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

By Cynthia McCabe

When people were attacking her and her fellow dedicated public school teachers, Florida fourth-grade teacher Jamee Miller got mad. And then she got to typing.

The result? An essay called “I Am a Teacher” which caught fire in recent weeks on Facebook and blogs as supporters of teachers attacked by budget-slashing lawmakers and critics trying to score political points took it to heart and then took it online. (Full essay text appears at bottom.)

Shawna Christenson, a teacher in West Palm Beach, Fla., wrote on Facebook after posting it to her own profile last week: “Some folks need to be reminded that we do so much more than leave and enter when the bell rings when they think achievement is the only way to measure us.”

Miller, a National Education Association and Florida Education Association member who has been teaching for seven years, wrote the essay a year ago largely for herself and then put it away. But when the controversial Senate Bill 6 was recently careening through the GOP-controlled legislature, she dusted it off and posted it on Facebook. Education experts said SB6, which Gov. Charlie Crist ultimately vetoed last week to support teachers, would have made Florida one of the most teacher-hostile states in the country. Even though it was vetoed, similar anti-teacher efforts are cropping up in other states from like-minded opponents.

“I was just getting so enraged because there was such ignorance from the people attacking teachers,” says Miller. “Especially these misconceptions about what it is we can actually control as educators.”

Her essay, which in recent weeks was referenced on the Florida House floor, reprinted by several Florida newspapers and went viral online, has taken on a life of its own, Miller says. ”What I’m saying isn’t unique. It’s just that the heart of that message resonates with everyone in our world.”

That’s because in the past year they’ve been slammed by a troubling development: political opportunists attacking public education professionals.

“I feel more than ever I have to be on the defensive to prove I’m not a bad teacher,” she says. “It’s really unfortunate. Even five years ago it was assumed a teacher was great until a teacher wasn’t doing their job.”

And when critics broadly paint today’s teachers as ineffective, there’s no better way to show how wrong they are than pointing to Miller’s own resume. She was Seminole County Teacher of the Year in 2008. Each year she spends $1,000 of her own money on classroom supplies and her students. Last year, she and her husband donated $30,000 to create a fellowship at the University of Florida that helps elementary education majors working toward a master’s degree in education technology.

One of the more noxious provisions of SB6 that upset Miller and her colleagues was a mandate that standardized testing be the primary basis for teachers’ employment, certification and salary. In Florida, students are subjected to a high-stakes test called the FCAT. The law would have further reduced children to a test score and ignored that their lives and their achievements are more complex and nuanced than that.

“To have all that I pour into my students every year come down to just one test is so frustrating,” Miller says. “I have zero problems with accountability. But come into my classroom. I’m eager to show you the realities.”

For instance, this past year, Miller’s realities included having a student who missed 30 days of school, a student whose parents were arrested right before the standardized test day, and a third student who vomitted on her test booklet and was unable to retake it.

What teachers who contact her with their heartfelt thanks want to convey is that they’re just as concerned about the state of public education as anyone else.

“We all want education to be fixed, we just want to be in on that problem solving,” Miller says.

Full text of Jamee Miller’s “I Am a Teacher” essay:

I am a teacher in Florida.

I rise before dawn each day and find myself nestled in my classroom hours before the morning commute is in full swing in downtown Orlando. I scour the web along with countless other resources to create meaningful learning experiences for my 24 students each day. I reflect on the successes of lessons taught and re-work ideas until I feel confident that they will meet the needs of my diverse learners. I have finished my third cup of coffee in my classroom before the business world has stirred. My contracted hours begin at 7:30 and end at 3:00. As the sun sets around me and people are beginning to enjoy their dinner, I lock my classroom door, having worked 4 hours unpaid.

I am a teacher in Florida.

I greet the smiling faces of my students and am reminded anew of their challenges, struggles, successes, failures, quirks, and needs. I review their 504s, their IEPs, their PMPs, their histories trying to reach them from every angle possible. They come in hungry—I feed them. They come in angry—I counsel them. They come in defeated—I encourage them. And this is all before the bell rings.

I am a teacher in Florida.

I am told that every student in my realm must score on or above grade level on the FCAT each year. Never mind their learning discrepancies, their unstable home lives, their prior learning experiences. In the spring, they are all assessed with one measure and if they don’t fit, I have failed. Students walk through my doors reading at a second grade level and by year’s end can independently read and comprehend early 4th grade texts, but this is no matter. One of my students has already missed 30 school days this year, but that is overlooked. If they don’t perform well on this ONE test in early March, their learning gains are irrelevant. They didn’t learn enough. They didn’t grow enough. I failed them. In the three months that remain in the school year after this test, I am expected to begin teaching 5th grade curriculum to my 4th grade students so that they are prepared for next year’s test.

I am a teacher in Florida.

