Warning! Editing this pageset section will affect all pages on your website.

SDUSD Teachers Named County Teachers of the Year

Two San Diego Unified Teachers Named 2024-25 San Diego County Teachers of the Year
Posted on 05/30/2024

Two San Diego Unified Teachers Named 2024-25 San Diego County Teachers of the Year

Five educators surprised at their schools this week with the news of their recognition


Two San Diego Unified teachers are among five educators named San Diego County Teachers of the Year, recognizing the difference they make in the lives of students.


The winners are (access video and photos here)

  • Mackenzie Levine, Perry Elementary School, San Diego Unified School District
  • Maria Miller, Morse High School, San Diego Unified School District
  • Jennifer Ekstein, Bonita Vista High School, Sweetwater Union High School District
  • Kristen LoPrell, Grossmont High School, Grossmont Union High School District
  • Peter Manzi, Carlsbad High School, Carlsbad Unified School District

The San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) and Cox Communications collaborated to surprise the teachers in their classrooms or as part of an assembly as part of the 34th annual Cox Presents: Salute to Teachers program.


SDCOE and Cox Communications celebrated all of San Diego County’s 51 school district teachers of the year in April at a special event held before judges selected the five winners.


Superintendent Dr. Lamont Jackson, Deputy Superintendent Dr. Fabiola Bagula, and Board of Education Trustee Dr. Sharon Whitehurst-Payne helped surprise the district teachers with the good news.


“Everyone at San Diego Unified is so proud of our teachers for this recognition, and for everything they do to ensure that our students thrive and have a sense of belonging,” Superintendent Jackson said. “Mackenzie Levine and Maria Miller are incredible teachers and ambassadors for San Diego Unified and for public education.”


Footage from the surprise announcements and the event will be compiled as a 30-minute Cox Presents: Salute to Teachers television special, which will debut on Cox’s YurView network (Channel 4 on Cox and Spectrum) in September.


“We had such an inspiring group of educators this year, and it was important to honor each and every one of them with the Cox Present: Salute to Teachers event,” said Dr. Paul Gothold, San Diego County superintendent of schools. "This group of educators highlights the passion and diverse expertise that teachers across the county have. I know the judges had a difficult time picking only five Teachers of the Year.”


SDCOE and Cox Communications have collaborated on saluting our local teachers for more than 30 years.


“Cox Presents: Salute to Teachers is our way of saying ‘thank you’ to all our teachers throughout San Diego County,” said Chanelle Hawken, West Region vice president of government and public affairs for Cox Communications. “As the spouse of a high school teacher, I see every day firsthand how committed teachers are to helping their students realize their full potential. Congratulations to all the teachers of the year.”


Mackenzie Levine, Perry Elementary School, San Diego Unified


Levine’s classroom is a home away from home and safe haven for her students, who are in grades 3-5 and have mild to moderate disabilities. It’s a highly structured and organized environment that is active, led by students, and welcoming.


She collaborates with a team of education specialists and general education teachers to develop a model for students where they can move throughout the day to the environment that is most appropriate for them based on their individual needs.


“When students enter my classroom, they are met with joy, positivity, compassion, and acceptance,” she said. “Their strengths are celebrated, and their needs are met with kindness and opportunities to grow in the discomfort.”


Levine has collaborated with others at the school to focus on educating the entire school community about neurodiversity, including professional development for teachers and lessons for students. She started Mindful 3, a student-led initiative at the school where a student leads the entire school with a positive quote for the day and announcements over the loudspeaker. She was named one of San Diego Unified’s 2024 Teacher of the Year Runner-Up.


Maria Miller, Morse High School, San Diego Unified


In Miller’s 10th and 11th grade English language arts class, students are held to rigorous standards while being nurtured to believe in their boundless potential.


That starts with a greeting as they enter the classroom, a welcoming tone, and warm-up activity. During class, students connect literature with contemporary issues, which supports critical thinking and empathy.


“This student-centered approach is comprehensive, focusing not only on academic learning but also on personal growth, community engagement, and career exploration,” Miller said.


Through a partnership with the Skyline Hills Library, she encourages students to access library resources and apply for internships or volunteer opportunities. Miller also focuses on career exploration by bringing in speakers on topics students of interest to students.


“From the very first day of each course, I make it clear to my students that I am here to support their growth and development in every possible way,” Miller said. She was named one of San Diego Unified’s 2024 High School Teacher of the Year.


# # #