Michael Druce was named the Kenai Peninsula BP Teacher of the Year. Druce is a teacher at Soldotna High School.
Photo provided by BP
A longtime Soldotna High School English teacher was named the 2006 Kenai Peninsula BP Teacher of the Year, and six other teachers at peninsula schools were recognized as 2006 Teachers of Excellence by the oil giant.
Michael Druce, who recently earned honors as a “teacher of influence” by the University of Maryland’s Merrill Presidential Scholarship Program, has been teaching for 34 years, including 13 years at Soldotna High School.
“I like teaching. That’s the bottom line,” Druce said when reached at his home in Soldotna where he lives with his wife LaDawn, also a teacher, and three sons, Stephen, Evan and Austin. “It’s really challenging but really rewarding.”
At an age when many teachers might be looking forward to retirement, Druce said he was anticipating working at least until Austin, just going into seventh grade, graduates from high school. He doesn’t mind. Teaching is not drudgery, he said.
“Its new every day. It’s new every year. I enjoy that,” he said. Though it may be a cliché, he added, one can learn a lot from students, so the classroom becomes an educational two-way street.
Druce grew up in Oklahoma City, Okla., and according to biographical information provided by the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, received his Bachelors of Education Degree from Central State University in Edmond, Okla., and a Masters Degree in Education Administration from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Miss.
He said he has drawn much from his experiences in a range of teaching situations first in Anadarko, Okla., at a small high school with an ethnically diverse population, and later in the much larger Moore High School in a suburb of Oklahoma City.
From there, he went to Kotzebue where he taught for seven years in the remote Alaska community.
A job he hoped to land in Seward around 1987 fell through as Alaska’s economy suffered through some bad times.
Instead, he took a job in California, spending several years teaching at two high schools before returning to Alaska to take the job at Soldotna High School where he now heads the English Department.
Receiving the BP recognition was quite an honor, he said.
“It was very, very special,” he said. “But the part that was so rewarding was that the original nomination came from a former student, Johnny Mills.”
Mills graduated a few years ago, he said.
LaDawn Druce, also and English teacher, has been working as a specialist with the district office, but will take a job at Soldotna High School next semester as a part-time counselor and part-time librarian, Druce said.
Also nominated for Teacher of the Year but honored instead as Teachers of Excellence by BP were James Bennett of Mountain View Elementary School, Wayne Clark of Seward High School, Lynn Dusek of Redoubt Elementary School, Barbara Ralston of Sears Elementary School, Francie Roberts of Homer High School, and Kathleen Thompson of Soldotna Elementary School.
BP has been celebrating excellence in education in four geographic areas of Alaska since 1995.
In that time, the company has honored 352 teachers out of thousands who have been nominated for recognition from the Anchorage, Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Fairbanks North Star Borough and Kenai Peninsula Borough school districts.
Regional panels composed of representatives from the school districts, parent-teacher associations, education associations, student advisory groups, BP and local community members choose winners annually. One educator from each region is named a BP Teacher of the Year.
Each Teacher of the Year receives a $1,500 scholarship for continuing education and a bronze sculpture commissioned by Alaska artist Mary Regal. Teachers of Excellence receive $500 each for educational resources or continuing education and a commemorative plaque.
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