I am expected to create a culture of students who will go on to become the leaders of our world. When they exit my classroom, they should be fully equipped to compete academically on a global scale. They must be exposed to different worldviews and diverse perspectives, and yet, most of my students have never left Sanford, Florida. Field trips are now frivolous. I must provide new learning opportunities for them without leaving the four walls of our classroom. So I plan. I generate new ways to expose them to life beyond their neighborhoods through online exploration and digital field trips. I stay up past The Tonight Show to put together a unit that will allow them to experience St. Augustine without getting on a bus. I spend weekends taking pictures and creating a virtual world for them to experience, since the State has determined it is no longer worthwhile for them to explore reality. Yes. My students must be prepared to work within diverse communities, and yet they are not afforded the right to ever experience life beyond their own town.

I am a teacher in Florida.

I accepted a lower salary with the promise of a small increase for every year taught. I watched my friends with less education than me sign on for six figure jobs while I embraced my $28k starting salary. I was assured as I signed my contract that although it was meager to start, my salary would consistently grow each year. That promise has been broken. I’m still working with a meager salary, and the steps that were contracted to me when I accepted a lower salary are now deemed “unnecessary.”

I am a teacher in Florida.

I spent $2500 in my first year alone to outfit an empty room so that it would promote creative thinking and a desire to learn and explore. I now average between $1000-2000 that I pay personally to supplement the learning experiences that take place in my classroom. I print at home on my personal printer and have burned through 12 ink cartridges this school year alone. I purchase the school supplies my students do not have. I buy authentic literature so my students can be exposed to authors and worlds beyond their textbooks. I am required to teach Social Studies and Writing without any curriculum/materials provided, so I purchase them myself. I am required to conduct Science lab without Science materials, so I buy those, too. The budgeting process has determined that copies of classroom materials are too costly, so I resort to paying for my copies at Staples, refusing to compromise my students’ education because high-ranking officials are making inappropriate cuts. It is February, and my entire class is out of glue sticks. Since I have already spent the $74 allotted to me for warehouse supplies, if I don’t buy more, we will not have glue for the remainder of the year. The projects I dream up are limited by the incomprehensible lack of financial support. I am expected to inspire my students to become lifelong learners, and yet we don’t have the resources needed to nurture their natural sense of wonder if I don’t purchase them myself. My meager earning is now pathetic after the expenses that come with teaching effectively.

I am a teacher in Florida.

The government has scolded me for failing to prepare my students to compete in this
technologically driven world. Students in Japan are much more equipped to think progressively with regards to technology. Each day, I turn on the two computers afforded me and pray for a miracle. I apply for grants to gain new access to technology and compete with thousands of other teachers who are hoping for the same opportunity. I battle for the right to use the computer lab and feel fortunate if my students get to see it once a week. Why don’t they know how to use technology? The system’s budget refuses to include adequate technology in classrooms; instead, we are continually told that dry erase boards and overhead projectors are more than enough.

I am a teacher in Florida.

I am expected to differentiate my instruction to meet the needs of my 24 learners. Their IQs span 65 points, and I must account for every shade of gray. I must challenge those above grade level, and I must remediate those below. I am but one person within the classroom, but I must meet the needs of every learner. I generate alternate assessments to accommodate for these differences. My higher math students receive challenge work, and my lower math students receive one-on-one instruction. I create most of these resources myself, after-hours and on weekends. I print these resources so that every child in my room has access to the same knowledge, delivered at their specific level. Yesterday, the school printer that I share with another teacher ran out of ink. Now I must either purchase a new ink cartridge for $120, or I cannot print anything from my computer for the remainder of the year. What choice am I left with?

I am a teacher in Florida.

I went to school at one of the best universities in the country and completed undergraduate and graduate programs in Education. I am a master of my craft. I know what effective teaching entails, and I know how to manage the curriculum and needs of the diverse learners in my full inclusion classroom. I graduated at the top of my class and entered my first year of teaching confident and equipped to teach effectively. Sadly, I am now being micro-managed, with my instruction dictated to me. I am expected to mold “out-of-the-box” thinkers while I am forced to stay within the lines of the instructional plans mandated by policy-makers. I am told what I am to teach and when, regardless of the makeup of my students, by decision-makers far away from my classroom or even my school. The message comes in loud and clear that a group of people in business suits can more effectively determine how to provide exemplary instruction than I can. My expertise is waved away, disregarded, and overlooked. I am treated like a day-laborer, required to follow the steps mapped out for me, rather than blaze a trail that I deem more appropriate and effective for my students—students these decision-makers have never met.

I am a teacher in Florida.

I am overworked, underpaid, and unappreciated by most. I spend my weekends, my vacations, and my summers preparing for school, and I constantly work to improve my teaching to meet the needs of my students. I am being required to do more and more, and I’m being compensated less and less.

I am a teacher in Florida, not for the pay or the hardships, the disregard or the disrespect; I am a teacher in Florida because I am given the chance to change lives for the good, to educate and elevate the minds and hearts of my students, and to show them that success comes in all shapes and sizes, both in the classroom and in the community.

I am a teacher in Florida today, but as I watch many of my incredible, devoted coworkers being forced out of the profession as a matter of survival, I wonder: How long will I be able to remain a teacher in Florida?

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Educators in Action: State News

POST TAGS:dedicated teachers, Florida, I Am a Teacher, Jamee Cagle Miller, Jamee Miller, layoffs, NCLB/ESEA, reform, respect, Senate Bill 6, student achievement

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