Opstad Elementary's Marianne Bradburn is Elementary Educator of the Year

 Marianne Bradburn answers her students’ many questions. - Carol Ladwig/Staff Photo
Marianne Bradburn answers her students’ many questions.
— image credit: Carol Ladwig/Staff Photo

It’s definitely an occasion for “The Awesome Song” as the school day ends in Marianne Bradburn’s classroom. Maybe it was because she announced “No homework tonight!” or maybe because the sun was out and students could walk across the playground to their buses.

Whatever the reason, the students were chanting right along with their teacher as she led them out the door. “A-W-E-S-O-M-E! Awesome, awesome, awesome, that’s the way to be,” they sang, punctuating the “whoo!” at the end with skips and jumps.

It’s the right song for the day, and for the teacher, who was named Elementary Educator of the Year by the Snoqualmie Schools Foundation.

Students love Bradburn, who in the last minutes before the final bell rings, is at the center of a group of them, all anxious to read her their stories, show her their work on the iPad, or just to get a hug or a high-five.

Since Bradburn has taught third grade for 24 years, nine in this district, the feeling is clearly mutual.

“This age, I think, is just the best age,” Bradburn says with a warm smile.

There are a lot of reasons, Bradburn says, but a big one is, at this age, “they have learned, kind of the basics… for example, in reading, they’ve learned how to read, and now we get to read to learn.” She includes herself in that ‘we’ because she is also learning. “I never do the same things,” she says. “It’s always changing, because education is always changing.”

Twenty-four years ago, when Bradburn first started teaching third grade on Mercer Island, she would never have predicted that she’d stay in the same grade. Now, she wouldn’t even consider teaching another grade.

“I do not intend to move from the third grade,” she says.

There’s just too much excitement at that grade-level for Bradburn to give up.

For instance, “I always teach cursive on the first day of school,” she says. “Third graders love to learn cursive. It is the best age to do it, because sometimes it takes a long time to get through it, but they’re just chomping at the bit! ‘oh, we finally get to do this!’”

In that respect, this year’s class was like her other students, but a few things make this class stand out for her, starting with their number.

“This year, I have 30 students,” Bradburn says, the biggest group she’s ever taught, but also one of the most “cohesive and kind” groups, too, for which she says she is truly grateful.

Another thing that will keep Bradburn at Opstad, and in the third grade, are her fellow teachers, especially teaching partner Sharon Piper.

“We’ve known each other almost all our lives,” says Bradburn, including in their grade school days when they both went to St. Louise Parish School in Bellevue. Their friendship was cemented years later when Piper had Bradburn’s daughter in her classroom, and Bradburn, whose favorite principal and mentor at Mercer Island was retiring, began looking for a new position.

She called Piper and asked, “how do you like teaching where you live?” The answer was “I love it! And there’s a third-grade position open!”

Bradburn had been preparing herself for the idea of not teaching third grade, but was thrilled to find out she wouldn’t have to make that jump. Her collaboration with Piper in the years since makes her want to share the award, but she doesn’t have to. Piper was named Elementary Educator of the Year in 2011.

Bradburn and other educators of the year will be honored at the Snoqualmie Valley Schools Foundation Luncheon, Thursday, March 28, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information, visit






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