PORTLAND, Ore. — Crook County Middle School science teacher Michael Geisen was in the middle of a lesson when he got a message from the school's front office: The White House was on the line.
He was terribly sorry, Geisen responded, but could they call him later? He was with his seventh-graders, and they mattered more.
That attitude is one of the reasons Geisen is to be named the 2008 national teacher of the year today at a White House Rose Garden ceremony hosted by President Bush.
He teaches at Crook County Middle School in the central Oregon town of Prineville, where he's known for making science fun.
To keep students involved, he writes songs, develops games and helped start "The Night of the Electric Creation," in which they design projects to show off their energy knowledge.
"In a field that is thought of as very left-brain and analytical, I try to infuse as much creativity as possible," Geisen said.
Rocky Miner, the principal at Crook County Middle School, said that several summers ago, Geisen spent weeks fundraising, then persuaded students to help him build a rock-climbing wall at the school, complete with a mural of nearby Smith Rock.
He also worked with his fellow science teachers to turn a school courtyard into a garden that reflects Oregon's vegetation zones. And a presentation he put together on the deadly effects of microbes on children in the developing world inspired several of his students to raise money for Third World disease relief.
Geisen, 35, plans to continue teaching, but he'll spend most of the next year traveling around the country, speaking about teaching and learning.