Portland State alumna named Oregon Teacher of the Year

PSU alumna Mercedes Muñoz, named the Oregon Teacher of the Year, beams in front of Franklin High School, where she teaches.

By Jillian Daley

First-generation college graduate and Portland State University alumna Mercedes Muñoz has been honored with the 2020 Oregon Teacher of the Year award.

A Learning Center teacher and special education case manager at Franklin High School (FHS) in Southeast Portland, Muñoz received her $5,000 check and award at an assembly at FHS on Friday, October 4. A matching $5,000 check also was also given to the high school.

“My response to all this is a mixture of joy, feeling very honored, and also vulnerable in the face of so much attention,” Muñoz said. “I am proud to represent Franklin and the state of Oregon.”

Oregon Department of Education (ODE) named her one of 13 Regional Teachers of the Year in May along with several other finalists including another PSU alum, Jon Fresh.

“I’m just trying to get a hold of all of this,” Muñoz told the COE on Friday. “It’s certainly overwhelming, and it’s good. I’m just not used to it.”

Muñoz fought through desperate times, including a period of homelessness with her three children, to become a teacher, receiving her Master of Education in Special Education and Teaching from the College of Education (COE) in 2013. She was able to attend college as a participant in the Portland Teacher Program, which recruits and retains teachers of color.

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