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 Two Local Teachers Are Finalists for Statewide Honor

Two of the five San Diego County Teachers of the Year​ were named finalists Monday for the statewide recognition.

Cynthia Jackson, who teaches eighth grade at Hidden Valley Middle School in Escondido, and Crystal Rienick, who teaches English at Valley Center High School in Valley Center, were among the six finalists. Neither is one of the five 2014 California Teachers of the Year.

Jackson, Rienick and the other finalists will be honored at a gala in February by Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction.

Jackson's students create their own countries, complete with constitutions, executive branches, and legislatures as well as their own national currency. Lessons like these help students feel empowered by giving them a sense of control over their lives both personally and academically. 

Rienick attributes her success as a teacher to connections: connections from teacher to student, student to student, student to the world, and student to himself or herself. She was an “early adopter” of using technology in the classroom. Her students are now creating multimedia projects, researching topics of interest, collaborating with Google apps and are currently working on electronic portfolios for their senior projects.

The California Teachers of the Year Program is open to educators teaching pre-kindergarten through grade 12. County offices of education nominate winners through regional competitions. A state selection committee reviews candidates' applications and conducts site visits to evaluate the teachers' rapport with students, classroom environment, presentation skills, and teaching methods, among other criteria. The teachers are interviewed at the California Department of Education in Sacramento. The State Superintendent then selects the awardees.