Google does not apply.
That’s one of the things Acalanes High School English teacher Natalie Moore tells her students.
It’s a simple message. Don’t search the Internet looking for answers.
Instead, Moore wants her students to ponder, to question, to explore. Perhaps there is no correct response to a question.
“What’s going to happen to students who think every answer can be found on the Internet,” said Moore. “I’m teaching students how to think. It’s frustrating for them at first, but I tell them it’s not about getting answers.”
This philosophy as well as other attributes has earned Moore the title of 2013 Warren W. Eukel Teacher Trust recipient.
The Eukel Trust has been honoring teachers since 1992. Despite its academic excellence, Acalanes High has never had a Eukel winner. Until now.
“I’m completely humbled and gratified and, frankly, a little embarrassed because there are so many teachers who deserve this award,” said Moore.
The Eukel Trust received more than 40 nominations this year. Most teachers are nominated by fellow educators. Moore was nominated by some of the juniors she taught last spring.
Ten of them wrote letters last April to the Eukel Trust, praising Moore’s teaching abilities.
“Though we follow a rigorous and often challenging curriculum in English 3 Honors, her class is never tedious or something we dread,” wrote Anna Hirsh, who organized the letter writing campaign. “She has a way of making everything we study fresh and relevant and her class is the reason I look forward to coming to school every day.”
“I really couldn’t believe they would do that,” said Moore.
One of her methods that caught the Eukel judges eye was a program called American Threads, something Moore learned about when she taught at Northgate High in Walnut Creek.
A few years ago, Moore teamed up with Acalanes High history teacher Brian Smith to co-ordinate her English curriculum with his history class.
When Smith is instructing his students on the Civil War and Reconstruction, Moore is having her students read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
When Moore’s students are reading Death of a Salesman, Smith’s class is studying the post World War II era.
“They see literature doesn’t exist in a vacuum,” said Moore.
It took a few years to work out the bugs in the system.
“It can be a bit of a scheduling nightmare,” said Moore, “but I think we’ve really hit our stride this year.”
Moore comes by teaching naturally. Her mother was an English teacher and it was always something she contemplated doing.
Moore grew up in the Rocklin area, attending Del Oro High School in Loomis. There, she had classes with Connie Somers and Bill Kurnett. And she was inspired.
“Those two teachers showed me how much fun teaching could be,” she said.
Moore attended U. C. Berkeley, majoring in English with minors in dance and drama. She earned her teaching credential at Columbia University in New York.
She fell more in love with teaching during those college years.
“I got up in front of that first class as a student teacher and I felt like I was at home,” said Moore. “The idea that I could read and talk about books my whole life and get paid for it was exciting to me.”
After returning to the Bay Area in 2001, Moore got a job selling textbooks while she waited to break into education. In the course of that work, she met David Wood, an English teacher at Northgate High.
The department had a vacancy due to maternity leave and Wood asked Moore if she was interested in the job. She jumped at the chance.
Moore taught at Northgate from 2001 to 2007 before joining the staff at Acalanes.
Acalanes High Principal Aida Glimme is glad she did.
“Natalie is our superstar,” said Glimme. “She has terrific energy. She’s very organized but also very creative. When you think of the ultimate teacher you think of Natalie.”
Glimme said Moore is in the teaching profession for the right reasons, caring about her students and helping other instructors.
“She’s a team player and a leader,” said Glimme.
This year, Moore is teaching three English Three classes and one English One course. She’s also mentoring another instructor and is a Common Core coach, helping Acalanes High get ready for the upcoming new education standards.
Moore lives in Martinez with her husband, Ed Meehan, Acalanes High’s drama teacher, and their 5-year-old son.
Moore says her current job is her dream job. Teaching high school students.
“There’s something magical about this age. It’s different every day,” said Moore. “They are just about to enter adulthood and they’re figuring out what they’re going to do.”
Editor's Note: Patch editor David Mills is a volunteer with the Eukel Teacher Trust and helped judge this year's nominees.