SMS teacher honored for innovative education

Posted: Wednesday, November 22, 2000

Linda Overturf teaches grades seven and eight. However, she has been honored for a preschool project.

The Soldotna Middle School teacher has been selected by the state of Alaska Family and Consumer Science Instructors Organization as their Family and Consumer Science Teacher of the Year.

"It was a real surprise to me," she said.

She found out two days before the award presentation at a professional development conference in Anchorage Oct. 12 and 13. The way she found out was that SMS Principal Lee Young announced the news over the schoolwide intercom.

Overturf had not planned on attending the conference but had to change her plans to pick up her award.

She received a lamp, made by the peninsula's own Mackey Lake Co. wood carvers, in lieu of the traditional plaque. The lamp is more handsome and useful, she said with a chuckle.

Overturf also receives a chance to qualify for the national title.

Her colleague and mentor, Skyview High School home economics teacher Jennifer Tabor, won that title in 1997.

Young nominated Overturf for this year's award because of her work teaching adolescents about child care. The centerpiece of the program is a preschool run by eighth-graders within the school. The middle school students have to prepare lessons for the little ones.

Young praised the program for teaching students about child development, giving them the opportunity to apply their learning and helping them become aware of possible career opportunities involved with children.

"And, perhaps most importantly, raising and being responsible for a young child is a very big job that only a well-prepared person should willingly accept as a lifetime responsibility," Young said.

Overturf's years of varied teaching experience uniquely prepared her for such a multilevel classroom experience.

Originally from Washington, she began her teaching career as a high school home economics teacher in Montana. She and her family moved to Alaska, where she taught in several places. For years she taught in Kodiak and, while there, worked with young children and earned a master's degree in early childhood development.

The Overturfs moved to Kenai in 1992. She began working with the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District as an aide at Sears Elementary School and completed an elementary education degree at Kenai Peninsula College. At that point, she believed her career had turned toward work with young children.

However, five years ago she was hired to teach at SMS. She now teaches about 360 seventh- and eighth-graders.

Her husband, Hank, is the assistant principal at Kenai Central High School. They live in the Strawberry Road area and their son is in college.

The field of home economics has changed dramatically over the past generation, she said.

"Home economics is more than just cooking and sewing," she said.

Now it is called "family and consumer science." A lot of boys take and enjoy the courses, which include topics like interior design, nutrition and consumer rights. The information deals with choices the teens are beginning to make about their own lives, choices with important consequences.

"It's basically taking care of yourself," Overturf said.

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