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2014-2015 Teachers of the Year selected for exemplary dedication, practices and professionalism

UNIVERSAL CITY -- (September 19, 2014) -- The Los Angeles County Office of Education announced on Friday the 16 County Teachers of the Year, who represent the best among the 75,000 K-12 educators of our county.

The top were presented by LACOE Superintendent Arturo Delgado on Sept. 19 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 77 district-level teachers of the year. The top 16 are comprised of 11 women and five men. They represent the profession's elite from a total pool of 75,000 teachers countywide.

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 33rd 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 (5) co-winners in November. But only one (1) 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.

Photo 1: The Los Angeles County District Teachers of the Year 2014-2015 pose for a picture during an awards luncheon in Universal City on Friday, Sept. 19, 2014.

Photo 2: Los Angeles County Office of Education Superintendent Arturo Delgado addresses the Los Angeles Teachers of the Year 2013-2014 awards luncheon in Universal City on Friday, Sept. 19, 2014.

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Online resources:
California Department of Education Teacher of the Year Website

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The 2014-15 Los Angeles County Teachers of the Year

Edward Meyer (Click to play short video clip)
Baldwin Park Unified School District
Sierra Vista High School--English/AVID
City of Residence: Long Beach
Years Teaching: 20

"Ted" strives to build bridges between what his students learn in school and their own outside realities. As new information constantly makes itself known via TV, the Web and social networks, he thinks it's the job of educators to keep themselves current.
Quote of Note: An administrator praises: "Ted's dedication has opened many students to opportunities they'd never have dreamed of."

Kimberly Baljet (Click to play short video clip)
Castaic Union School District
Northlake Hills Elementary School--Third Grade
City of Residence: Castaic
Years Teaching: 10

Kimberly considers teaching the noblest profession. "Without it," she points out, "none of the other professions would exist." In her third-grade classroom each child is honored and respected for their talents and achievements.
Quote of Note: A grateful parent says her high school daughter "still speaks of Mrs. Baljet and how her passion for teaching continues to influence her."

Debbie Plumley (Click to play short video clip)
Claremont Unified School District
Sumner Elementary School--Third Grade
City of Residence: Chino Hills
Years Teaching: 33

Debbie strives to make her third-grade classroom not only an "inviting niche with nooks and tables in which to learn," but a "home" for the year that feels comfortable for students "to take risks, to wonder and express their feelings and opinions with a net of emotional safety."
Quote of Note: A colleague writes, "Deborah is tireless in her pursuit to help every child in her classroom become a learner and seeker of knowledge."

Julie Romero (Click to play short video clip)
Downey Unified School District
Griffiths Middle School--Combined Studies/Reading Support
City of Residence: Downey
Years Teaching: 23

Julie loves the challenge of teaching students with behavior problems and who struggle academically. She wants to change the way they feel about school, teach them to be successful and confident and proud. In short, she wants to make a difference in the lives of her students.
Quote of Note: "Mrs. Romero's class is the perfect environment for learning," writes an appreciative student, "but there is always time for stories to be told."

Mercedes Michael (Click to play short video clip)
Hacienda La Puente Unified School District
Sunset Elementary School--Fifth Grade
City of Residence: Covina
Years Teaching: 20

Mercedes uses the precious first few minutes of the class day to help her gauge her fifth-graders progress--greeting each student as she or he comes in, then walking to each table group, chatting as she checks homework and reading logs and gives credit on homework cards.
Quote of Note: A mother's praise: "I hope my son is fortunate enough to meet another educator as committed to her students as is Mrs. Michael."

William Garrett (Click to play short video clip)
Las Virgenes Unified School District
Calabasas High School--Theater/Student Leadership
City of Residence: Sherman Oaks
Years Teaching: 14

Among Bill's greatest rewards as a teacher of theater arts is seeing his students completely engaged with the learning process, challenging each other and collaborating to come up with creative solutions and productions. The concept of "ensemble" is foundational to his classes.
Quote of Note: "Bill is an exceptional, charismatic teacher," writes an administrator, "who reaches beyond his classroom to bring out the best in his students."

Veronica Camelo (Click to play short video clip)
Little Lake City School District
Jersey Avenue Elementary School--Third Grade
City of Residence: La Habra Heights
Years Teaching: 16

Veronica's class consists mainly of English Learners, and she has made their specific challenges her life's work. She knows the time and effort she spends with them will significantly impact their future academic success. Her reward? Students who can and do meet the challenge!
Quote of Note: Confirmation from an ex-student: "Mrs. Carmelo saw potential in every one of us and was like a motivational speaker—except she did not lie!"

