NEWS RELEASE: San Diego Unified Honors Teachers of the Year for 2019 at Day of the Teacher Celebration

Posted: Wednesday, May 8th 2019


The 2019 honorees include a teacher who describes school as “the greatest of all cheerleaders” for struggling students, a teacher who started a program to assist at-risk young men reach their potential, and a teacher who applies math problem-solving skills to help prepare students for life’s challenges.

Three extraordinary educators from the elementary, middle, and high school levels were honored as San Diego Unified Teachers of the Year during the district’s annual Teacher of the Year celebration, a festive event co-sponsored by the San Diego Education Association and California Schools VEBA.

Superintendent Cindy Marten, board trustees, employees, and friends and families of the honorees celebrated the teachers’ accomplishments, while also recognizing the outstanding work of the district’s more than 6,000 teachers. With student-provided entertainment and catering, the celebration was held at the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts.

The 2019 San Diego Unified Teachers of the Year are:

·         Hilda Martinez, RTI Resource Teacher at Zamorano Fine Arts Academy

·         Roosevelt Johnson, eighth-grade Math/Special Education teacher at Wilson Middle School

·         Jenny Lieu, Integrated Math 1 at Lincoln High School

Hundreds of guests turned out to participate in the celebration, held on National Day of the Teacher. The three district Teachers of the Year, along with three Teacher of the Year runners-up and 131 teachers selected as Teacher of the Year by their individual schools, were honored.

“Teachers have the opportunity to empower an entire generation of young people to build a better future, and transform the communities we serve. Having spent 17 years as a classroom teacher, I understand the personal and emotional commitments teachers make to our students,” said Superintendent Cindy Marten. “On behalf of the entire district, we extend our heartfelt gratitude for your dedication and hard work, and salute you for making a difference every day in the lives of your students and in your school community.”

Each of the three teachers encourages their students within and beyond the classroom. Martinez, for example, incorporates arts to strengthen literacy among students from diverse backgrounds, while addressing the adversity many of her students experience on a daily basis. “I always try my best to make my new and returning students feel welcomed to the learning community, their learning community. I want them to know that…their school community is filled with people who believe in them…,” said Martinez.

Through the ManUP program he started seven years ago, Johnson has lifted the mindset and self-esteem of many at-risk male students. “Early on in my career I learned the phrase, ‘Before you can teach them, you have to reach them,’ from a veteran teacher, said Johnson. “I spend a lot of time teaching students how to think instead of what to think.”

Lieu goes beyond teaching math concepts, instilling in her students valuable lessons that will assist them in being successful in life. “Once my students find confidence in themselves and their abilities to learn, their success is limitless,” Lieu said. “I want to show my students the value in learning. Learning how to problem solve, struggle, persevere, use structures and tools to be successful. These are all skills that are not limited to math, but can be applied throughout a student’s life.”

Three Teacher of the Year runners-up were also honored for their excellence:  Michelle (Mickey) Sullivan, grades TK-5 science at Balboa Elementary School; Julie Latta, sixth-grade science at Muirlands Middle School; and Kris Rodenberg, grades 8-12 English AP Art History/Psychology/Language & Literature at Mt. Everest Academy, were named runners-up.

The ceremony opened with a performance of “Wilkommen” from “Cabaret” by the SDSCPA musical theater cast. Following the national anthem, sung by SDSCPA student Vivian Romero, Superintendent Marten, Board of Education Trustees, and Kisha Borden, President of the San Diego Education Association, congratulated and thanked the teachers for their enthusiasm and commitment to their students. Susan Hoekings, President of the San Diego Education Fund, awarded multi-year Future Teacher Scholarship and STEM Innovators Scholars awards to 13 academically outstanding high school students. Carlos Amezcua, KUSI anchor with Good Morning San Diego, served as emcee.

The 2018 District Teachers of the Year and Runners-up presented certificates and awards to the new honorees. Tribute videos featuring each of the new District Teachers of the Year were played at the event. All 131 site Teachers of the Year were invited up on stage and congratulated by the board trustees. This was followed by local elected officials bestowing on the three honorees certificates of recognition. The evening ended with event sponsors—including California Coast Credit Union and Mission Federal Credit Union—extending gifts to the honorees.

This year’s celebration kicked off with a new Wellness Hour during the pre-ceremony reception, focusing on the district’s commitment to teacher, student, and staff wellness throughout the year. Attendees visited the information booths provided by the district’s Wellness Council, including community partners California Schools VEBA, the American Heart Association, and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. The Wellness Hour offered a small sampling of what the San Diego Unified’s Wellness Initiative looks like districtwide and at all schools. Culinary arts students from Morse, Mira Mesa, and San Diego High Schools provided gourmet appetizers for guests to enjoy during the reception, while SCPA students played background music. California Schools VEBA co-sponsored the pre-ceremony reception.

District Teacher of the Year nominees are first selected by their school sites. These individuals then have the option to apply for District Teacher of the Year, a process that includes written essays, interviews, and classroom observations. The Teacher of the Year winners and runners-up are selected by a six-member committee made up of previous District Teachers of the Year and runners-up. Each of the honorees may go on to the countywide competition along with the three runners-up for the district’s Teacher of the Year.

San Diego Unified would like to extend heartfelt thanks to the sponsors of the 2019 Teacher of the Year celebration:  California Schools VEBA, SDEA, California Coast Credit Union, Mission Federal Credit Union, VALIC Financial Advisors, and the San Diego Education Fund. Other sponsors include:  Balloons Décor & More, CALMIOS, and Dave’s Flower Box. The district would also like to extend a thank you to the collaboration by SDSCPA; College, Career and Technical Education; San Diego Physical Education; and San Diego Unified Wellness Initiative for the success of this event.

Media Contact: Maureen Magee, Communications Director, (619) 318-7930

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