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 Teacher at Preuss School Finalist for U.S. Teacher of the Year

​For the second consecutive year, and the third time in the last five years, San Diego County has produced one of the four finalists for the United States Teacher of the Year award.

Kelly Kovacic, a social studies teacher extraordinaire who teaches 11th and 12th graders at The Preuss School at UCSD, was announced as a national finalist by state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell.

“I am extremely honored to be chosen as a finalist,” Kovacic said. “It is an amazing opportunity to be an advocate for teachers, students, and public education. More than anything else, this honor is recognition of the dedicated and hard-working students, staff and teaching colleagues I have the privilege to work with each day at The Preuss School.”

Kovacic, who has taught at Preuss for seven years, was one of five teachers named San Diego County Teacher of the Year on October 10 last year, at the culmination of Cox Presents A Salute to Teachers, the San Diego County Teacher of the Year Awards.

Kovacic and another of those five County Teachers of the Year, Juvenile Court and Community School teacher Melanie Tolan, were then named as two of five California Teachers of the Year, with Kovacic announced as the state’s representative in the United States Teacher of the Year program.

A year earlier, Escondido Union School District math teacher Alex Kajitani was named County and State Teacher of the Year, and travelled to Washington to meet President and First Lady Obama as one of four national Teacher of the Year Finalists.

In 2005, San Diego High School history teacher Stan Murphy, with 30-plus years in the classroom, traveled the same path as Kajitani, earning county and state honors before travelling to the White House as a National Finalist to meet President and First Lady Bush.

“There is no other area of the country that produces as many national finalists as San Diego County,” said John Quam, who coordinates the United States Teacher of the Year Program for the Council of Chief State School Officers. “California has more finalists than any other state, and it’s been the San Diego area that produces the bulk of them.”

Three San Diego County Teachers have been named United States Teacher of the Year. Most recently, Sandra McBrayer was awarded the national honor in 1994. McBrayer started the nation’s first school for homeless teens, The Place, and is now Executive Director of the Children’s Initiative.

In 1990, Serra High English Teacher Jan Gabay was the United States Teacher of the Year. Gabay now works with Kovacic at The Preuss School. And in 1977, Grossmont Union High School District Teacher Myrra Lee was honored as the U.S. Teacher of the Year.