Los Angeles Unified Applauds 2019-20 'Teachers of the Year'
Five will move on to Los Angeles County competition
LOS ANGELES (June 6, 2019) – Los Angeles Unified today recognized 22 inspiring educators as Teachers of the Year for 2019-20, honoring them for their expertise, success, creativity and devotion to their students and the teaching profession.
The honorees include teachers in elementary, secondary and adult schools, special-education programs, affiliated charters and magnets. The winners will be honored at a luncheon in September, hosted by the Los Angeles County Office of Education. Five of the teachers have been selected to compete for the Los Angeles County title.
Superintendent Austin Beutner said, “Congratulations to these heroes who excel at the art and science of teaching our students.”
“Amazing teachers change the trajectory of student lives all over Los Angeles,” Board President Mónica García said. “Congratulations to the Los Angeles Unified Teachers of the Year. Thank you for believing in them, challenging them and having high expectations of them so that they can reach graduation and beyond!”
Board Vice President Nick Melvoin said, “Congratulations to all the teachers being recognized for going above and beyond in the education of our kids! Thank you for the work that you—and all your colleagues—undertake every day to prepare our students to graduate college-and career-ready.”
“A teacher has the greatest impact on a student, and that impact can last a lifetime,” Board Member Dr. George J. McKenna III said. “I am proud to recognize our Teachers of the Year.”
Board Member Scott M. Schmerelson said, “I spend many hours each week visiting schools in my Board District and never fail to leave a school site without feeling optimistic about the future after observing the talent and commitment of our teaching professionals who do so much under the most challenging and under-resourced conditions. Congratulations to all of the 22 educators who are being recognized for their tireless dedication to the children of Los Angeles Unified.”
“First of all, let me say congratulations to all of you who have been named Teacher of the Year. You are the real heroes in our community, and I want to thank you for all you do,” Board Member Jackie Goldberg said. “We recognize your excellent performance in the classroom, because it means so much to our students.”
"Congratulations to our Teachers of the Year and especially to all of our fantastic educators in the East Valley,” Board Member Kelly Gonez said. “We are so grateful to you for your years of dedication to our students and our schools."
I want to extend my sincerest appreciation and congratulations to our 2019/2020 Teachers of the Year, and a special note to Amelyn Mendoza from Knox Elementary School and Keesha Aldridge from Narbonne High School," Board Member Dr. Richard Vladvoic said. "We cannot thank you enough for being the exemplary teachers you are."
The 2019-20 Teachers of the Year for Los Angeles Unified are:
Maria Alcaraz teaches sixth grade in the Spanish dual-language program at Lucille Roybal-Allard Elementary School. She greets students as they arrive at school, building relationships and trust before they enter her classroom. She believes that giving a wrong answer, and learning from the mistake, is an important part of the learning process. She has been teaching for 17 years.
Keesha Aldridge teaches algebra at Narbonne High School STEAM Magnet. She is accomplished at accelerating achievement in a challenging course. Her effectiveness is reflected in the high percentage of students who demonstrate proficiency on the state math assessments. She has been teaching for 12 years.
Robyn Arnold teaches third grade at Sherman Oaks Charter Elementary School. She finds the gifts and talents in every student, and teaches the importance of kindness and inclusion. She has been teaching for 16 years. She will compete for Los Angeles County Teacher of the Year.
Lisa Bennett teaches third- through fifth-grade special-education students at Van Gogh Charter Elementary School. She focuses on her students’ abilities and celebrates each step on the ladder of growth. She has been teaching for 14 years.
Sonia Castro-Lowe teaches English as a Second Language at Los Angeles Technology Center Community Adult School. Her students range from adults with little or no formal education, to lawyers, nurses and teachers who are new to this country. She has been teaching for 23 years.
Nelly Cristales teaches second grade at 32nd Street/USC Visual & Performing Arts Magnet School. She challenges students at all levels of ability to make academic progress and develop skills to endure and solve challenges. She has been a teacher for 19 years.
Monica Erne-Webber is a resource specialist and English teacher at Francis Polytechnic High School. Using emotional and academic data, patience and hard work, she succeeds with students with disabilities, long-term English-learners and those with health and emotional issues. She has been teaching for 12 years.
Anna M. Gaiter
Anna M. Gaiter teaches fourth grade at Plainview Academic Charter Academy. She demystifies math and science through group work and individual research, STEAM activities and mural projects and lessons in the school’s literacy garden. She has been teaching for 27 years.
