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 2019-20 San Diego County Teachers of the Year Announced

Five local educators were named San Diego County Teachers of the Year during the 29th annual Cox Presents: A Salute to Teachers, sponsored by San Diego County Credit Union (SDCCU) in partnership with the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE).

The 2019-20 San Diego County Teachers of the Year are:

  • Don Dumas, Bonita Vista High School, Sweetwater Union High School District
  • Christine Hansen, Quantum Academy, Escondido Union School District
  • Hilda Martinez, Zamorano Fine Arts Academy, San Diego Unified School District
  • Nicole Miller, Mission Hills High School, San Marcos Unified School District
  • Kelly Tulloch, Mountain Empire High School, Mountain Empire Unified School District

"These teachers represent the best of our local teaching corps, whose members work every day to give children the supports and opportunities they need and deserve to achieve their fullest academic and social potential," said San Diego County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Gothold. "Their work is characterized by skill, knowledge, tenacity, and creativity, and their compassion for their students shines just as brightly. They literally hold the future in their hands, shaping the course of entire generations. It isn't easy work, but it's among the most important, and we are honored to celebrate San Diego County teachers."

The annual Academy Awards-style show — which was telecast live by Cox Communications from the Balboa Theatre — celebrates San Diego County's 22,000 public school teachers, with a spotlight on 42 Teacher of the Year nominees representing San Diego County school districts. The 2019-20 County Teachers of the Year were selected from among those 42, who were nominated by their districts for their commitment to students, teaching, and lifelong learning.

The field of nominees was narrowed to 10 finalists following review of their applications and interviews by a selection panel made up of former County Teachers of the Year and administrators. The finalists were selected based on student progress, professional development and school-community involvement, teaching philosophy, knowledge of current issues and trends in education, promotion and development of the teaching profession, school culture, and ability to serve as ambassadors of education.

The five Teachers of the Year will represent San Diego County in the California Teacher of the Year program. The state winners will be announced later this fall. Since 1974, 176 teachers have been named San Diego County Teacher of the Year. Of those, 22 were named California Teacher of the Year and three went on to be named National Teacher of the Year.

The County Teacher of the Year program also includes the selection of five finalists: Scott Leonard, Paul Ecke Central Elementary School, Encinitas Union School District; Jenny Lieu, Lincoln High School, San Diego Unified School District; April Major, Vista La Mesa Academy, Lemon Grove School District; Michelle McIntyre, Joan MacQueen Middle School, Alpine Union School District; Coleen Montgomery, Rancho Bernardo High School, Poway Unified School District.

Replays of Cox Presents: A Salute to Teachers will be televised by Cox and Charter Cable on YurView Channel 4/1004 on the following dates: Sept. 20 at 7 p.m.; Oct. 11 at 6:30 p.m.; Nov. 15 and 29 at 6:30 p.m.; and Dec. 27 at 6:30 p.m. KUSI will also re-air the show this fall. For a complete listing of replay dates and times, go to

In addition to the show's producers Cox Communications and the San Diego County Office of Education, supporters of Cox Presents: A Salute to Teachers included presenting sponsor San Diego County Credit Union, Procopio, Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, California Schools VEBA, Kaiser Permanente, United Healthcare, The San Diego Union-Tribune, iHeartRadio, and KUSI.

High-resolution photos of the five San Diego County Teachers of the Year are available here. Below are brief biographies of the 2019-20 County Teachers of the Year.

Don Dumas, Advanced Placement United States History, Grade 11, Boys Varsity Basketball Coach

Don Dumas has been teaching history and economics for nine years, the last three teaching Advanced Placement History at Bonita Vista High School (Sweetwater Union High School District), and has served as the boys varsity basketball coach since 2014. After his own challenging experiences in life and school, he was drawn to teaching so that he could help students who face similar challenges. To help students succeed, he creates an environment where students can be "their authentic self," express their views, and where their individual experiences are valued, not dismissed. Dumas excels at making personal connections with his students as a way of establishing trust and further reinforcing that safe environment. "There is nothing more rewarding than when a student tells me that I have given them confidence to pursue some goal, whether it be in academia or elsewhere," Dumas said. "That is my ultimate goal — to use my history curriculum and my ability to connect in order to empower students."

From a former student: "He falls nothing short of an amazing life coach with the ability to incorporate real life conflicts with each history lesson in a way that spoke to each student individually. He knows how to reach those 'troublesome' students who are often overlooked by most teachers by hearing out their perspectives, speaking in their own terms while incorporating the teaching material through constructive and critical exchange of ideas between student and teacher."

