West Ranch Teacher Named To County's "Sweet 16"
He will now advance to state competition
Sean O’Brien, an English teacher from West Ranch High School, has been named one of 16 Los Angeles County Teachers of the Year for 2007, a title which places him among the “best of the best” in public education in Southern California.
The L.A. County Teachers of the Year competition is the largest in the state and is part of the
Nation’s oldest and most prestigious honors program for educators. The 16 winners will automatically advance to the California Teachers of the Year competition this fall, with a chance from there to represent the state in this spring’s National Teacher of the Year contest.
O’Brien was first selected by his peers at West Ranch as his school’s Teacher of the Year, and then by the Hart District for the district-wide title. His position as a county finalist was announced at a ceremony Friday morning in Universal City. The final honorees, dubbed the “Sweet 16” by the Los Angeles County Department of Education, were selected from 64 nominees submitted by school districts throughout the county.
The “Sweet 16” winning teachers represent the profession’s annual best from a total eligible pool of some 85,000 teachers countywide, according to County Superintendent of Schools Darline Robles.
In addition to his English classes at West Ranch, O’Brien is also the school’s junior varsity head football coach. He has taught a number of different classes at West Ranch, ranging from the school’s Strategic Reading parallel class to Advanced Placement Language and Composition. He was one of the founding and principal members of the Hart District’s award-winning Peer Assistance and Review team and an active part of the district’s new teacher support system.
He created a two-year English/social science team in conjunction with fellow West Ranch teacher Laura Arrowsmith, who was a county Teacher of the Year in 2006.
O’Brien has been chair of the English Department since the opening of West Ranch High School and is the accreditation coordinator and staff development specialist for the school.
“A student in my class knows that what he or she is doing matters: matters in a deep meaningful way far beyond the immediate grade or mark,” O’Brien explained in his County Teacher of the Year nomination. “I am not an English teacher: I am a teacher of young people, and English is my content field.”
O’Brien came to the Hart District from Glendale Unified in 1993 and taught at Hart High School for 10 years before joining the staff of West Ranch High School in its opening year. He also is an adjunct English professor at College of the Canyons.
When working with struggling students, O’Brien makes sure those students see what they do well already before he addresses the issues of weakness. “Students who are told and who believe they have done well in at least some aspect…find it far easier to focus on the essential areas for improvement,” he explained.
He credits his love of the classroom to his father, an English teacher who retired just this year, and his mother, a homemaker who was always there to support him with a napkin or a Band-Aid, just as his father was always there with a book.
“We hear every day how the American educational system is ‘broken’ and in need of reform or even dissolution. I resist that notion,” he declared. “America has undertaken the most noble and most difficult challenge any civilization can: to educate its entire citizenry to a high level of ability in multiple fields. Such an enterprise requires constant renewal of purpose and retooling of technique, and I feel I have contributed to it.”
In the community, O’Brien is active both in Little League and American Youth Soccer Organization as a coach and certified official. He can be found volunteering at the local homeless shelter as a driver, and shares those experiences with his students as a window to the world beyond their own lives.
“The teaching staff at West ranch High School has the highest respect and fondest feelings for Sean,” Arrowsmith commented. “Sean inspires and encourages all of those who work around him—students and teachers alike.”
O’Brien is a Saugus resident.