San Diego County Office of Education
Juvenile Court and Community Schools (JCCS) teacher Ellen De La Cruz was honored last week at a special ceremony held during the Juvenile Court, Community, and Alternative Schools Administrators of the California (JCCASAC) 50th anniversary state conference.
De La Cruz has been at JCCS for more than 21 years in a variety of settings. She helped start the Trauma Response Unit (TRU) in 2016 at SOAR Academy Kearny Mesa. The TRU unit is a collaboration between educators, counselors, and probation staff working in an effort to support youth who are experiencing high levels of stress due to trauma; many of the youth are both delinquency and dependency youth. TRU provides engaging, culturally responsive,and therapeutic learning experiences. De La Cruz believes that kids in the TRU unit can work their way out of the juvenile justice system.
De La Cruz was one of seven nominees for the JCCASAC honor, along with teachers from the Kern County Superintendent of Schools, Los Angeles County Office of Education, Orange County Department of Education, Placer County Office of Education, San Joaquin County Office of Education, and Stanislaus County Office of Education. Greg Barragan from the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools was named the 2019 JCCASAC Teacher of the Year.
County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Gothold praised De La Cruz's efforts to inspire students to turn their lives around. "She is an outstanding teacher and advocate for her students," he said.
Paulette Donnellon, president of the San Diego County Board of Education, concurred. "Connecting with students who are incarcerated can be challenging, but teachers like Ellen show the impact a caring adult can make."
To select the Teacher of the Year for JCCASAC, each county office of education nominates one court, community, or alternative education school teacher. All nominees must meet certain criteria including having at least five years of teaching experience, two of which must be in county office alternative education programs. The JCCASAC board reviews applicants and selects the winner.
For information about JCCASAC, visit the
California County Superintendents Educational Services Association website.