Ceremony Honors 22 L.A. Unified Teachers of the Year

LOS ANGELES (July 20, 2017) - L.A. Unified board members and top officials today recognized the District’s 22 Teachers of the Year during a ceremony honoring their excellence, creativity and ability to make a difference in the lives of their students.

Held at the University of Southern California, the luncheon included speeches by Dr. Ref Rodriguez, president of the Board of Education, other board members and Assemblyman Tony Thurmond.

“Congratulations to the 2017 LAUSD Teachers of the Year,” said Dr. Rodriguez. “Our educators are the anchors of our schools, and this ceremony was a testament to their level of dedication, long hours and love for our students.

“It was so amazing to see their families, who oftentimes witness what the profession of teaching means at home,” he said. “I am so excited that my fellow board members also stressed the importance of our teachers in this District. Without them, we would not be a District that is ready to learn, lead and succeed.”

Board Vice President Mónica García spoke of the educators’ impact on the District and its students.

“Every student in Los Angeles benefits from love, dedication, and talent in action,” said Board Member García. “Among them, the 2017 Teacher of the Year recipients have more than 300 years of teaching experience. We salute our teachers who represent a ‘Kids First’-focused L.A. Unified on the path toward 100 percent graduation.”

Dr. George J. McKenna III, a retired principal who now serves on the board, offered a personal message to the honorees.

“There is no more important role in society than educating our children, thus the impact you have on your student’s lives is immeasurable,” he said. “We celebrate your accomplishment and commend your commitment to the profession of teaching.”

“As a former teacher and life-long educator, I know first hand how challenging the job can be,” said Board Member Scott M. Schmerelson. “These outstanding professionals have achieved this important recognition by consistently modeling excellence in what they do every day.”

“I am proud to stand with my colleagues and fellow educators to salute our teachers of the year,” said Board Member Nick Melvoin, a former L.A. Unified teacher. “Our teachers are the ones who carry out the essential work of educating our students every school day. As board members, it is our job to create the conditions to ensure their continued success. Thank you for your endless commitment and hard work.”

Board Member Kelly Gonez added, “Teachers are incredible agents of change in our communities. I am inspired by the amazing educators we honored today and grateful for the life-changing work they do every day for our kids and families.”

The winners include teachers in elementary, secondary and adult schools, special-education programs, affiliated charters and magnets. They are:

Youko Amemiya, the intervention coordinator in the Learning Center at Carson Street STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) Academy. She is National Board Certified in Early Childhood Education.

Carmen Ayala teaches English, Spanish and seventh-grade leadership at Audubon Middle School. She has been a teacher for eight years.

Michele Bethune teaches Honors English at Dodson Gifted/Highly Gifted/High Ability Magnet. She has been teaching middle school English since 1994.

Roxana Brock teaches special-needs children ages 3 to 5 at Telfair Elementary School. She has been teaching for 20 years.

Dana Brooks teaches U.S. history and government at John H. Francis Polytechnic High School. A former lawyer, she has been teaching for 10 years.

Daniel Buccieri teaches U.S. and World history at Venice High School. He has been an educator since 2003, and is a National Board Certified teacher.

Kristen Farrell teaches sports medicine, sports therapeutics and medical terminology at Venice Adult School. She previously taught in Japan and Switzerland.

Robert Garrett, from Chandler Learning Academy, has been a fifth-grade teacher since 1989.

Marina Henderson teaches third-grade at Garvanza Elementary School. She worked as a journalist before becoming a teacher in 1994. For the last 20 years, she has mentored new teachers at UCLA’s Center X.

Misti Kemmer teaches fourth-grade at Russell Gifted/Highly Gifted/High Ability Magnet. She also is the school’s Gifted and Talented Education coordinator.

Grace Maddox teaches high school art at UCLA Community School, part of the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools complex. She has been teaching for 12 years.

Carrie Merrihew teaches third grade at Seventh Street Elementary School, and also is the student government and yearbook sponsor. She has been a multi-subject teacher for 17 years.

Dr. Heather Penrod teaches English and social studies at Reseda High School. She has been a teacher for 20 years.

Caroline Rhude teaches all grade levels of English, including Advanced Placement English and Composition, at Hamilton High School.

Lisa Robles teaches fourth- and fifth-grades at Lucille Roybal-Allard Elementary School. She has been teaching elementary school for 27 years.

Ximena Rodriguez teaches English and also coaches the Academic Decathlon team at Monroe High School. She has been teaching for 17 years.

Jonathan Rubio-Garcia teaches math, statistics, probability, and Advanced Placement statistics at Arleta High School.

Randi Seligson teaches English and social studies at Hale Charter Academy. She has taught middle school for more than 20 years.

Rachel Timsit teaches special-education students and English-Language Learners at Hazeltine Avenue Elementary School. She has been teaching elementary school for 24 years.

Pauline Wain is a speech and language pathologist at President Elementary School, supporting preschool students with severe speech and language impairments.

Jennifer Wakefield teaches kindergarten at Vintage Math/Science/Technology Magnet. She previously taught first-and second-grades.

Paulianne Bolinger-Werthwein teaches third-grade at Bushnell Way Elementary. She has been teaching for 21 years.

The District’s honorees are now qualified for the Los Angeles County Teachers of the Year competition, which is part of the California and National Teachers of the Year programs.

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 Contact: Shannon Haber (213) 241-6766