A unique blend of credentials helped this year’s Idaho Teacher of the Year stand out.
American Falls High School agriculture teacher Marc Beitia is not only a 35-year educator, he’s the town’s two-term mayor.
Beitia, 58, accepted the education award — and accompanying $1,000 check — Monday at American Falls High School.
“It’s humbling, for sure,” a tearful Beitia said afterward. “We have so many great teachers here. I don’t know why it was me.”
Beitia helped create American Falls’ agriculture program in 1990. He has since been a part of the school’s leadership team and supervised its local Future Farmer of America chapter, which received two national awards in the last two years.
Beitia said decades of teaching have taught him the importance of establishing trust and rapport with students.
“If you don’t have that, students have no reason to value what you’re teaching,” he said.
Beitia also stressed the “long view” on education, calling his curriculum a mere vehicle for molding productive citizens.
Colleagues and students said Beitia’s teaching career and six-year stint as American Falls’ mayor have helped him gain a unique vantage point in the highly agricultural town of some 4,000 people, where nearly one-third of residents are Hispanic.
“As a teacher, he strongly believes in the empowerment encouragement can provide for his students, and as a mayor, he encourages his students to take their knowledge outside of the classroom and become better community members of American Falls,” said Odalis Gonzales, a former FFA member and American Falls valedictorian who now attends Notre Dame University.
With Beitia’s help, Gonzales and three other FFA students started a program that grew into an Idaho State University-supported community resource that allows Spanish-speaking FFA members to mentor Hispanic adult workers.
American Falls High School principal Travis Hansen, also one of Beitia’s former students, called the teacher “passionate, dedicated and organized.”
“He’s been doing this forever,” said Hansen. “He’s still teaching me.”
State superintendent Sherri Ybarra presented Beitia the award with balloons in a surprise ceremony.