For the second consecutive year, and the third time in the last five
years, San Diego County has produced one of the four finalists for the
United States Teacher of the Year award.
Kelly Kovacic, a social studies teacher extraordinaire who teaches 11th
and 12th graders at The Preuss School at UCSD, was announced as a
national finalist by state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack
“I am extremely honored to be chosen as a finalist,” Kovacic said. “It
is an amazing opportunity to be an advocate for teachers, students, and
public education. More than anything else, this honor is recognition of
the dedicated and hard-working students, staff and teaching colleagues I
have the privilege to work with each day at The Preuss School.”
Kovacic, who has taught at Preuss for seven years, was one of five
teachers named San Diego County Teacher of the Year on October 10 last
year, at the culmination of Cox Presents A Salute to Teachers, the San
Diego County Teacher of the Year Awards.
Kovacic and another of those five County Teachers of the Year, Juvenile
Court and Community School teacher Melanie Tolan, were then named as two
of five California Teachers of the Year, with Kovacic announced as the
state’s representative in the United States Teacher of the Year program.
A year earlier, Escondido Union School District math teacher Alex
Kajitani was named County and State Teacher of the Year, and travelled
to Washington to meet President and First Lady Obama as one of four
national Teacher of the Year Finalists.
In 2005, San Diego High School history teacher Stan Murphy, with 30-plus
years in the classroom, traveled the same path as Kajitani, earning
county and state honors before travelling to the White House as a
National Finalist to meet President and First Lady Bush.
“There is no other area of the country that produces as many national
finalists as San Diego County,” said John Quam, who coordinates the
United States Teacher of the Year Program for the Council of Chief State
School Officers. “California has more finalists than any other state,
and it’s been the San Diego area that produces the bulk of them.”
Three San Diego County Teachers have been named United States Teacher
of the Year. Most recently, Sandra McBrayer was awarded the national
honor in 1994. McBrayer started the nation’s first school for homeless
teens, The Place, and is now Executive Director of the Children’s
In 1990, Serra High English Teacher Jan Gabay was the United States
Teacher of the Year. Gabay now works with Kovacic at The Preuss School.
And in 1977, Grossmont Union High School District Teacher Myrra Lee was
honored as the U.S. Teacher of the Year.