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2013 Los Angeles County Teachers of the YearThe Los Angeles County Office of Education has announced the 16 County Teachers of the Year, who represent the best among the region's 75,000 K-12 educators.

The "Sweet 16" were presented by LACOE Superintendent Arturo Delgado on Sept. 27 at the Hilton Universal City as outstanding educators who have served with praiseworthy distinction. Judged as the county's top public school teachers for this academic year, they will serve as standard-bearers for the teaching profession countywide.

They were selected by judging panels from a contestant field of 76 district-level teachers of the year. The "Sweet 16" is comprised of 13 women and three men.

The competition was organized by the Los Angeles County Office of Education and presented in partnership with California Credit Union and other sponsors. The teachers received $1,000 honorariums during the ceremony.

Now in its 32nd year, the L.A. County TOY competition is the largest in the state and is part of the nation's oldest and most prestigious honors contest for school teachers. The number of county winners -- 16 -- is determined by program rules based on the total number of teachers in the county.

The county winners automatically advance, with other county titlists from around the state, to the California Teachers of the Year competition this fall. The state is scheduled to announce its five co-winners in November. But only one of those state co-winners will be chosen to represent California in the National Teacher of the Year contest next spring.

The L.A. County competition called for essays, lesson plans, resumes, letters of reference and interviews. At all levels, TOY contests are designed to focus public attention on teaching excellence, and to honor educators who have demonstrated exemplary dedication, compelling classroom practices, positive accomplishments and professional commitment.

Online resources:
Los Angeles Daily News
California Department of Education Teacher of the Year Website

The 2013-14 Los Angeles County Teachers of the Year

Lorie Felippa
Lorie Felippa (Click to play short video clip)
Arcadia Unified School District
Highland Oaks School -- Transitional Kindergarten
City of Residence: Glendora
Years Teaching: 18

Lorie strives to build a sense of community with her kindergarteners, helping each student blossom in their own special way -- and gain academic readiness skills along with developmental and social skills.
Quote of Note: According to her superintendent, "Lorie is the quintessential early childhood teacher, caring and approachable."

Julie McGoughJulie McGough (Click to play short video clip)
Azusa Unified School District
Victor Hodge Elementary School -- Fifth Grade
City of Residence: Glendora
Years Teaching: 19

Julie's classroom goals for her fifth-graders are clear and ambitious: every child will love reading, have a good conceptual understanding of math concepts and develop the character traits she or he needs to be successful in life.
Quote of Note: Writes a grateful ex-student, "Because of Mrs. McGough, I left Hodge Elementary with a love of reading that has inspired me ever since."

Jesus Gutierrez, Jr.Jesus Gutierrez, Jr. (Click to play short video clip)
Baldwin Park Unified School District
Baldwin Park High School -- ELD/Guided Studies 9-12
City of Residence: Covina
Years Teaching: 10

Jesus specializes in teaching English Learners. Also, this year, because of his passionate commitment to education, he has been working with failing students, motivating them to overcome their fears and return to the path of academic success.
Quote of Note: A colleague writes, "Jesus brings to his classroom an abundant amount of energy and an unlimited reservoir of fresh ideas."

Ruth LuevandRuth Luevand (Click to play short video clip)
Bonita Unified School District
San Dimas High School -- Chemistry/AP Chemistry
City of Residence: San Dimas
Years Teaching: 12

One of the great rewards of teaching, Ruth writes, "is having students walk into my classroom curious about something they read, saw or didn't quite understand. Their need to know, and know why, makes my profession a daily blessing."
Quote of Note: Her principal comments that "Ruth puts forth a 'Mad Scientist' demeanor that gets kids excited about chemistry."

Jill TobinJill Tobin (Click to play short video clip)
Burbank Unified School District
John Burroughs High School -- GeoScience/Honors Biology
City of Residence: Los Angeles
Years Teaching: 9

On any given day you can find Jill in her biology classroom, cracking corny jokes and empowering her students with her conviction that each of them is capable of working and achieving success, in school and in life.
Quote of Note: A student offers a ringing endorsement: "I wouldn't trade my countless conversations with Mrs. Tobin for anything in the world."

Terri KegansTerri Kegans (Click to play short video clip)
Claremont Unified School District
El Roble Intermediate School -- Physical Education
City of Residence: Claremont
Years Teaching: 25

Terri is inspired by her PE students and thankful to work alongside colleagues who have a passion for education, fitness, fun and the development of the whole child. She loves to empower students to overcome their fears and achieve goals.
Quote of Note: "Terri makes sure students do not fall through the cracks," comments an administrator whose own children were enrolled in her classes.

Jennifer ToledoJennifer Toledo (Click to play short video clip)
Downey Unified School District
Gauldin Elementary School -- Fourth Grade
City of Residence: Huntington Beach
Years Teaching: 20

Jennifer's philosophy of teaching begins with this rule: Children need to be handled with care. They come to school with different experiences, some of which are good, some bad, and some heartbreaking. But all children can learn.
Quote of Note: Her principal notes, "The students know the bar is set high in Mrs. Toledo's class, and they strive daily to meet her expectations."

