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Teacher Of The Year Essays Accountability

California Teachers of the Year 2018

"I am proud of how many of my former students have chosen to become teachers themselves, some of them at San Diego High right alongside me." -- Jaime Yumiko Brown, San Diego High School of International Studies, San Diego Unified School District, San Diego County

"I respect my students as individuals. I accept them where they are in life and we grow together. I continue to learn from them as much as they learn from me." -- Kirsten Farrell, Venice High School, Los Angeles Unified School District, Los Angeles County

"Moments of discovery can be life-changing for the students, and being part of that energy, that passion, that curiosity led me into teaching and has kept me here nearly 20 years." -- Greg Gardiner, Edison High School, Huntington Beach Union High School District, Orange County

"Each year 100 Regiment students and parents manage the 50 mile SAG stop for the 100 mile Tour de Palm Springs charity ride. They spend the day unloading supplies, preparing food, administering first aid, patching tires, and performing pieces like 'Theme from Rocky' or 'Uptown Funk'." -- Brian McDaniel, Painted Hills Middle School, Palm Springs Unified School District, Riverside County

"My students were inspired to give back to the community after receiving Chromebooks through a local grant, so we organized a fundraiser for the local animal shelter, created flyers on our new Chromebooks and raised over $300 from collecting cans and bottles." -- Erin Oxhorn-Gilpin, Northlake Hills Elementary School, Castiac Union School District, Los Angeles County

California Teachers of the Year 2017

"Oh, Mr. Bunn, can you call my other teacher so we can stay for another five minutes to figure this problem out? We almost got it. Please?" -- Shawn Bunn, Ethan A. Chase Middle School, Romoland School District, Riverside County

"Opportunities in schools should be equitable no matter where on lives or what the median income of the community is. The hope is that every single student will have opportunities to discover their strengths and explore their passions." -- Jenny Chien, Casita Center for Technology, Science and Math, Vista Unified School District, San Diego County

"Our home base in Room P-111 provides security and comfort when needed, but also the confidence for each of our Del Norte Nighthawks to soar with the rest of the flock." -- Megan Gross, National Teacher of the Year Candidate, Del Norte High School, Poway Unified School District, San Diego County

"Yes, teaching is hard work, but just as a lawyer has to defend his client, and a doctor has to save his patient, we teachers have the amazing task of teaching while guiding, cultivating and inspiring our children." -- Isela Lieber, James Monroe High School, Los Angeles Unified School District, Los Angeles County

"I have mentored student teachers, new teachers, veteran teachers, and even administrators. My message has always been that it is not about us, it is about the kids in our classroom." -- Corrie Traynor, Barrett Ranch Elementary School, Dry Creek Joint Elementary Unified School District, Placer County

California Teachers of the Year 2016

"One thing i say to my musicians is, 'I don't care what kind of musician you are in 20 years. I car about what kind of person you are.' For now, music is simply the vehicle that can provide the values of: discipline, hard work, empathy, respect." -- Mitch Bahr, Foothill High School, Shasta Union High School District, Shasta County

"Be Awesome Today! is a sign that hangs over my desk. It ensures that today is the day that something new will be learned, a song will be sung, a laugh will be shared, a friend will be made, and a moment may occur that will be remembered long after this day has passed." -- Michelle Cherland, Carrillo Ranch Elementary School, Desert Sands Unified School District, Riverside County

"My best 12 minutes of the day occur each morning at 9:18 a.m. when my high schoolers take their broadcast live to a large audience. I stand back, stay out of their way, and watch 34 students work as a team." -- Doug Green, Valley Middle School, Carlsbad High School, Carlsbad Unified School District, San Diego County

"I am an educator that not only teaches for employment, but also for empowerment. I challenge my students to take risks as we share a classroom in which issues of race, class, sexual orientation, religion, gender, and political beliefs intersect and are thoroughly examined." -- Daniel Jocz, National Teacher of the Year Candidate, Downtown Magnets High School, Los Angeles Unified School District, Los Angeles County

"We need to accelerate academic growth by encouraging the use of higher-order thinking skills in all students to prepare them to be innovative 21st century learners who work collaboratively to analyze situations and solve problems creatively." -- Ann Park, Greenleaf TK-I School, Oakland Unified School District, Alameda County

