Seven LAUSD Educators Named L.A. County ‘Teachers of the Year’

LOS ANGELES – Recognized for their dedication and contribution to student achievement, a record seven Los Angeles Unified School District educators were named Los Angeles County Teachers of the Year for 2015-16 during a ceremony today at Universal City.

In total, 16 teachers received the county designation. These standard-bearers are now in the running for the California Teacher of the Year award. The state winner moves up to the national competition, which will be held next spring.

“I am so proud of our teachers. They are the dedicated and compassionate instructors in the classroom who help our students achieve educational excellence,” said the Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines. “They awaken, brighten and influence the lives of young people and help shape the minds of the future.”

The honorees reaction to their newest award is inspiring.

Martha Garibay, a first-grade teacher at 52nd Street Elementary School, tries to ensure that every one of her students feels validated and loved from the onset of every school day. “It took a village to raise THIS teacher!” said Garibay. “I am beyond blessed and grateful by this honor and share it with countless friends, family, and colleagues who have supported me, embraced my creativity, and believed in me throughout my career. When we work hard, great things happen! Thank you for acknowledging the great work that we, at 52nd Street School, do every single day.”

Although U.S. History is his official subject, Daniel Jocz from Downtown Business Magnet High School also teaches his students life skills, science, debate, writing, filmmaking, business and theater. “Each day I have the opportunity to prepare students for jobs that haven’t been created yet, awaken passions they never knew they had, and to inspire them to travel to places they never dreamt they would see,” said Jocz. ”I am humbled and honored to receive this award. To all of my teacher colleagues, never forget we are the ones who have the biggest impact in education. Keep teaching!”

South Gate Senior High School Algebra teacher Maria Medina-Perez helps her students understand that mistakes are part of the learning process. This helps create a safe environment where they are willing to take risks. “The synergy I create in my classroom motivates my students to work together and succeed no matter what the challenge is,” says Medina-Perez. “For me, teaching is not “a job”, but rather a passion that makes me strive every day to give our students the opportunity to find a need for, and love of, mathematics!”

May-Lynn Geronimo Montano, who teaches fourth-grade at Harbor City Elementary, strives to give students the strategies and skills to push their own thinking. When students enter her classroom, they are part of a team and she is the coach. She doesn’t pretend to know all the answers, but she “is there for them.” “I am very honored to be recognized as one of LAUSD’s Teachers of the Year and I am grateful to have shared this with the students, parents, colleagues, and my family who have given me so much support and inspiration through the years in helping me become the teacher I am today.”

Claudine Phillips, a second-grade teacher at Roscomare Road Elementary School, has learned that when students take risks, they move beyond what they know is possible. This puts them “into the realm of what they can be…I am teaching students that will go on to lead changes in the future of education, engineering, technology, sociology, and in careers yet to be thought of--what an amazing and humbling endeavor!” Phillips said. "I am honored to be recognized as a teacher leading change from my classroom for my students, school, district, and state.”

“It is such an incredible recognition to represent the LAUSD and L.A. County, as well as bringing awareness to the teaching profession, especially in the field of special education,” said Harvard Elementary School Special Education Resource Specialist Carol Sun. Her resource classroom is a place for special needs students to work at their own pace, to receive individualized support, to hear encouragement from their peers and from her, and to learn that effort and perseverance can equate to success – in school and in life.

A Dr. Seuss rhyme explains for Chanelle Thomas, a fourth-grade teacher at Denker Avenue Elementary School, why and how she teaches: “Unless someone like you cares a whole, awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” She works to discover her students’ interests and talents to engage them in learning.

“Making a difference in every student’s life is my goal,” she said. “By discovering their interests and passions, I can keep them engaged in learning. My children know how much I believe in them. They can do it, and I am going to do my best to help them achieve. Teaching is my passion. I am thankful to those who taught and inspired me. I am thankful for the opportunity to make a difference.”

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Photo: (From left to right) Maria Medina-Perez, Martha Garibay, Carol Sun, Daniel Jocz, Claudine Phillips, May-Lynn Geronimo Montano, Chanelle Thomas.