Johna StienstraJohna Stienstra (Click to play short video clip)
Duarte Unified School District
Maxwell Elementary School -- Fifth & Sixth Grades
City of Residence: Los Angeles
Years Teaching: 11

Whatever the classroom subject -- reading, writing, math, science, social studies, PE or the arts -- Johna works hard to find a way to make it accessible and even fun for her fifth- and sixth-graders. She wants each of them to "succeed to the max."
Quote of Note: Her superintendent offers this praise: "Ms. Stienstra provides tutoring for students before school, during lunch and after school."

Beth KatzBeth Katz (Click to play short video clip)
El Segundo Unified School District
Richmond Street Elementary School -- Special Education/Third Grade
City of Residence: Torrance
Years Teaching: 26

An inclusion specialist, Beth concentrates on building a bond of trust by getting to know her students and spending time with them. This allows her to individualize instruction and help them on their journey to living successful and productive lives.
Quote of Note: Praise from her principal: "Ms. Katz spends hours listening to parent concerns, comforting them and guiding them."

Kimberly DueñasKimberly Dueñas (Click to play short video clip)
Long Beach Unified School District
Marshall Academy of the Arts -- Fourth Grade
City of Residence: Long Beach
Years Teaching: 14

If power is the ability to influence, then Kim can think of no profession as powerful as teaching. The impact teachers have on the lives of their students is a responsibility she is aware of every day; it is, she says, a part of her moral compass.
Quote of Note: A current student offers this endorsement: "I have enjoyed the school year so far because Mrs. Dueñas has made fourth grade so spectacular."

Wendy MonroyWendy Monroy (Click to play short video clip)
Los Angeles Unified School District
Narbonne High School -- Algebra & Geometry
City of Residence: Los Angeles
Years Teaching: 9

Wendy realizes that, for many students, she is their last hope to learn to appreciate mathematics. She measures her success by the number of students who testify that taking her algebra or geometry class was a turning point in their life.
Quote of Note: A grateful parent writes: "Ms. Monroy's care, enthusiasm and philosophy of hard work have truly rubbed off on my daughter."

Jayme TaoJayme Tao (Click to play short video clip)
Los Angeles Unified School District
John Muir Middle School -- Physical Science
City of Residence: Norwalk
Years Teaching: 7

Jayme doesn't see middle school as a place where a bunch of squirrely children run amok. She sees it as an opportunity to influence her students -- many of them faced with poverty, gangs and other negative influences -- to take their first steps along a path of success.
Quote of Note: A parent offers this: "Ms. Tao has created an environment of trust and care that has encouraged my daughter to take risks without fear."

Michael HaydenMichael Hayden (Click to play short video clip)
Manhattan Beach Unified School District
Mira Costa High School -- Choral Music/Music Appreciation
City of Residence: Los Angeles
Years Teaching: 23

Michael teaches not only choral music, but life. His students have performed on the stages of Disney Concert Hall and Carnegie Hall, yet their biggest accomplishments are creating a community where everyone is not only accepted, but celebrated.
Quote of Note: A parent comments: "If you are in choir at Mira Costa, there's no escaping Mr. Hayden and his relentless pursuit of your excellence."

Kelly BakerKelly Baker (Click to play short video clip)
Norwalk La Mirada Unified School District
Nettie Waite Middle School -- English Language Arts
City of Residence: Long Beach
Years Teaching: 20

Kelly began her teaching career at age 5 when she corralled neighborhood kids into a makeshift classroom and handed them homemade worksheets. She continues the practice today, using electronic tablets in place of crayons.
Quote of Note: Superlatives from a former student, now at UC Berkeley: "Ms. Baker is the most memorable, caring and effective teacher I ever had."

Joyce TaylorJoyce Taylor (Click to play short video clip)
Paramount Unified School District
Lincoln Elementary School -- Fourth Grade
City of Residence: Arcadia
Years Teaching: 17

Joyce feels she hit the educational jackpot when she started working at Lincoln Elementary 17 years ago. It is always gratifying, she says, when former students come back to visit, give hugs and say, "I remember when…" and "Thank you for everything."
Quote of Note: "Joyce is a 'warm demander' with her students," her principal writes, "stretching them, praising them and expecting them to be successful."

Craig MichaelCraig Michael (Click to play short video clip)
West Covina Unified School District
Edgewood High School -- English
City of Residence: Covina
Years Teaching: 20

A classroom Bruce Springsteen poster reminds Craig of the performer's many decades of impassioned performances and inspires him never to just go through the motions of teaching. Likewise he inspires his students to work and learn passionately.
Quote of Note: High praise from a colleague: "I have co-taught with many admirable teachers, but Mr. Michael outshines them all."
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