Jean Davis (Click to play short video clip)
Long Beach Unified School District
Millikan High School--Math
City of Residence: Long Beach
Years Teaching: 14

Getting kids to like math is not easy, so Jean uses all her gifts. She laughs and tells stories and sings songs. She even sings the Quadratic Formula every time she uses it. But she never forgets the serious business of learning Algebra done every day--and her students learn!
Quote of Note: "I hear from students and parents how much they appreciate Ms. Davis," writes her principal, "wishing they could have her again."

Gail Hamilton (Click to play short video clip)
Long Beach Unified School District
Bancroft Middle School--History
City of Residence: Long Beach
Years Teaching: 10

Gail agrees with students who think history is a subject that can be boring. To overcome that, she finds a way to twist up history and put her own "fun spin on it." This means looking outside the textbook to challenge her seventh-graders with new perspectives on the past.
Quote of Note: Her principal writes, "In her role as Master Teacher, Ms. Hamilton has mentored several college students into successful teaching careers."

Maricar Fortuno Catalán (Click to play short video clip)
Los Angeles Unified School District
Dr. Julian Nava Learning Academy--Life Science/Health
City of Residence: Gardena
Years Teaching: 8

Maricar tells her new seventh-grade science students that a year in her classroom will be a journey to discovering their personal best. When the academic going gets tough, she reminds them of their personal talents, strengths and importance to the community and the world.
Quote of Note: Her principal writes, "Ms. Catalán never ceases to amaze me with her creativity, leadership, and high expectations."

Lovelyn Marquez-Prueher (Click to play short video clip)
Los Angeles Unified School District
Dodson Middle School--English
City of Residence: Torrance
Years Teaching: 11

Lovelyn's eighth-graders take a journey through literature under her guidance, and their writing is what captures their experiences. She dares them to take the next step in their personal journey, to be not just another middle school kid, but the very best they can be.
Quote of Note: "Ms. Marquez-Prueher's door is always open to others," an administrator notes, "and it's not unusual to find teachers observing in her classroom."

Isabel Morales (Click to play short video clip)
Los Angeles Unified School District
Los Angeles High School of the Arts--Government/Economics
City of Residence: Los Angeles
Years Teaching: 10

Isabel recently went back to school to earn her doctorate--not for career reasons or salary bumps, she says, but because her community needs role models. When she was growing up in Boyle Heights, Isabel didn't know anyone with a master's degree, let alone a doctorate.
Quote of Note: "Ms. Morales exhibits a passion for learning," notes her principal, "and shares the learning experiences she seeks out with her students."

Michael Morgan (Click to play short video clip)
Los Angeles Unified School District
Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School--Chemistry
City of Residence: Redondo Beach
Years Teaching: 26

Michael describes himself as a teacher who wants to improve with every passing day. "My lessons are not yet finished. If they ever are, it will be time for me to retire." One of the best things he has done to improve his teaching was to become a coach for academic competitions.
Quote of Note: An ex-student who went on to MIT writes: "Mr. Morgan remains the most influential and devoted instructor I have had the honor to learn from."

Hector Perez-Roman (Click to play short video clip)
Los Angeles Unified School District
Arleta High School--AP World History
City of Residence: Northridge
Years Teaching: 10

An ideal day includes Hector's tenth- and eleventh-grade history students writing, sharing, reading, interacting in small groups, listening to music, and discussing the impact of historical events. In his history classes, regular and AP, knowing facts and dates will not be enough.
Quote of Note: A parent describes more facets of a remarkable teacher: "Mr. Perez-Roman is coach, teacher, travel educator and mentor to his students."

Maggie Mabery (Click to play short video clip)
Manhattan Beach Unified School District
Manhattan Beach Middle School--Science
City of Residence: Torrance
Years Teaching: 15

Maggie has the optimistic view that not only can all students learn, but they can learn to fall in love with science. Convincing seventh- and eighth-graders to follow her lead on this, and to work hard to make it happen, requires all her skills as a classroom communicator.
Quote of Note: "Maggie has become the face of our school," writes her principal. "People recognize her as the go-to person for help or advice."

James Estabrook (Click to play short video clip)
Torrance Unified School District
North High School--Science
City of Residence: Torrance
Years Teaching: 16

The more Jay knows about his high school science students, the more he can treat them as individuals and give them what they need, tailoring his teaching and personal comments to fit the case. Another tip: A little humor can help cement concepts into their sponge-like brains.
Quote of Note: A parent says both her children "find Mr. Estabrook very approachable, which allows them to handle their issues directly with him."
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