‘He is so dedicated to students’: Local teacher wins state science award

SPOKANE, Wash. — Dan Shay teaches biology classes at North Central High School. He’s been teaching for eight years, but now he’s also the Washington State Science and Engineering Fair Science Teacher of the Year.

Shay works every day in state-of-the-art science labs showing students how they can take their passion for science and make it a career. It was his students who recognized his hard work and wanted to showcase his dedication.

Meilin Scott, a senior at North Central, got the nomination process rolling.

“It really stood out to me that he is so dedicated to students, and I wanted him to have some recognition and honor him,” Scott said.

Other students, North Central faculty and community leaders endorsed him for the nomination. Shay says what touched him the most was how it was his students who thought he was deserving.

“What it shows me is that my kids believe in me. They organized this, and they said ‘You deserve this,'” Shay said. “That’s really the thing that means the most to me.”

He says students come in to his classes with the misconception they can only pursue a career in science if they become a doctor or nurse. In the labs at North Central, they have high-tech equipment students use where they’re learning skills to land them lab jobs right after high school.

“Literally, these kids have professional certifications that they could get a job right out of high school and a good paying job with just a high school degree,” Shay said.

He wants students to know there’s more to science than meets the eye, and Scott has felt his support over the years. Now, she wants to study math and science when she graduates.

“I think that this experience has given me more confidence to be a female in science, and it’s given me the skills that I can make that possible,” Scott said.

Scott and her science project partner, Hanna Faught, also won first place for their science project in the Science and Engineering Fair. She’s thankful for what the programs at North Central have done for her.

“With the resources and Mr. Shay, I’m very grateful that I’m his student, and I can be here,” Scott said.

Now, Shay is hopeful he can help more schools benefit from North Central’s resources. He’s working on grants and projects which will allow more students in Spokane to come and use the equipment in the labs.