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REL #02-36

Mary Lou Thomas


(916) 319-0818
November 20, 2002


SACRAMENTO — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin today named five outstanding teachers as California's Teachers of the Year 2003: Virginia Avila, Grant High School, Grant Joint Union High School District, Sacramento, Sacramento County; Anne Marie Bergen, Magnolia Elementary School, Oakdale Joint Unified School District, Oakdale, Stanislaus County; Connie Baumgardt Blackburn, Central School, Escondido Union School District, Escondido, San Diego County; Christopher Mullin, Santa Ynez Valley Union High School, Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District, Santa Ynez, Santa Barbara County; and Tamara Thornell, Norman R. Brekke School, Oxnard Elementary School District, Oxnard, Ventura County. Biographies of the awardees are attached below.

"We have entrusted the future of this nation to our teachers," said Eastin. "Teachers help mold the attitudes, beliefs, and achievements that will determine the character of our next generation. They are role models for living and inspiration for learning. I am proud to recognize the work of California's 307,000 teachers and to congratulate these dedicated professionals."

Although California selects five top teachers to serve as state Teachers of the Year, only one name can be submitted for consideration as National Teacher of the Year. This year's California nominee is Virginia Avila. The announcement for the National Teacher of the Year, a program sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers, will be made in spring 2003. The current National Teacher of the Year is Chauncey Veatch from Coachella Valley High School in Riverside County, California.

This is the first year that California has named alternate Teachers of the Year. Eastin named as alternates: James Jordan, Del Campo High School, San Juan Unified School District, Fair Oaks, Sacramento County; and Sharon Roxburgh, Dr. Juliet Thorner School, Bakersfield City School District, Bakersfield, Kern County.

"I made this decision because of the caliber of the finalists," said Eastin. "Education represents one of the most important investments that society makes in itself, influencing not only individual development and potential, but also the economic and cultural well being of our state and nation."

California Teachers of the Year nominations are submitted by county offices of education following regional competitions. At the state level, a committee representing a broad cross-section of the state reviews nominations. This year's committee included teachers, administrators, and other members of the educational community. Approximately 60 nominations were narrowed to a field of semi-finalists. Each semi-finalist received a classroom visit by three veteran Teachers of the Year who are practicing professionals. Several finalists were subsequently interviewed by a panel comprised of representatives from a school district, the business community, and the state superintendent's office.

The State Board of Education will formally recognize the new California Teachers of the Year in January 2003. A dinner will be sponsored by the California Teachers of the Year Foundation; the California State Lottery; Toshiba America Electronics Components, Inc.; the Masons of California; GTECH; National Semiconductor; Harcourt Educational Measurement; The Men's Wearhouse; and NCS Pearson. Other partners include the Sacramento Kings and Raley's/Bel Air.

For further information, please contact Kimberly A. Edwards, coordinator of the California Teacher of the Year program at the California Department of Education, at 916-319-0415.

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Attachment A


Virginia Avila teaches ninth grade physical education and English at Grant High School in Sacramento. She always has wanted to be a teacher. When she was 10, she would gather together the neighborhood kids to sit on old tires holding boards on their laps for desks. Ms. Avila attributes her love of teaching to her father who valued integrity, character, and fairness, and who taught her to show utmost respect for teachers and the clergy. She has won numerous awards for her teaching and, although she has had opportunities to teach elsewhere, she says she belongs where she is now. Ms. Avila also has taught elementary and junior high school, as well as severely emotionally disturbed children. She volunteers extensively in the community.

Virginia Avila can be reached at Grant High School, 1400 Grand Avenue, Sacramento, CA 95838, at (916) 286-1200.

Anne Marie Bergen, who serves as K-6 science coordinator/teacher at Magnolia Elementary School in Oakdale, quotes poet Robert Frost when she explains how the profession fulfills her. From The Road Not Taken, she cites: "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference." Torn between an internship at a genetics lab and a teaching position, Ms. Bergen chose to teach and has never looked back. Now some 17 years later, she espouses for students an active learning environment, meaningful learning experiences, and compassionate teaching that engages students of all ages, abilities, and languages.

