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 San Diego County Teachers of the Year Announced

​Diverse Group of Teachers from Around Region Will Now Vie for State Honor

Five local educators were named San Diego County Teachers of the Year on Saturday during the 26th 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 annual black-tie gala event honors San Diego County's public school teachers and was televised live on Channel 4 San Diego from the Balboa Theatre in downtown San Diego.

The 2016-17 San Diego County Teachers of the Year are:

  • Jenny Chien Anderson, Casita Center for Technology, Science, and Math (Vista Unified School District)
  • Brooke Crocker, Santana High School (Grossmont Union High School District)
  • Stuart Douglas, Granger Junior High School (Sweetwater Union High School District)
  • Megan Gross, Del Norte High School (Poway Unified School District)
  • Amy Schwenke, Fallbrook Street School (Fallbrook Union Elementary School District)

A total of 43 teachers were nominated for the 2016-17 County Teacher of the Year honor from among the 26,000 public school teachers in the region, and the field was narrowed to 10 finalists. The finalists were selected based on student achievement, professional development and community involvement, teaching philosophy, knowledge of current issues in education, promotion and development of the teaching profession, accountability, 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 year. Since 1974, 161 teachers have been named San Diego County Teacher of the Year. Of those, 19 were named California Teacher of the Year and three went on to be named National Teacher of the Year.

About the San Diego County Teachers of the Year:

Jenny Chien Anderson is a K-5 science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) teacher and coach at Casita Center for Technology, Science, and Math in Vista Unified School District. She teaches K-5 digital citizenship and 4th-grade broadcast journalism, and runs the flexible learning space DREAMS lab. For Chien Anderson, teaching is personal and inspired by her own moment of self-realization with a high school physics teacher. Teaching needs to be personalized to students' strengths, she says. "My role is to create opportunities for students to discover their strengths to make inquires, collaborate, lead, and take action." Casita Center Principal Laura Smith calls Chien Anderson -- who was 5 when her parents immigrated to the United States from Taiwan -- a visionary and exemplar of the American Dream. "Jenny is inspired by the future and what could be," Smith says.

Brooke Crocker teaches AP U.S. history, U.S. history, and honors geography to 9th- and 11th-grade students at Santana High School in the Grossmont Union High School District. For Crocker, assessing her students' academic and social needs is essential to help them achieve in school. Her greatest accomplishment as a teacher came on the worst day of her career, when a fatal school shooting occurred at Santana in March 2001. "I realized that the power of the student-teacher connection went beyond textbooks and lectures to a true understanding of the heart." Students are drawn to Crocker, who also coaches Academic League. Assistant Principal Jennifer Hudson says Crocker inspires a love of learning: "These students crave being around her."

Stuart Douglas teaches biology to 9th-graders at Granger Junior High School in the Sweetwater Union High School District. Douglas says his love of science and the outdoors was nurtured by his parents, and he is dedicated to connecting his students with nature through field trips, guest speakers, volunteering, and other opportunities. "I provide them with experiences that open the doors of possibility," he says. Douglas' former principal, Richard Carreon, calls him the "face of field trips" at the school. "His selfless acts continue to put students in situations where they learn beyond school walls." School safety is also a priority for Douglas, who was a new teacher at Santana High when the fatal 2001 shooting occurred. Colleagues hailed Douglas as a hero for getting students to safety that day.

Megan Gross' classroom is the home base for students in the Autism Spectrum Disorders program at Del Norte High School in the Poway Unified School District. Her day includes teaching support classes in reading and vocational skills. In Gross' classroom, the emphasis of instruction is on communication and active engagement in the school community. She believes success is possible for all students, and works collectively with students, families, and support team members to make a plan for success. Principal Greg Mizel says Gross is "profoundly passionate about inclusion. She is deeply dedicated to ending the social and physical isolation of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities."

Amy Schwenke teaches kindergartners at Fallbrook Street School in the Fallbrook Union Elementary School District. Children begin to understand the importance of education in kindergarten, Schwenke says. She says she challenges her students to act as leaders, "making choices that model good citizenship and scholarly behavior." Principal Stephenie Martinez says Schwenke "is relentless when it comes to unlocking a child's potential." Schwenke works to reach her students academically and emotionally, and says, "It is imperative that I create a place of belonging."

The County Teacher of the Year honor also includes five finalists: Doug Connor, Cuyamaca Outdoor School, San Diego County Office of Education; Jonathan Hash, Lincoln High School, San Diego Unified School District; Mark Jeffers, Mount Miguel High School, Grossmont Union High School District; Jennifer Roberts, Point Loma High School, San Diego Unified School District; and Allison Slattery, Bonsall West Elementary School, Bonsall Unified School District.

"Cox Presents: A Salute to Teachers" is an Academy Awards-style extravaganza. Held at the historic Balboa Theatre, it was broadcast live on Channel 4 San Diego, and featured hosts Kyra Phillips, an awarding-winning journalist with CNN, and Dennis Morgigno, a longtime San Diego broadcast journalist. Student-led entertainment included performances from The Music Machine of Bonita Vista High School in Chula Vista; Soul Arch Band, with members from Point Loma High School and School for the Creative and Performing Arts; singer Cassidy Drabble of Lakeside Middle School; The Lakeside Middle School Show Choir; and Marissa Grace Music.

Replays of the "Cox Presents: A Salute to Teachers" telecast on Channel 4 San Diego are scheduled for:

  • 6 p.m. Sept. 11
  • 7 p.m. Sept. 17
  • 6 p.m. Sept. 18
  • 7 p.m. Sept. 24

Telecast replays on ITV Channel 16 are scheduled for:

  • 5:30 p.m. Sept. 18
  • 5:30 p.m. Sept. 24
  • 2 p.m. Sept. 25
  • 2 p.m. Oct. 1

The "Cox Presents: A Salute to Teachers" telecast also will be available on Cox On Demand starting Oct. 1. KUSI will re-air the show in November. 

Sponsors of "Cox Presents: A Salute to Teachers" included presenting sponsor San Diego County Credit Union; San Diego County Office of Education; Nothing Bundt Cakes; Procopio; The Super Dentists; Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation; Entravision San Diego; Subaru; The San Diego Union-Tribune; KUSI; Luna Grill; iHeartMedia; and Turner.