LAUSD educator finalist for National Teacher of the Year

LOS ANGELES (Jan. 12, 2016) - Daniel Jocz, a social studies teacher at Downtown Magnets High School, has been selected as one of four finalists for the 2016 National Teacher of the Year. If he is named in April, he will spend a year traveling the nation to represent educators and advocate on behalf of teachers and students.

Earlier in the completion, he was chosen as a teacher of the year in competitions held by L. A. Unified, L. A. County and California.

“I could not be the teacher that I am without the support of my family, friends, students, parents, and colleagues at Downtown Magnets High School,” Jocz said. “It feels great to have the hard work we do at DMHS being acknowledged at the national level.”

New L. A. Unified Superintendent Michelle King said, “This excellent teacher inspires his students, and pushes them to excel. He deserves congratulations, and also appreciation for his creative and very effective work in the classroom.”

An integral part of the Downtown Magnets community, Jocz is a teacher, department chair, Associated Student Body adviser and member of the Instructional Leadership Team. The passage rate of his Advanced Placement students on the U.S. History exam is among the highest in the District.

“I strive every day to capture the magic, complexity and wonder of history for my students from across Los Angeles’ inner-city neighborhoods,” Jocz said. “My students from neighborhoods as diverse as South and East Los Angeles and Chinatown rarely see themselves as being part of American history.”

His use of YouTube and 21st century technology to complement his lessons has been recognized nationally.

“My regular use of popular culture and music in my lessons has allowed me to create a curriculum that is rigorous, relevant and engaging, and helps my students develop media literacy skills,” he said.

His classroom is a gathering spot for students.

“It serves as the heart of (the school’s) spirit and headquarters,” a parent said. “Mr. Jocz instills a sense of success and pride that our students take with them throughout their day and beyond school hours.”

He also encourages students to continue their education after high school.

The first in his family to go to college, Jocz worked full-time to put himself through school and graduated magna cum laude from the University of California at Los Angeles. During his studies, he came to realize that many of America’s minority communities were often underrepresented in the recounting of the nation’s history.

“To not teach this history … is to do a disservice to our nation’s rich, complicated past. This is why I committed my life to teaching history in an urban public school setting,” he wrote in his Teacher of the Year application.

Jocz has traveled the world and worked with teachers and students in other countries. These experiences have allowed him to broaden his own outlook, as well as his curriculum.

His first level of competition was at the school district. The L.A. Unified Teachers of the Year were submitted to the Los Angeles County Office of Education for consideration as regional winners. At the next level, a state selection committee reviewed candidates' applications and conducted site visits to evaluate their rapport with students, classroom environment, presentation skills, and teaching methods, among other criteria. The state superintendent then selected five honorees, and determined that Jocz would move on to the national competition.

The president will recognize the National Teacher of the Year in a White House ceremony this spring.

Jocz represents a family of successful L.A. Unified teachers that were named California Teacher of the Year: Lovelyn Marquez-Prueher from Dodson Middle School (2015), Veronica Marquez from Harmony Elementary (2012), Jose Navarro IV from Sylmar High School (2009), Lewis Chappelear (2008) and Kelly Hanock (2006), who were both educators at Monroe High School. Chappelear also was named in 2008 as a national finalist.

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