State Associate Justice visits PB Middle to salute civics education

Posted: Tuesday, May 24th 2016

California Associate Justice Joan K. Irion with students Neronica Ortega, Vanessa Estrada

California Associate Justice Joan K. Irion visited Pacific Beach Middle School to honor the school's winning a 2016 California Civic Learning Award of Distinction.

Associate Justice Irion, from the Fourth District Court of Appeal, visited the school May 23 and learned about the International Baccalaureate World School’s community service projects and visited with the students.

Pacific Beach Middle was one of just six schools in California selected to receive the Award of Distinction, the second-highest honor for the Civic Learning Awards.

Pacific Beach Middle was recognized for three activities that promote civic learning: Ashley Duren’s eighth-grade U.S. History and Geography class; the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program coordinated by Jennifer Sims; and the science/yearbook/video class taught by Don Wood.

Associate Justice Irion learned about several student civics-related projects during her visit, including: how students could empower themselves and others, leading to school-wide lessons; and two students organized a school assembly with a Holocaust survivor for the school.

Student Aalaiziah Collins, Board of Education President Dr. Michael McQuary, Principal Kimberly Meng, and International Baccalaureate Coordinator Jennifer Sims welcomed Justice Irion to the campus.
The Civic Learning Awards, now in their fourth year, were created tocelebrate public schools’ efforts to engage students in civic learning. The Civic Learning Awards program is part of California State Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye’s Power of Democracy civic learning initiative and partnership with the Superintendent of Instruction Tom Torlakson, launched in 2013 at the Civic Learning Summit.

The winners were selected by an expert panel, based on the depth and breadth of their civic learning courses or programs. Eighty-seven schools applied for the award. 

Kumeyaay Elementary School in Tierrasanta received the state’s Civics Learning Award Program’s highest recognition, the Award of Excellence, with Pacific Beach Middle School recognized in the program’s second tier. The third level of recognition, Awards of Merit, went to other San Diego Unified schools: Crawford High School Academy of Law in City Heights; de Portola Middle School in Tierrasanta; Mission Bay High School in Pacific Beach; Sherman Elementary School in Sherman Heights.

In 2015, San Diego Unified’s Board of Education approved a resolution in support of Civic Learning. The Board asked the district to make a commitment to work toward developing civic literacy of all its students by integrating the Six Proven Practices identified by the National Council for Social Studies into instructional practice and school life. In addition, it asked that the district establish a goal to make schools aware of and encourage participation in the application for the annual Civic Learning Award.

For more information about the Power of Democracy K-12 civic learning initiative and local Civic Learning Partnerships visit

Additional Media Coverage:

SD - Pacific Beach Middle earns state honors for civic learning projects

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