Nikysha D. Gilliam
Nikysha D. Gilliam teaches eighth-grade English and U.S. history at Audubon Middle School. Her classes include writing workshops, role-playing and technology and the arts. Students receive a reward from a treasure when they are “caught being brilliant.” She has been a teacher for 21 years. She will compete for Los Angeles County Teacher of the Year.
Leslie Hicks teaches math at Daniel Pearl Journalism and Communications Magnet High School. She emphasizes perseverance, problem-solving, collaboration and multiple chances to get the right answer, and she has the highest algebra pass rate among teachers in Local District Northwest. She has been a teacher for 13 years.
Martha Infante teaches social studies at Taft Charter High School. She combines rigorous instruction and creative practices to help students achieve. A proud product of Los Angeles Unified she credits talented teachers who helped her succeed as a gifted English-language learner. She has been teaching for 24 years.
Elva Madrigal teaches honors and Advanced Placement social studies at Francis Polytechnic High School. She builds resilience among her students, who may be learning English, juggling jobs and school, or overcoming challenges. She has been a teacher for 13 years.
Claudia Martinez teaches second grade in the Spanish dual-language program at Lucille Roybal-Allard Elementary School. A former English-learner herself, she loves to engage students in lessons that stimulate their curiosity and inspire achievement. She has been teaching for 17 years.
Dr. Diana McConnell
Dr. Diana McConnell teaches instrumental music at Nightingale Middle School. Her excitement about music inspires students to rehearse together both in and out of the classroom. She has established partnerships that have provided musical instruments for the school and opportunities for students to perform. She has been teaching for 14 years.
Amelyn Mendoza teaches third grade at Dr. Owen Lloyd Knox Elementary School. In addition to academics, she addresses the emotional well-being of students. She started a yoga class to help homeless students and foster youth cope with the trauma in their lives. She has been teaching for 14 years. She will compete for Los Angeles County Teacher of the Year.
Beatris M. Moreno-Arias
Beatris M. Moreno-Arias teaches transitional kindergarten at Miles Avenue Elementary School. She makes learning fun without sacrificing rigorous tasks or high standards. She supports students dealing with poverty and trauma, and also teaches the importance of inclusion and communication. She has been teaching for 15 years.
Dr. April Parker
Dr. April Parker teaches Advanced Placement English literature, journalism and drama at Huntington Park High School. She helps drama students develop their hidden talents and long-term English-learners realize that their language skills do not reflect their intellectual abilities. Her work has generated college scholarships for 56 students. She has been teaching for 13 years.
Jessica Perry-Martin teaches visual and Advanced Placement art at the Arts, Theater and Entertainment (ArTES) Magnet at the Cesar Chavez Learning Academies. She helps her students, ranging from beginning to award-winning artists, refine their skills, master new techniques and develop their artistic ability. She has been teaching for 18 years. She will compete for Los Angeles County Teacher of the Year.
Janet Di Giulio Skidmore
Janet Di Giulio Skidmore teaches sixth-grade English, history and contemporary art at Lawrence Middle School. She incorporates life lessons with academics, sets high expectations and promotes teamwork. She has been teaching for 23 years.
Stacy N. Thornton
Stacy N. Thornton teaches fourth grade at Loyola Village Fine and Performing Arts Magnet. She specializes in finding and using the unique strengths of her students to help them meet academic goals. Her students also learn empathy, as demonstrated by a clean water drive for a fourth-grade class in Flint, Mich., where the water had been tainted by lead. She has been teaching for 22 years.
Amy Kassorla Weisberg
Amy Kassorla Weisberg teaches transitional kindergarten and is a kindergarten teacher at Topanga Elementary Charter School. She challenges and encourages the school’s youngest students, giving them a head start on literacy, math, school readiness and social emotional development. She has brought resources to her campus including a garden, outdoor stage, a labyrinth and even a yoga class. She has been a teacher for 39 years. She will compete for Los Angeles County Teacher of the Year.
Katherine Yonemura teaches fourth grade at Hesby Oaks Leadership Charter. She encourages students to find the joy and purpose in learning, in addition to the correct answer. Her teacher heart sings as she listens to students excitedly participate in their book clubs. Her classroom reflects her positive approach, with a bulletin board highlighting “The BEST Things We’ve Seen in Room 9.” She has been a teacher for 32 years.