California Teachers of the Year 2015

Students are eager to get started every day. As one student exclaimed, "We're going to rock it today, aren't we, Mrs. Laughlin?' Her response? "Show off!" -- Amy Laughlin, Hansen School, Savanna School District, Orange County

"When a person comes into my classroom, he may see what some have deemed chaos. I believe this chaos is learning at its best. I am not the holder of all knowledge. I am a facilitator of learning for the 21st Century student." -- Maggie Mabery, National Teacher of the Year Candidate, Manhattan Beach Middle School, Manhattan beach Unified School District, Los Angeles County

"Go ahead. Dare. Dare to be different. Dare to be the first one. Dare to sound smart, to get caught doing something kind, to be respectful to adults, to help someone in need, to stand up to a bully." -- Lovelyn Marquesz-Prueher, Dodson Middle School, Los Angeles Unified School District, Los Angeles County

"Teaching is not a career for the timid. The mental exhaustion involved is difficult to even quantify. In terms of personal accomplishment and contributions to society, again for me, nothing compares to a careen in teaching." -- Christopher O'Connor, St. Helena High School, St. Helena Unified School District, Napa County

"I am passionate about educating the whole child to ensure each child develops a positive attitude about education, and ability to direct their own learning, and an understanding of the skills and information needed to learn." -- Erin Rosselli, Panorama Elementary School, Orange Unified School District, Orange County

California Teachers of the Year 2014

"Failure is not an option, as many of our student are on life support academically." "My venture into teaching has been the most rewarding aspect of my life. I am a constant cheerleader of teaching. I'll bend anyone's ear as to why one should pursue this career." -- Angelo "Ang" Bracco, Solano Middle School, Vallejo City Unified School District, Solano County

"Our students understand that to make choir work, we all must give 100 percent. This is a team sport at its best. If anyone holds back, the choir suffers. When one succeeds, we all succeed." "Think back on your education and remember what teacher inspired you, made you want to learn, excited you about their subject, and taught you about life. My message to the teacher of America . . . be that teacher every day." -- Michael Hayden, Mira Costa High School, Manhattan Beach Unified School District, Los Angeles County

"Achieving the goal we set at his teacher-student conference, one young reader earned a ticket to my wildly popular year-end Reading Counts party. He smiled and said, 'My reading is on fire now, huh, Mrs. Horist?' My heart swelled with pride over his incredible progress." -- Linda Horist, Nohl Canyon Elementary School, Orange Unified School District, Orange County

"Students in my classroom are reading detectives, investigative reporters, budding historians, and movie producers. They are innovators who seek creative solutions, debaters who support their thinking with evidence, and authors of original content with the work via my professional blog, a classroom Vimeo channel, and our class Web site." "Enthusiasm is contagious; I've got boatloads, and so do my students. Learning, laughing, creating, and transforming together make it all worthwhile." -- Jessica Pack, James Workman Middle School, Palm Spring Unified School District, Riverside County

"I believe in the power of classroom observations by other teacher and by parents. I have observed very few classrooms in which I did not come away with a new idea for my own teaching. Also, parents often gain a profound appreciation for the teacher by observing them teach." "On a very personal level, the greatest accomplishments are hearing from students that because I cared enough about them, they wanted to succeed. Giving young people a chance to realize their dreams and live a full life will always be the force that drive me to teach." -- Timothy Smith, National Teacher of the Year Candidate, Florin High School, Elk Grove Unified School District, Sacramento County

California Teachers of the Year 2013

"What rewards do I get from teaching? That's easy: I laugh a lot. I learn each day. Each year, each term, each day, each class is new. Being a teacher does not make life easy, but it makes it worth living. I love it." -- Sebastein De Clerck, Ventura High School, Ventura Unified School District, Ventura County

"I do not see students as they are today, but as the person that they can become—I want my students to see possibilities, to overcome adversity and to become the best versions of themselves." -- David Goldenberg, Arnold O. Beckman High School, Tustin Unified School District, Orange County

"My parents' passion and dedication towards education sparked a fire inside me. I thought if education could do so much, maybe I should become a teacher." -- Veronica Marquez, Harmony Elementary School, Los Angeles Unified School District, Los Angeles County