Anne Marie Bergen can be reached at Magnolia Elementary School, 739 Magnolia Street, Oakdale, CA 95361, at (209) 847-0391.

Connie Baumgardt Blackburn teaches kindergarten at Central School in Escondido. She sees herself as an ambassador for education. "Teaching is not for the light-hearted, but for the courageous," she said, while at the same time proclaiming teaching as the best profession in the world. She can't see herself doing anything else. New teachers should be paired with mentors, according to Ms. Blackburn. Her special pleas to people considering a teaching career, or who recently have entered the profession but are struggling, is that they stay committed to the profession because they are desperately needed. Her advice to all teachers is to never stop reading current research or learning new techniques and, no matter what, to never give up.

Connie Baumgardt Blackburn can be reached at Central School, 122 W. Fourth Avenue, Escondido, CA 92025, at (760) 432-2431.

Christopher Mullin teaches history, Latin, and AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) classes in grades 9-12 at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School in Santa Ynez. He believes the major issues facing education are recruitment, retention, and meaningful support of teachers throughout their careers. Mr. Mullin draws upon other cultures, countries, and times in history for answers to peer-support problems for teachers. He knows his students are achieving when he sees them debate, present, write journals, and discuss using primary sources as living voices. Mr. Mullin's units have ranged from a post-World War II Berlin summit to a costumed evening in the Gilded Age. He has served as a teacher-facilitator for the History-Social Science Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Other activities include his work as a MetLife Fellow of the Teachers Network Policy Institute and serving on his school's Digital High School Committee.

Christopher Mullin can be reached at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School, 2975 East Highway 246, Santa Ynez, CA 93460, at (805) 688-6487.

Tamara Thornell teaches a bilingual second grade class at Norman R. Brekke School in Oxnard. She is a firm believer in the philosophy that all students can succeed by having self-confidence, mastering grade-level standards, and loving to learn. As a bilingual second grade teacher, Ms. Thornell sees her role as one of ensuring that her students achieve success in every situation, mastering standards, and enhancing social interaction. She believes that learners can best succeed if curriculum content is differentiated to appropriately meet individual needs. Students are encouraged to think in-depth about their projects. Ms. Thornell sees herself as a facilitator and a role model for the learning process. She applies this philosophy not only in class to her students, but also in the technology integration workshops she gives for other educators.

Tamara Thornell can be reached at Norman R. Brekke School, 1400 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Oxnard, CA 93030, at (805) 485-1224.

Attachment B


James Jordan teaches English and journalism at Del Campo High School in Fair Oaks. He believes that success in school begins by being organized. He has students develop note taking and notebook keeping skills, and maintains a "fanatical focus" on meeting deadlines. Mr. Jordan provides expectations about what will happen each day and week, so students know what's coming. He loves to push students beyond the limits of what they think they can achieve. His role is similar to that of a coach, training in the skills necessary and running alongside clapping and cheering to inspire every ounce of effort.

James Jordan can be reached at Del Campo High School, 4925 Dewey Drive, Fair Oaks, CA 95628, at (916) 971-5638.

Sharon Roxburgh teaches fifth grade at Dr. Juliet Thorner School in Bakersfield. She is known for her "can-do" attitude. Supervisors and peers acknowledge her rigorous curriculum, classroom management, command of subject matter, and ability to adapt instruction to different styles and levels. Ms. Roxburgh brought the "Rolling Reader" program to her district. She challenges parents to be involved in their children's education, since parents are their children's first and most important teacher. In class, students learn to study, memorize, research, and problem solve independently and in teams. In 2001-02, Roxburgh's class attendance was 97 percent. School needs to be exciting so kids will attend, she says, and cites, "Bring the body, and the mind will follow."

Sharon Roxburgh can be reached at Dr. Juliet Thorner School, 5501 Thorner Street, Bakersfield, CA 93306, at (661) 631-5490.

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