Christine Hansen, Math, Grades 7 and 8

Christine Hansen has been teaching for seven years, the last two teaching math at Quantum Academy in Escondido (Escondido Union School District). After a successful career in technology, Hansen pursued a job in teaching in search of a more fulfilling opportunity with meaning and purpose. She disliked math when she was in school and was determined to make sure that students' math experiences were different than hers. She stays current on all the latest technology, inside and outside the classroom, so that she can relate better to her students and utilize a variety of tools to accommodate different styles of learning. Hansen teaches with compassion, striving to be that trustworthy adult who students know believes in them, encourages them, and helps them be the best version of themselves. "When I sent my son to school, I hoped that his teacher would see how special he is, teach him what he needs, and love him," Hansen said. "I want to be that teacher for my students."

From a former student: "Her unique teaching style and remarkable bond with each of her students speaks for itself. Ms. Hansen is an outstanding teacher and by far the best mentor I've had. She has taught me more than just math; she has taught me how to help others and  explain things more clearly and empathetically. Her teachings have gone beyond just the calculator into everyday life." 

Hilda Martinez, Response to Intervention Resource Teacher, Grades K-5

Hilda Martinez has been teaching for more than 20 years, the last three as a Response to Intervention resource teacher in the area of literacy at Zamorano Fine Arts Academy (San Diego Unified School District). As a resource teacher, she provides targeted instruction to groups of students at all grade levels tailored to increase reading achievement. Much of Martinez's 20 years of teaching has involved working with high populations of English learners and Title I status — students whose experiences mirrored her own growing up. It was Martinez's 5th-grade teacher who took the time to get to know her, encourage her, and cared — and years later inspired Martinez to become a teacher. "My experiences as a child helped shape my vision of a school worthy of all children," Martinez said. "The feeling of not belonging, not being worthy, or feeling insignificant has no place in any classroom. Elevating students and having them feel better about themselves than before they walked through my door is, by far, my greatest reward in teaching."

From Dr. Nancy Frey, professor of educational leadership at SDSU: "She is a 'kid magnet' — children flock to Ms. Martinez. They sense the deeply humane regard she has for them. She is a true teacher, one who deeply understands that the best teachers are those who are fearless as learners. Each time I am in her classroom, I am astounded at the goals she sets for herself to be the best teacher she can be." 

Nicole Miller, Advanced Placement United States Government and Politics, Grades 10-12, Yearbook Production

Nicole Miller has spent the last 14 years teaching government and politics at Mission Hills High School in San Marcos (San Marcos Unified School District), and has served as yearbook advisor since 2016. Miller starts each class by engaging students in relevant discussion on the day's news, which in today's political climate could take many directions. But Miller says she sees the classroom as the best place to have tough conversations about important issues facing the country today. "Students need adults they can trust: compassionate adults who will listen and help them make sense of the world," she said. Her philosophy that "meaningful learning is best achieved with high expectations in a nurturing environment" allows students to address those tough issues in a safe environment and excel in their coursework. Miller's support for her students extends beyond the classroom, where she helps them get involved, provides guidance, or just listens when they need to talk. "Students depend on us, not only for knowledge and leadership, but for emotional and physical protection," Miller said. "They count on us to advocate, to break down barriers of inequity, and to create inclusive spaces allowing them to blossom into the individuals they're destined to be."

From Courtney Goode, principal, Mission Hills High School: "It is through her unwavering nurturing of her students and their prospect for success where Nicole's greatness stands out. As her students' strongest advocate and most vocal cheerleader, her belief in them allows them to believe in themselves. Through all this, Nicole's students maintain a pass rate on the annual AP exam over 25% above the state and national averages. To say Nicole is a great teacher would be a vast understatement." 

Kelly Tulloch, Agriculture, Grades 9-12

Kelly Tulloch has been teaching agriculture education to students in grades 9-12 at Mountain Empire High School (Mountain Empire Union School District) for nearly 25 years. She created the agriculture program at the school in 1995, starting with one animal science class and growing it into a program that now offers a range of opportunities including agriculture classes, Supervised Agriculture Experience, and Future Farmers of America (FFA). Tulloch's own participation in FFA in high school changed the direction of her life, and she's been involved in agriculture ever since. In addition to teaching, she owns a livestock feed distribution business and owns a ranch where she often houses some of her students' animals. Although agriculture may be the subject Tulloch teaches, she feels the skills her students learn are useful in all subjects and areas of life. "I am passionate that my students experience influences both inside and outside of the classroom to enhance their learning and mold them into effective scholars and leaders of society. The agriculture program allows all students opportunities in premier leadership, personal growth, and career success."

From Kathy Granger, superintendent, Mountain Empire Unified School District: "Kelly approaches her work with students with a positive attitude and caring, compassionate disposition. While holding high standards for productivity and responsibility, Kelly provides the scaffolds and supports for each student to be successful. The FFA program and Ag Education Pathway that Kelly has developed is inclusive so that all students, regardless of intellectual or physical ability, language limitation, or any other perceived barriers, can participate and be successful."