DODDS Okinawa picks top teacher
October 6, 2003
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — A Bob Hope Primary School teacher has been recognized for her teaching excellence and commitment to students.
Karin Mordt, a third-grade teacher at the school, was recently named the Department of Defense Dependents Schools’ Okinawa District Teacher of the Year for 2003.
“When I first found out, I felt a numbness, I was in disbelief,” Mordt said. “It’s one of those things that I thought it was nice to be nominated, but I didn’t think I had a shot.”
Mordt has worked in the DODDS system for 16 years — the last two at Bob Hope. She said she attributes her classroom success to all the support she has received throughout her career.
“Community involvement is what I love about DODDS,” Mordt said. “We have [servicemembers] … come in and volunteer and some don’t even have kids in the school. I also couldn’t do half the things I do without the parents.”
She said last year she turned her classroom into a rain forest, which involved a lot of help from classroom parents. She had several parents hang camouflage netting on the ceiling, one parent used silk flowers from her interior-decorating business to give the scene color and several others helped by making trees and branches. She said the kids finished up the room by bringing in stuffed animals.
“I try to make learning fun and relevant,” said Mordt. “If I’m having fun, then I know they are. And if I’m bored, I know they are also.”
Assistant principal Al Barney noted that Mordt is “a very energetic person and her energy transfers to the students … I call her ‘Johnny on the Spot.’ She’s always up and moving around. You can actually see learning taking place in [her classroom].”
Mordt, nominated for teacher of the year by one of her students’ parents, learned about it at the end of the 2002-03 school year. She was shocked at the amount of work it took.
“There is a huge application I had to complete and I spent the summer completing it,” Mordt said. “It involved detailed essays and background information … it was a lot of work.”
Mordt is now in the running for the Department of Defense Education Activity Teacher of the Year, competing against other district winners. She said once she found out she took the honor for Okinawa, there was another packet to fill out, and she only had two weeks to do it. She said the staff and faculty at the school were very helpful and supportive in helping her through the process.
As the top teacher on Okinawa, Mordt will attend the National Teacher Forum in Alexandria, Va., in November.