"Teaching from the heart, leading by example, and being open about my own shortcomings have been the most effective methods for me to help students choose a path of success." -- Martin Reisert, Oak Valley Middle School, Poway Unified School District, San Diego County

"A great wave of pride fills me when I tell people that I am a teacher. Teaching fuels me and gives my life purpose. Teaching is the manifestation of that 'something' I vowed to do on April 29, 1992." -- I'Asha Warfield, National Teacher of the Year Candidate, Frick Middle School, Oakland Unified School District, Alameda County

Questions: Awards Team | awards@cde.ca.gov | 916-319-0842 

Last Reviewed: Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Program Information

The California Department of Education (CDE) invites county offices of education (COEs), school districts, charter schools, professional organizations, and private schools statewide to participate in the California Teachers of the Year (TOY) Program for 2019. This program highlights educational innovation, student learning, and the rewards of teaching. Further, the program attracts public attention to the positive aspects of our educational system. Teacher quality and recruitment as well as retention ranks high on every educational agenda in the state.

In 1972, California began recognizing outstanding teachers to provide an opportunity for fostering educator excellence. Greatness by Design: Supporting Outstanding Teaching to Sustain a Golden State (PDF; 4MB; Updated 17-Sept-2012), is a report from the California Educator Excellence Task Force which provides their recommendations on how to strenghten California's teacher and administrative corps. The California TOY process is part of the teamwork and collaboration in place to meet those recommendations. The five experienced teachers selected as California TOYs reflect the diversity of our teachers and students.

The purpose of the California TOY Program is to honor the teaching profession and to heighten interest in teaching as a career. The program affords the opportunity to bring attention to teachers who successfully employ strategies to increase academic success and narrow the achievement gap among a range of students. Many of California's TOYs have ultimately become National Teacher of the Year recipients or finalists. Information about the National Teacher of the Year Program can be found on the Council of Chief State School Officers National Teacher of the Year Program Web site.

The program's goals are to:

  • Identify and honor exemplary and highly qualified teachers throughout California within a structure of local, regional, and statewide recognition activities.
  • Make the application process accessible to all teachers in the state.
  • Encourage the participation of teachers in local and county selection processes who reflect the rich diversity of their students.
  • Increase the participation of small or underrepresented counties.
  • Select articulate teachers to serve as California TOYs who will effectively represent the state's teachers; motivate and inspire other educators; and champion the positive contributions of the teaching profession.
  • Identify one teacher to compete in the National Teacher of the Year Program.

Information about the California TOY duties and responsibilities can be found on the CDE California TOY Duties Web page.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for the California TOY Program, applicants must be fully credentialed teachers currently employed to teach any pre-kindergarten through grade twelve curriculum to children or adults. Applicants must be employed full-time, or as long-term substitutes in public or private schools. Applicants may be assigned some administrative duties if teaching is the primary responsibility.

Applicants must:

  • Have been named as a finalist in their local or county competition.
  • Have completed eight years of teaching at the time of the application submitted at the local level.
  • Have demonstrated leadership and innovation in and outside of the classroom walls that embodies lifelong learning.
  • Have expressed themselves in an engaging and articulate way.
  • Be available to fulfill ambassadorial duties during the year of service and be supported by their employer.

Selection Process

County and District Level

All COEs and districts should celebrate and recognize outstanding teachers. Some districts establish their own processes and applications for selecting exemplary teachers who then advance to the county recognition program. Interested applicants should contact their district and COE to learn about local and county recognition programs. COEs will also have information about the way they nominate teachers for the California TOY Program. All applicants, including those from private schools and those being sponsored by professional organizations, must submit their applications through their COE. The COE then advances their county's selected applicants to the CDE in order to compete at the state level.

Additional information about participation for COEs and districts in support of the California TOY Program can be found on the CDE California TOY County and District Participation Web page.

State Level

The state selection process consists of the applications that were submitted by COEs. The selection takes place in the following phases:

  • Review of the applications
  • Site visits to the schools and classrooms
  • Interviews with the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SSPI) or their designee

To evaluate the applications, the CDE convenes a selection committee consisting of administrators, representatives from professional organizations, and teachers. Committee members identify the applications that best address characteristics of excellent teaching.

Selected applicants, as determined by committee consensus, are scheduled to receive a site visit by a team of professionals. The team will observe classroom teaching, including how the applicant adjusts instruction when necessary.

