Today we celebrate California Day of the Teacher, which honors instructional excellence in our public schools.
As we endure the challenges presented by COVID-19, teachers around the state continue to provide the academic and emotional supports students need to be successful. Their impact is on display now more than ever.
One of those teachers is SDCOE’s own Teacher of the Year, Dr. Angela Gigliotti Ortiz.
Dr. Gigliotti Ortiz has known since elementary school that she wanted to be a teacher. When she was in 3rd grade, her teacher asked her to work with classmates who were struggling to read.
The experience gave her a strong sense of accomplishment and set her on the path that has led to her being named SDCOE's Teacher of the Year for 2020.
"Angela is an exemplary teacher who inspires her colleagues and students to be better," said Rochelle Lightner, who teaches with Dr. Gigliotti Ortiz at Bayside Community School in Barrio Logan. "Her selfless passion and expertise in subject matter make her the perfect candidate for Teacher of the Year."
Dr. Gigliotti Ortiz said her job includes not only teaching math and art with high expectations but also listening and advocating for her students.
"Angela is able to quickly form strong rapport with our students and assists them to not only focus on a high school diploma, but to consider post-secondary education too," Principal Theresa Fox said.
Her passion for teaching has been driven largely by a focus on helping students create new narratives that can help them reclaim and remake their personal history both inside and outside of the classroom.
This is particularly important considering many of her students have been expelled from their home school districts and they often come to the school voicing some of the negative labels they've heard in the past.
"My hope is to continue to open spaces for my students to create and transmit their new life narratives, which demonstrate their strengths and intelligences," she said.
During the transition to distance learning, she and the Bayside team have been focusing mainly on student well-being.
“It has been a coordinated effort to get in touch with all of our students; to check in with them and their families and support them not only academically but also socially and emotionally,” said Dr. Gigliotti Ortiz. “Many of our families have lost their jobs and are in need of food and are worried about housing, so even though we are moving forward with instruction, our greatest concern is for their well-being.”
Dr. Gigliotti Ortiz started working for Juvenile Court and Community Schools 24 years ago as a substitute teacher at Lindsay Community School, where she later returned to as a teacher for eight years.
"The young women at Lindsay, all of which were pregnant or parenting, and the staff became like family to me," she said. "It was a very special time, one that I will cherish forever. The girls at Lindsay taught me the meaning of resilience and never ceased to amaze me with their determination and strength."
She has also worked as a technology resource teacher and at the now-closed Rancho del Campo, Toussaint Academy, and National City Community School. Gigliotti Ortiz and Lightner opened Bayside Community School seven years ago.
Dr. Gigliotti Ortiz recently earned a doctorate from the University of London that involved co-curating an art show with her students and writing a dissertation focused on students' music, poetry, and artwork as narratives of resistance and imprints of trauma.
"My students had taught me so much and became the inspiration for seeking a doctorate degree," she said.