Sixteen educators were announced today as the 2023-24 Los Angeles County Teachers of the Year at the Los Angeles County Office of Education’s 42nd Annual Teachers of the Year Awards banquet held at the Universal City Hilton. 


LACOE’s Teachers of the Year Program is the largest local competition in the state and nation. It is part of the oldest and most prestigious honors contest in the U.S. for public school teachers. The 16 Los Angeles County educators will advance with other county winners from around the state to the California Teachers of the Year competition this fall. 

"Congratulations to all the finalists and nominees for this distinguished award. Teachers make an enormous difference in the lives of students, establishing connections that go beyond academics and foster a sense of community,” said Dr. Debra Duardo, Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools. “Their commitment, innovative approaches, and ability to genuinely inspire have helped students to discover their talents and embrace their education.” 

Judged as the county’s top public-school teachers for this academic year, the 16 educators serve as standard-bearers for the teaching profession and their 73,000 classroom colleagues countywide. Each will receive a cash gift of $1,000 from the California Credit Union, the program’s platinum sponsor. Additional generous sponsors include the Greater Los Angeles Education Foundation, Lakeshore Learning, Teach FX, Arizona State University, Lexia Learning, Little Bit Learning, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers. 

The 16 were selected from a field of 68 teachers representing 64 school districts who participated in the competition. All participants were recently selected as teacher(s) of the year by their respective school districts. 

In addition to being interviewed, contestants submitted essays, lesson plans and other materials to judging panels comprised of previous California teachers of the year. At all levels, teachers of the year contests are designed to focus public attention on teaching excellence and to honor the exemplary dedication, compelling classroom practices, positive accomplishments, and professional commitment. 

The state is scheduled to announce the five California Teachers of the Year in October, but only one of those state co-winners will be chosen to represent California in the National Teacher of the Year contest next year. 

The 2023-24 Los Angeles County Teachers of the Year


Melissa Ellis

Bellflower Unified School District
Bellflower High School—CTE/Intro to Health Careers

City of Residence: Long Beach Years Teaching: 17

When the pandemic kept Melissa’s Medical Assistant students from internships in real clinical settings, she got her principal’s okay to create a mock hospital in an abandoned music room with real hospital beds, EKG machine, vitals monitors and a nurses’ station.

Quote of Note: A colleague praises Melissa’s “ability to partner with the community to keep her students informed and updated about best practices in the health and mental health fields.”

Alanna Grimaldi

Burbank Unified School District
Luther Burbank Middle School—Sixth-Grade Science

City of Residence: La Crescenta Years Teaching: 13

On a rainy day when an inattentive sixth-grade science student made a paper boat, Alanna used this distraction as a teachable moment. “We all made boats, went outside and floated them down a makeshift river, analyzing both the water cycle and erosion.”

Quote of Note: Thoughtful praise from a PTA parent: “I have seen firsthand how much Mrs. Grimaldi cares for science and the many ways she finds to engage her students in learning.”

May DeGuzman

Centinela Valley Union High School District
Leuzinger High School—AP English Literature & Composition

City of Residence: Redondo Beach Years Teaching: 20

May strives to be both demanding and flexible, depending on each student’s needs and circumstances. Her lunchtime English tutoring class typically includes an eclectic mix of students in AP English, general education, and Long-Term English Learners.

Quote of Note: A colleague mentored by May notes, “She has a welcoming ear for all and continues to mentor both students and other teachers long after they have left her classroom.”

Kirsten Neill

Downey Unified School District
Old River Elementary School—Fifth Grade

City of Residence: Cypress Years Teaching: 13

For Kirsten, teaching has long been the family business. Her parents, grandfather, and great-grandmother were all educators. When not in her fifth-grade classroom, she coaches Robotics, Carnival of Champions, Sphero Bolts Club, and the Gator Tech Squad.

Quote of Note: “Because of the projects we’ve done this school year,” writes an appreciative ex-student, “I envision becoming an engineer and helping the earth become a better place.”

Hannah Rodriguez

Duarte Unified School District
Beardslee Academy—Preschool Special Education

City of Residence: Monrovia Years Teaching: 16

As a preschool special ed teacher, Hannah rejoices in such successes as helping a child say “Mommy” for the first time or wave goodbye. Such milestones—first steps, first signs, first sounds—have been known to bring cheers and tears to an entire classroom.

Quote of Note: Grateful words from parents of an autistic son: “We never imagined we would meet and fall in love with a teacher like Ms. Rodriguez who would surpass all our expectations.”

Bryan Johnson

Keppel Union School District Daisy Gibson School—Fifth Grade

City of Residence: Lancaster Years Teaching: 18

Building literacy with students with limited or no English skills is the greatest challenge Bryan faces each day in his fifth-grade classroom. This awesome opportunity to play a key role in their development he considers the most rewarding aspect of being a teacher.

Quote of Note: A colleague expresses her appreciation for Bryan’s mentoring: “He’s overflowing with natural teaching talent, and I feel fortunate to have been guided by him.”