From the site visits, selected applicants advance to the final phase where they are interviewed by the SSPI or their designee. In the interview, applicants are evaluated for their ability to discuss current educational issues, which will be part of their role as ambassadors for the teaching profession.

From this process, teachers are named by the SSPI as California TOYs to represent the teaching profession throughout the state. Of these teachers, one is selected to serve as the state's representative to the National Teacher of the Year Program. All decisions are final.


State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson notified COEs on March 5, 2018, with instructions on how to submit applications for the California TOY Award and a link to the 2019 California TOY Program Application (PDF). COEs work directly with their selected California TOY applicants. For each 2019 California TOY applicant to be considered in the state's selection process, COEs must submit a completed original application (printed single-sided) and 25 copies (printed back-to-back), postmarked by Friday, July 27, 2018, to:

Awards Team
California Teachers of the Year Program
California Department of Education
1430 N Street, Suite 6208
Sacramento, CA 95814-5901

For more information regarding the California TOY Program application process, please contact your California School Recognition Program County Coordinator.

Applicants are encouraged to complete their application in a manner in which the content:

  • Puts the reader in the classroom and allows the reader to easily visualize the classroom setting and the teacher as the instructional leader, leaving the reader wanting to know more through providing ample classroom examples.
  • Conveys depth of content knowledge and how to deliver it creatively and in a differentiated fashion to engage students and influence student learning as reflected in their measurable achievements.
  • Reflects the teacher's personal journey and shows the teacher's influence beyond the classroom and into their school community.
  • Maintains a student-centered perspective as the applicant weaves in numerous examples of student engagement.
  • Inspires through their commitment as a lifelong learner who models dedication to continued learning.
  • Focuses on building relationships that transform and empower students, parents, and community.
  • Reflects the teacher's dedication to the belief that all children can achieve.

Timeline of Activities


February 2018

Participating school districts, charter schools, professional organizations, private schools distribute local applications and organize local Teacher of the Year (TOY) recognition activities.

February–July 2018

County offices of education (COEs) conduct regional selection and recognition processes for district finalists.

July 27, 2018

2019 California TOY Application Due Date. Postmark deadline for COEs to submit state applications to the California Department of Education (CDE).

August/September 2018

State selection committee reviews applications.

September 2018

COEs are contacted to arrange site visits for selected applicants.

September/October 2018

Site visits are conducted by a team of professionals.

September/October 2018

Selected applicants are interviewed by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SSPI) or their designee.

October 2018

SSPI makes the final selection and notifies the California Teachers of the Year.

October 2018

Council of Chief State School Officers is notified of California's nominee for the National TOY Program.

October 2018

CDE publicly announces the California TOYs for 2019 in a news release.

December 2018

California TOYs meet at the CDE for a professional development day and lunch with the SSPI. (Pending available funding.)

February 2019

California TOYs and additional awardees are recognized at a special gala.


We are thankful for our sponsors who join us in recognizing our outstanding California Teachers of the Year!

Presenting Sponsor
  • California Casualty is proud to help honor the extraordinary Teachers of the Year who inspire and validate all students. They are our beacons to others, showing that dedication and caring make a difference for future generations. Headquartered in San Mateo, California Casualty has been serving educators for nearly 70 years. California Casualty believes those who give so much for their students and communities deserve the best protection and exceptional service. You can learn more about California Casualty's commitment to educators and why they are honored to sponsor the California Department of Education’s California Teachers of the Year Program on the California Casualty Thanks Educators for Making a Difference Web page.
  • California Teachers of the Year Foundation


California School Recognition Program County Coordinators
Contact information for California School Recognition Program county office of education coordinators.

California Teachers of the Year County and District Participation
Participation information for county offices of education and districts in support of the California Teachers of the Year Program.

California Teachers of the Year Duties
Calfornia Teachers of the Year duties and responsibilities.

California Teachers of the Year Awardees Comments
California Teachers of the Year Awardees share comments and personal reflections about the California Teachers of the Year Program.

California Teachers of the Year Awardees
California Teachers of the Year Awardees by year.

Questions: Awards Team | awards@cde.ca.gov | 916-319-0842 

Last Reviewed: Tuesday, March 6, 2018

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