Excitement spreads through the gathered student body like an airborne cold virus in the winter.
There are sidelong glances at the visitors and whispers as dozens of students sit crisscross applesauce waiting for the assembly to begin.
The principal gives no hint, simply introduces the Communications team member from the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE).
"Can anyone tell me what the San Diego County Office of Education does?" Dozens of tiny hands shoot into the air and a series of pretty close guesses ensue. "It helps the 23,000 teachers and 500,000 students in the county! And we're here today for …"
A few times every month during the school year, an SDCOE representative visits schools across the county to surprise amazing teachers and students through recognition programs with several community partners.
Teachers Are Heroes is a program with Entercom Communications, whose local radio stations include KSON, FM 94.9, and Sunny 98.1, and Azusa Pacific University's San Diego Regional Campus.
For the Teachers Are Heroes program, listeners from any of the three radio stations submit heartfelt stories of teachers going above and beyond in their jobs to create a lifelong love for learning in children. Each school year, 12 teachers are selected by a panel of station and sponsor representatives to be recognized by the program.
SDCOE and its partners visit the schools and make a presentation at an all-school assembly. The nomination letter is read aloud in front of the student body, faculty, and visiting parents. The recognized teacher receives some money for classroom supplies, a food party for the class, and an end-of-year trip to a local amusement park for the teacher and his or her students with the other honorees.
To view recent Teachers Are Heroes pictures and nominate a teacher, visit the KSON-FM website.
The Inspirational Teacher and Student of the Month programs with NBC 7 San Diego recognize teens and educators who go above and beyond. High school student honorees are academic achievers and leaders who work to improve their school and community, and teachers recognized through the program are dedicated and enthusiastic, held in high esteem by their peers, and making a difference in the county.
SDCOE visits the school with NBC 7's education reporter Rory Devine, who produces an often emotional TV news story on the inspirational teacher and student after interviewing them, their school friends, colleagues, and their family.
You can watch the latest Inspirational Teacher of the Month and Inspirational Student of the Month stories on NBC 7 San Diego or online. The nomination form for a teacher or student is available at those links.
Radio station 105.7 MAX FM and Mission Federal Credit Union celebrate teachers with the Mission Federal MAX Out My Class! program, which rewards a K-8 teacher with a $200 gift card to spend on classroom supplies and projects. Mission Federal and 105.7 MAX FM representatives visit a deserving K-8 classroom every Tuesday during the school year. The winning teacher receives a $200 Visa gift card from Mission Federal Credit Union and Reading Cinemas movie passes, and students receive goody bags and get to record a message to air on the radio. Nominations may be submitted to Monica Ventura.
San Diego County Credit Union (SDCCU) honors local teachers through its SDCCU Classroom Heroes program, launched in partnership with iHeartMedia San Diego. Each "Classroom Hero" receives a $500 SDCCU Visa gift card, and will be recognized on a billboard in their community. Teachers, students, parents, and the community may nominate a deserving teacher online.
Districts, school sites, and SDCOE work diligently to ensure teachers are supported and students have what they need to succeed. And sometimes support is best shown by saying, "Thank you" -- and that's what these community programs do for educators. They say, "Thank you for committing your life to students; we see all your hard work and dedication and the community appreciates you."
The best part of these programs is the genuine surprise and humility of the recipients, because recognition is never expected, which makes these community programs and relationships so important.