Kimberly Furman

Lancaster School District
The Promise Academy—Kindergarten/Eighth-Grade Adapted PE

City of Residence: Palmdale Years Teaching: 22

For Kimberly, a typical day in Adapted Physical Education might be helping a blind student hit a wiffle ball off a tee so the girl can participate in family yard baseball. As one of her coworkers joked, “Furman, you teach PE and just play all day long.”

Quote of Note: According to her principal, “Ms. Furman achieves a high level of student participation in her moderate-to-severe class thanks to her positive interactions with students.”

Drew Lewis

Los Angeles Unified School District
Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts—Music

City of Residence: Upland Years Teaching: 17

Drew’s students often perform as vocal soloists and in choral groups. Many go on to audition for prestigious scholarships and awards. And all this despite the fact that most of them have never read a piece of sheet music prior to entering high school.

Quote of Note: A former student offers heartfelt thanks: “Without Mr. Lewis and his support, I would not be at the University of Southern California today pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Vocal Arts.”

Marcella Lopez

Los Angeles Unified School District
Frank del Olmo Elementary School—First Grade

City of Residence: Pasadena Years Teaching: 24

Marcella’s goal is to make her first-grade classroom the students’ “home away from home, with a teacher who loves you and cares for you dearly as if you were my own.” Every wall displays student artwork, some graded for growth, some created just for fun.

Quote of Note: Testimony from an ex-student: “I’ll be forever grateful for the love Ms. Lopez showed me even in the darkest days of my youth. She made me feel safe, cared for, and valued.”

Kimberly Min

Los Angeles Unified School District
Open Magnet Charter School—First & Second Grades

City of Residence: Los Angeles Years Teaching: 22

Post-pandemic, Kimberly has revised the old “those who can” cliché. Her version goes like this: “Those who can—teach. Those who can—pivot on a dime and set up classrooms in their living rooms. Those who can—are creative and make learning come alive.”

Quote of Note: A parent praises Kimberly’s creative adjustment to distance learning: “She never let the physical distance get in the way of connecting with each of her students individually.”

Daniel Leonard

Manhattan Beach Unified School District
Manhattan Beach Middle School—Sixth-Grade Science

City of Residence: Manhattan Beach Years Teaching: 11

“Neil’s” lifelong love for science and the environment, plus a skill at making difficult concepts understandable, all drew him to the teaching profession. His lessons are geared to motivate his students to go on in later life to create a better, more sustainable world.

Quote of Note: “Beyond the classroom,” writes an administrator, “Mr. Leonard coaches three sports, sponsors clubs on campus, and spearheads the expansion of the school garden.”

Alison Meloserdoff

Monrovia Unified School District
Wild Rose School of Creative Arts—Third Grade

City of Residence: Glendora Years Teaching: 11

Alison fell in love with teaching after a college stint as a classroom volunteer. She regards it as a privilege to be in a “profession of impact” and a special gift to have found a career that “fills her soul.” Summing it up, she states, “I was born to be an educator.”

Quote of Note: "A mother of a special needs student writes: “Mrs. M’s absolute warmth and the connection she creates with all her students made my daughter feel like she mattered.”

Danielle Burson

Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District
D.D. Johnston Elementary School—Kindergarten

City of Residence: Long Beach Years Teaching: 30

Little girl Danielle’s favorite game with her friends was “school,” and she was always the teacher. She lined up chairs for them and wrote assignments on a chalkboard in her room. Even after completing thirty years in the classroom, she is eager for more.

Quote of Note: “Mrs. Burson keeps in close communication with the parents,” notes one mother, “and she is always encouraging them to stay involved in their child’s achievements.”

Courtney Baker

Redondo Beach Unified School District
Jefferson Elementary School—First Grade

City of Residence: Redondo Beach Years Teaching: 26

Courtney’s kindergarten classroom centers on two rules: “Be kind always and try your best.” These rules, she believes, allow her students to feel safe in sharing thoughts and ideas and motivates them to create a community of respect, academically and socially.

Quote of Note: An appreciative parent recalls: “During COVID, Ms. Baker recorded herself reading stories each week and included Zoom theme days like making tents in their bedrooms.”

Casey Cuny

William S. Hart Union School District
Valencia High School—Honors English/Myth & Folklore

City of Residence: Valencia Years Teaching: 19

Students are not thinking machines, Case points out, but emotional beings who are asked to think. Guiding one failing 11th-grader into a safe emotional place paid great dividends. The boy not only graduated but went on to college and became a nurse.

Quote of Note: From an ex-student who went on teach English herself: “Mr. Cuny has touched the lives of thousands of students and will continue to do so with his experience, skill, and wisdom.”

Aimee Glotz

Wiseburn Unified School District
Richard Henry Dana Middle School—Sixth-Grade English

City of Residence: El Segundo Years Teaching: 14

Every day Aimee feels privileged to share in the accomplishments of her middle school English students, declaring “their achievements are my achievements.” And not just hers, she believes, but all the teachers they had before her and all those they’ll have after.

Quote of Note: Parents of a special needs student write: “Ms. Glotz’ patient and empathetic approach toward our son’s needs and learning style were instrumental in his educational journey.”

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