In October, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson named the 2019 California Teachers of the Year, four of whom are CTA members.
Torlakson praised the educators’ deep commitment, hard work and creativity. “They make profound differences in their students’ lives and provide students the tools they need to succeed,” he said in a press statement. “They’re an inspiration and an example of the exceptional work going on in California schools.”
The Teachers of the Year — who will act as ambassadors for the profession — were initially nominated by their county offices of education; a California Department of Education (CDE) selection committee reviewed their applications and conducted site visits before interviews.
This year’s winners:
Mt. Diablo Education Association
Grades 9–12, English
Northgate High School, Walnut Creek
“Often teachers feel that if they are thinking about issues of equity and implicit bias, they must compromise rigor for all students to be successful; in fact, it is by helping our most socially marginalized students develop literacy (and numeracy) skills that we achieve social equity.”
Torlakson has nominated Reid as California’s representative in the competition for National Teacher of the Year, to be named in Spring 2019.
Reid has been teaching for 16 years, the last two at Northgate High. She was the first in her family to go to college, largely because of her educators’ efforts, and she became a teacher to pay this forward. She has taught every level of high school English and is part of the English Learner Review Team to monitor English learners and mentor teachers. Most recently, she founded and leads an equity task force at her school.
Reid uses standardized test data to see individual student progress, identify patterns with groups of students, and remediate achievement gaps for marginalized students. She selects materials from a diverse range of authors and articles about relevant and compelling social issues so every student sees themselves in the coursework, feels the work matters, and realizes their voices matter.
“I strive to be a status quo disruptor and an agent of social justice, while engaging in a rigorous, standards-based English curriculum,” Reid said.
Upper Lake Education Association
Grades 9–12, Agriculture
Upper Lake High School, Upper Lake
“One of the most important aspects of education is the challenge of appealing to the varying styles of learning unique to each student. My biggest goal is to help students reach their individual potential.”
Boomer has been teaching for 12 years, all at Upper Lake High, where she is also an alumnus, creator of the Agriculture Education Department, a wood and metal shop teacher, science teacher, and a mentor to new agriculture teachers. She also created a school farm and brought in a California Partnership Academy program related to sustainable agriculture and alternative energy so that students can have hands-on, career technical education opportunities.
The CDE noted that Boomer creates a personal connection with students, and uses humor to help them feel more comfortable and less pressure so that they’re ready to interact with the lessons and other students.
“Beyond the knowledge, the best teaching practices, the rigorous standards — Erica loves her students,” said Angel Hayenga, English Department Chair at Upper Lake High. “You can hear it in their voices. You can see it in their eyes.”
Manhattan Beach Unified Teachers Association
Grade 4, Multiple Subjects
Opal Robinson Elementary School, Manhattan Beach
“Although teaching is an ever-changing profession, salient threads are at the core of my practice. Sensitivity, humor, reinforcement, motivation, practice, exploration, inquiry and discovery are common threads that weave in and out, throughout my day.”
Holz has been teaching for 38 years, 21 years in her current position. She is also a Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports site leader, mentor and leader in her district’s education community.
The CDE said that Holz’s personal style — anecdotes, connections with students, humor — adds to a learning environment where students feel treasured for their uniqueness and stimulated by a motivating curriculum. Each thematic unit of instruction is integrated with literature, writing, math, history, science and fine arts. Lessons are differentiated to meet children where they are and move them successfully to their next steps.
“She is a consummate educator of history-social studies,” said Katherine Whittaker Stopp, Manhattan Beach Unified’s assistant superintendent of educational services. “I’ve seen no one create learning energy around it like Kim.”
Corona Norco Teachers Association
Grades 7–8, Art
El Cerrito Middle School, Corona
“I immerse students in technology: cinematography, animatronics, projection mapping, light boards. Art opens their eyes to alternative world views. It explodes in them, goading them to be great in everything they do.”
Mejico, who has been teaching for 15 years, five at El Cerrito Middle, realized she wanted to be a teacher during medical school. She earned a doctorate in education, taught high school natural science, and middle school art and physical education. She founded the Art Academy and an annual Art Expo at El Cerrito Middle School with students, staff and the community. But she says her real passion is helping students find their purpose.
She teaches art to 450 students each year — general education, English language learners, accelerated students, and disabled and special day-class students. She seizes cross-curricular opportunities to mix art with core academics.
Mejico’s “positive attitude is infectious,” said Kelly Perkins, an El Cerrito Middle physical education teacher. “Dr. Mejico includes all learners in daily curriculum by using their experiences, interests and backgrounds while implementing strategies to present visual arts.”
Michael Henges, a 12th-grade government and economics teacher at Redondo Union High School, is also a 2019 California Teacher of the Year, but not a CTA member.