is the development of conflict resolution skills, Parker said. Children learn from the beginning that at Otter Beach, there is a process to dealing with problems. The children are taught to take turns speaking and listening, and then an agreement is worked out.

"The first time they do it, it's really hard. They learn that just because you are listening, you don't have to agree with what the other person is saying," she said.

Though difficult at first, Parker said by the time the students are in third grade, the process is second nature.

"It works really well," she said.

Parker said while the students learn many things at Otter Beach, the biggest thing she feels they take away from the center is self confidence.

"The kids all leave with high self-esteem and they take that away with them," she said, adding that parents are also empowered to be active participants in their child's education.

According to Craig, Parker was one of 10 educators nominated for the award, and is one of, if not the first educator from an alternative education facility to receive

the title.