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Woodlawn teacher named OnPoint Educator of the Year

First-grade teacher Lionel Clegg will get his mortgage or rent paid for one full year by OnPoint Community Credit Union and the school will receive $2,500.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Woodlawn first grade teacher Lionel Clegg is a big part of KGW’s docuseries Inside Woodlawn about life at the elementary school.

Clegg was even featured on NBC’s Today Show earlier this year in a story about the importance of having black male teachers in elementary schools. But he’ll be the first to tell you, teachers don’t do this job for the accolades.

“We do it because we really care about the kids and really want the best for those children,” said Clegg.

The veteran teacher of more than 20 years was floored to learn he’d been named the OnPoint Educator of the Year for the K-5 category.

KGW was there as a crew from OnPoint surprised him with the news he won and he’d be getting his mortgage or rent paid for one full year.

“Thank you so much,” exclaimed a surprised Clegg. “I’m actually shaking right now; you just can’t see it.”

The is the 12th year OnPoint has honored teachers in Oregon and SW Washington. There is one OnPoint Prize Educator of the Year as well as one finalist in each K-5, 6-8, and 9-12 category.

“Lionel is an all-star teacher. His ability to create culturally rich material that connects with our students that makes a difference in their lives is the reason why he is our educator of the year,” said OnPoint President and CEO Rob Stuart.

Clegg was nominated by Christina Albo and Joe Owens, the parents of one of his former students, Fiona Albo. Fiona is now a 4th grader at Woodlawn. The family had wanted to nominate him for this honor for the last several years.

“I think he would be one of the greatest influences in Fiona’s life. I mean, it's pretty crazy. She met him so young but he had a great effect as a teacher, as an educator,” said Owens.

Mr. Clegg went to Woodlawn as a student, returned as a teacher, and spent the last 20 plus years dedicated to his kids.
“I think he was really connected to the school and made us, I feel like more connected,” said Fiona Albo.

RELATED: Inside Woodlawn: No Time to Waste

Students and parents appreciate that he has never shied away from talking about race and what's happening in our world.

“He’s always been so courageous in bringing social justice issues and issues around race, and really talking to kids as young as the first grade, honestly, openly transparently in a real way that gives them something to hold onto,” said Christian Albo.

RELATED: Inside Woodlawn: A conversation about race

Clegg said he was shocked and humbled by the honor

“I think it's such an amazing thing that they recognize teachers. And to be recognized for the work that you do is very humbling.”

Woodlawn elementary school will receive $2,500 as part of the honor. Finalists will also receive a $5,000 cash prize and a $1,500 donation to their schools.

About the OnPoint Prize Educator of the Year Award:

The OnPoint Prize for Excellence in Education celebrates innovative teaching methods that spark enthusiasm and passion in students, parents, and their community. Anyone—including teachers themselves—can nominate a teacher. Educator of the Year is awarded to the teachers who best meet these criteria: Creativity and Enthusiasm, Teaching Methods, Community Impact and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Watch episodes of Inside Woodlawn here