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 San Diego High Educator Named State Teacher of the Year

A San Diego County teacher is among the five 2018 California Teachers of the Year, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced today.

Jaime Yumiko Brown teaches International Baccalaureate Higher Level English and Film Studies at San Diego High School of International Studies in the San Diego Unified School District. Brown is also an alumna of the school.

Torlakson, who began his career as a science teacher and coach, said he is pleased to honor five outstanding and talented teachers who have made a great impact in their schools and communities.

“These teachers are deeply committed, hard-working, and creative,” he said. “They help students find their inner strengths and achieve their dreams, while inspiring, challenging, and supporting them every day. They represent the best of their profession.” 

Brown has spent her 14-year teaching career at San Diego High School. She views her primary job as “empowering my students with the tools and confidence they need to effectively navigate these courses on their own two feet.” Brown also works to empower her students to knowledge and voices outside the classroom, among their friends and family, in the workplace, and in the world.

Principal Carmen Garcia said Brown’s classroom practices “are alive with enriching collaborative conversations where students transform into experts on English literature.”

A classroom environment that is also comfortable and positive for her students is important to Brown. “In a world filled with uncertainty and doubt, we need compassion to prevail in the classroom,” Brown said. She speaks from experience: During World War II, her Japanese-American grandparents were placed in internment camps, and she confronted overt racism from her 8th-grade teacher in Texas.

Brown’s teaching philosophy embodies two thoughts: that student voices should be heard in the classroom, and that small moments matter. “Small moments that show students you care about them can make a big difference in their lives.”

San Diego County also produced two of the seven California Teacher of the Year Finalists: Mark Lantsberger and Kathy Worley. Lantsberger teaches computer science at Del Norte High School in Poway Unified School District. Worley teaches drafting and design, manufacturing, guitar construction, and woodworking at West Hills High School in Grossmont Union High School District.

The California Teacher of the Year Program, presented by California Casualty and the California Teachers of the Year Foundation, 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 2018 California Teachers of the Year, finalists, and semifinalists will be honored by Torlakson at a gala in Sacramento on Feb. 12. 

Since 1974, 171 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. Stan Murphy, who taught Brown at San Diego High and is now her colleague, was named a 2005 California Teacher of the Year.

Joining Brown as 2018 California Teachers of the Year are Brian McDaniel, a band and choir at Painted Hills Middle School in Palm Springs Unified School District; Kirsten Farrell, a sports medicine teacher at Venice High School in Los Angeles Unified School District; Gregory Gardiner, who teaches Advanced Placement and Special Abilities Cluster environmental science and biology at Edison High School in Huntington Beach Union School District; and Erin Oxhorn-Gilpin, a 1st- and 2nd-grade teacher at Northlake Hills Elementary School in Castaic Union School District.

Torlakson said all of the honorees will be great ambassadors for the teaching profession. With a statewide teacher shortage, he said, it is important to get the word out about the rewards of being a teacher.

“Teaching isn’t just a job. It isn’t just a career. It’s a calling. It’s a commitment to your community, your students, and most of all, a commitment to the future,” he said.

For more information, visit the CDE's California Teachers of the Year webpage and Teach California.