WASHOUGAL, Wash. (January 18, 2022) — It should come as no surprise that Scott Rainey, eighth grade U.S. History teacher at Jemtegaard Middle School was nominated and won the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Department of Washington’s Citizenship Education Middle School Teacher of the Year award for 2021-2022. If you have ever had a student or were a student in his U.S. History class or were a part of his Knowledge Bowl team in the last 17 years you know that he has a deep passion for teaching and sharing U.S. History and democracy.
Founded in 1899, the Veterans of Foreign Wars has continued its support for the education of America’s youth through programs dedicated to helping America’s educators. The VFW’s Citizenship Education program stimulates interest in America’s history, democracy, and civic responsibility. The program also aims to identify and recognize the best educators who instill a sense of national pride in their students.
Cynthia Fahrenkrug, a colleague, and a veteran naval flight officer has witnessed Rainey’s passion firsthand and knows his dedication and commitment to instill national pride, and after hearing his eighth-grade graduation speech she was determined to nominate him. “In sharing our stories, Scott’s passion for history is abundantly clear. It goes beyond the stuff you find in textbooks. It’s a passion he shares with his students. And hopefully inspires them.” Fahrenkrug said. “It’s what makes him such an outstanding teacher and I thought more people ought to know it.”
Rainey learned of the nomination from Fahrenkrug at an encounter at a local store and was honored by the news. “Getting nominated by Cynthia was an accolade that means the world to me – she and I spoke often of her time as a Navy pilot and my experience as a Navy brat (my father served from 1943-1966, retiring as a chief boatswain’s mate)” Rainey said. “To hear words of praise coming from someone I regard as a hero for putting herself in harm’s way for our country was at another level altogether.”
Unaware of the nomination timeline, Veteran’s Day came and went, and Rainey had not heard anything. With no news about being a candidate, Rainey said, “ I figured that the judging committee had decided to go with someone else, and I was okay with that.” It was not until after winter break and a few cold snow days, Rainey returned to the classroom to a voicemail from Ray Loney from the Camas/Washougal Veterans of Foreign Wars informing him that he was the winner for the local and regional post.
Rainey and his wife, Katrina, were invited to the VFW banquet and awards ceremony in Yakima, Washington, on January 15, 2022, where he would find out if he won teacher of the year. “It was actually as we were preparing to walk into the banquet hall that Camas/Washougal VFW member Bob Hitchcock introduced me to two other teachers present – Michelle Sotelo of Central Kitsap High School in Silverdale and Cindy Bergdahl of McDonald Elementary in Spokane Valley, and he told me that we three were the state winners for our respective grade levels” Rainey explained.
Beaming with excitement they attended the VFW banquet and awards ceremony where Rainey received the award for teacher of the year. Armed with pride, generosity, and a few memorabilia of his late father, he accepted the award for teacher of the year. “Carrying his ribbons with me was like taking a part of his legacy with me, giving him the credit and honor due to him as a result of his oversize influence in my life,” Rainey said. “I also brought up on the platform with me an eight-by-ten photo of my dad as a new 16-year-old Navy recruit in 1943.”
If you ask Scott where his love and dedication for teaching U.S. History stems from, he will gladly tell you he learned it from “the greatest teacher I ever knew.,” This teacher was his father. Rainey said, “He raised two teachers (my older brother and myself), my mom had taught briefly, and my stepmother (whom he married after my mother’s death) taught for close to 40 years. He was surrounded by teachers, raised teachers, and was for all intents and purposes a true teacher himself, with the world as his classroom.”
The Washougal School District and Jemtegaard Middle School are fortunate to have Mr. Rainey as a valued teacher. “Mr. Rainey’s work honors our veterans who fought to ensure that all Americans have a voice,” David Cooke, Principal, Jemtegaard Middle School said. “Mr. Rainey reminds the students of the many gifts we have in this country and how to make this nation better through their participation. Congratulations to Mr. Rainey on this tremendous honor.”