State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell has named the 2010 California Teachers of the Year, describing them as “outstanding educators and amazing instructional leaders.” “Each Teacher of the Year has many stories to tell about overcoming obstacles, achieving goals, and igniting inspiration. I am honored to congratulate each of them, and I hope that their successes will encourage other educators and aspiring teachers who are working hard each day to make a difference in students’ lives.”
Amber Carrow is a seventh-grade teacher at Chemawa Middle School in the Riverside Unified School District. Carrow has a simple teaching philosophy: Reach the student first, and then you can teach the subject.
“I am challenged by my teacher-student relationships and recognize that I will always be adjusting, rethinking and striving to attain their respect,” says Carrow, a Riverside City Teachers Association member. “I work very hard to take my class from ordinary to extraordinary.”
Carrow not only teaches about the world, she explores it as well. “I attempt to bring history to life through a variety of teaching skills and hands-on learning techniques. As a World History teacher, I am able to teach students about diverse cultural achievements, religions, governments, geography and arts from around the globe.”
This past year, Carrow was awarded a Teacher Fellowship Grant from the Earthwatch Foundation to conduct scientific research in Nova Scotia related to the effects of climate change. She was in daily contact with her students online. “They truly were transported through this experience, and it has sparked their desire to participate in affecting positive world climate change from their school.”
Kathy R. Marvin is an eighth-grade teacher at Sierra Vista Middle School in the Irvine Unified School District.
“I inspire my students to become scientists by giving them the opportunities to be scientists now so they can experience discovery in its rawest form and feel the awe of it,” says Marvin, an Irvine Teachers Association member.
Marvin has been teaching for 29 years, of which nine years have been in her current position as science teacher — known schoolwide for blowing the tiles out of the classroom ceiling during experiments.
“Having taught more than 5,000 students over the course of 29 years in education, I recall that when I started teaching, I thought the most important things I had to teach were concepts and standards. Now I know that the most important thing I can contribute to my students is a joy of learning. My greatest accomplishment is the successful inspiring of my students, not just occasionally, but for every student, every day.”
She laments that some parents consider science to be a more desirable career choice for boys than for girls. “I strive to inspire all my students to see the wonder and joy of science and math, and encourage boys and girls alike to pursue further courses in high school,” says Marvin.
Melanie Tolan of the San Diego County Office of Education teaches 10th and 11th grades at Sarah Anthony School.
“To be a student in my class is to be in a class like no other,” says Tolan, an Association of Educators member. “First of all, it would mean that you are accused of a crime.”
Tolan has been teaching for 14 years, of which three years have been at Sarah Anthony, which provides educational programs for young people detained in Kearny Mesa Juvenile Hall. Previously she taught at the Toussaint Academy, a school located at a homeless shelter for teens.
“I have to establish right away with my students that my classroom is a safe haven from the chaos of juvenile hall,” says Tolan. “I need to gain students’ respect quickly and form relationships so they will respect my classroom as a refuge from the outside. Otherwise, the classroom can become a perfect place to fight or cause other problems — because there are no probation officers present, just me.”
A colleague of Tolan’s noted that “most of her students enter her classroom angry and afraid with school being the last thing on their minds. Melanie was selected to work with this student population particularly because of her demonstrated ability to motivate and engage some of the most challenging students we serve.”
Valerie Ziegler teaches 11th and 12th grades at Abraham Lincoln High School in the San Francisco Unified School District. She has taught for five years.
Ziegler, a United Educators of San Francisco member, believes that students need reasons to learn and incentives to do well in school.
“Relevancy in curriculum is missing and can also be an explanation for the existence of an achievement gap. Students are given very few choices about their learning. With the virtual elimination of the practical arts classes, such as woodshop and auto repair, many students find little in their day that motivates them.”
“The desire to learn was heavily influenced by the best master teacher I had — my mother,” continues Ziegler. “My mom taught public school for over 30 years, and most of her career was focused on working with deaf students. She went above and beyond what is required of a teacher. I have memories of buying hearing aid batteries for students and driving kids to meetings and appointments. I strive every day to be the teacher I know my mother would want me to be.”
Superintendent O’Connell says, “I am extremely proud of all teachers, here in California as well as across the nation, who in the past year have had to endure devastating cutbacks in funding and programs, as well as layoff notices and elimination of positions. It is more important than ever to honor people who chose to become teachers and to celebrate this most noble of professions.”
Created in 1972 to pay tribute to the state’s teachers, the California Teacher of the Year competition is open to educators who teach pre-kindergarten through grade 12. To learn more about the selection process, visit the California Department of Education at www.cde.ca.gov.
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