Two San Diego County teachers are among the five 2017 California Teachers of the Year, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced today.
They are Megan Gross, who teaches students with autism spectrum disorders at Del Norte High School in Poway Unified School District, and Jenny Chien Anderson, who teaches science, technology, engineering, and mathematics at Casita Center for Technology, Science, and Math, in the Vista Unified School District.
Gross will also represent California at the National Teacher of the Year competition.
"I am pleased to honor five dedicated and hardworking teachers who use their creativity and talents every day to make a huge difference in their classrooms," Torlakson said. "These inspiring and innovative teachers enrich the lives of our students while helping them to succeed in 21st century careers and college. These teachers represent the best of their profession and serve as great examples."
Gross has been a special education teacher for nine years, the last three teaching an autism spectrum disorder special day class at Del Norte High School, where she leads a team of instructional assistants who collaborate to design and support unique learning opportunities and experiences for their students.
Her classroom is a place where students feel welcome and can access the resources needed to thrive academically and socially in general education settings. It serves as a home base for her students, providing security and comfort when needed, but also confidence for each student to grow with the rest of their classmates and participate in school-wide activities.
"Teaching is life-fulfilling work," she said. "I love the challenge of identifying the best instructional and support strategies for my new students each fall and delight in the rewards of each student's 'a-ha' moment that ultimately leads to growth and continued success."
Under her leadership, her students launched a school-wide campaign, "Socktober," to collect socks and blankets to benefit homeless families in their school district as well as created Valentines for senior citizens who lived in a nearby assisted-living facility.
"Mrs. Gross has worked diligently to create a positive, inclusive, and productive learning environment for her students," said Greg Mizel, principal at Del Norte High School. "Relational, reflective, humorous, generous with her time, and committed to helping each and every one of her students thrive and succeed, we feel blessed to have her on staff."
Jenny Chien Anderson
Anderson has been teaching for nine years, the last two as a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) teacher at Casita Center for Technology, Science, and Math. A self-described learning experience designer, Anderson pulls resources from various avenues to remix and refine lessons to create personalized and relevant experiences that focus on each student's interests.
"The value of education rests on how educators shape the young minds of tomorrow," she said. "By focusing on their strengths, interests, and values through a personalized approach, students feel empowered to take action to make an impact in the world."
She teaches a fourth grade journalism class, where students produce a morning newscast and also runs a flexible learning space entitled the Design, Research, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics, and Science (DREAMS) lab where students learn the language of coding and engage in design challenges aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards and state standards in English language arts and math. The DREAMS lab allows students the opportunity to explore how things work from trial and error.
"Jenny Anderson is a lead learner," said Laura Smith, principal of Casita Center for Technology, Science, and Math. "Observing her deliver professional development on Next Generation Science Standards to teachers is magical. Educators from all over San Diego County are modeling their STEM labs after the DREAMS lab. Jenny is inspired by the future and what could be."
California Teacher of the Year Program
L. Brooke Crocker, a history and geography teacher at Santana High School in the Grossmont Union High School District was one of eight finalists for the California Teacher of the Year Program, which began in 1972 to honor outstanding teachers and encourage new teachers to enter the profession.
County offices of education nominate teachers for the California Teachers of the Year competitions through their county-level contests. 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.
The teachers are interviewed by the California Department of Education. The State Superintendent then selects the five awardees.
The 2017 California Teachers of the Year, finalists, and semifinalists will be honored by Torlakson at a gala in Sacramento on Feb. 13.
For more information on the award program, please visit the CDE's California Teachers of the Year Web page.