‘He makes school fun’
It takes awhile for Andrew Fromdahl to walk through the cafeteria at Jacks Valley Elementary School — every few steps a student approaches the English as a second language teacher to talk with him or give him a high-five.
The teacher’s popularity was recognized this year by his co-workers, and at the district level, when Fromdahl was named the 2016-17 Douglas County Teacher of the Year.
“He makes school fun for kids,” said Jacks Valley Principal Pam Gilmartin. “He makes learning fun.”
Gilmartin said Fromdahl’s recognition by his co-workers was “almost unanimous.”
“He’s very deserving,” she said.
Fromdahl, 34, started working for Douglas County School District in 2005 as a substitute teacher while working toward his master of arts in teaching at Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village.
During the 2006-07 school year he was hired as a third grade teacher at Meneley Elementary School, and the following year he became the school’s ESL teacher. In 2008-09, he took the position of ESL teacher at Jacks Valley.
With the support of an aide and a tutor, Fromdahl serves as the school’s sole ESL teacher. About 75 of the school’s 400 students receive ESL services, he said.
Third-grader Evelyn Hernandez, one of Fromdahl’s students, said he is a good teacher “because he helps out a lot of students.”
“He tells funny jokes,” she added.
Fromdahl said he didn’t plan on becoming a teacher — he originally wanted to work for ESPN. He started out studying journalism before switching to sociology and political science at Oregon State University, near his hometown of Roseburg.
“I never thought I’d be a teacher,” he said.
However, his family history steered him toward a path in education — his dad and stepmom both worked as elementary school teachers, his sister was a high school teacher, his grandmother was a special education teacher and his mom and brother-in-law work at the university level.
“The entire family goes to school,” he said with a laugh.
Between his sophomore and junior years at Oregon State he realized he also wanted to work with kids, and he started taking any classes he could squeeze into his schedule that related to teaching.
Fromdahl said he had never been to the Tahoe area, but he applied to Sierra Nevada College to work toward a masters degree on a whim. After visiting the school, “it was a pretty easy choice” to the move to the area, he said.
Fromdahl said one of the perks of his job is working with the same students multiple years in a row, then watching them advance through the school system.
Last year he attended Douglas and Aspire high schools’ commencement ceremonies to watch students from his first year of teaching graduate.
“Now, every year, I’ve got kids graduating, on the football team, or in the choir,” he said. “It’s fun to be supportive of the kids, even after they leave. It’s just been neat to take kids through their elementary career.”
Fromdahl also serves as the school’s mascot and as advisor to the school’s student council.
Fromdahl will next compete against teachers throughout the state to be named Nevada Teacher of the Year. Minden Elementary School third-grade teacher Pam Ertle was named last year’s Nevada Teacher of the Year.