Seventeen teachers representing all of the Hart District’s schools have been named Teacher of the Year by their respective sites. All 17 were presented to the Hart District Governing Board at its Sept. 15 meeting and honored for their outstanding contributions to their school. One teacher was named as the District Teacher of the Year.
Charles Good, an Arroyo Seco Junior High School history teacher, was announced as the District Teacher of the Year, by the Hart Governing Board, at its Sept. 15 meeting. Good is head of staff development, chairperson of the History department and has served as coordinator for the Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program and assisted in development of a special education inclusion program that serves as a model for all junior high schools in the district. He also is completing a class to become a California Teacher of English Learners. Simulations, collaborative work and hands-on activities help his students master social studies while developing the skills they need to reach their full potential. A true Santa Clarita native, Good was born and raised in Saugus, attended Highlands Elementary School, Arroyo Seco Junior High School, Saugus High School, College of the Canyons and the Master’s College.
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This year’s Teachers of the Year and the schools they represent:
Kelly Abbott has been an independent study teacher at Learning Post High School since August 2008. She also taught at Placerita Junior High and was a guidance counselor at both Golden Valley High School and La Mesa Junior High. She also has served as coordinator of the Safe School Ambassador and STOP peer mediation programs. Abbott considers herself lucky to be working in an independent study school. “Due to the nature of my school’s program, I leave my classroom every single day knowing I made a difference to a student, not just in their educational career, but in their life,” she remarked.
Jayme Allsman is a product of local schools, having graduated from Hart High School and returning as a teacher’s aide and child welfare and attendance specialist while she was earning her teaching credential. She taught tenth grade English at Saugus High School for one semester before transferring to her current position as an English teacher at Placerita Junior High in 1993. She created a sensation among Beginning Band students at Placerita when she enrolled as a trombone player in 2007. One student commented on her teaching philosophy: “You like us and treat us like real people!”
Tina Centoni has been an English teacher at Hart High School since 1995 and currently serves as yearbook advisor. She has been chair of the English Department since 2009, taught in the school’s Intensive Literacy Program and coached students needing to pass the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) in both English and math. “I try to teach my students that time is precious, and they need to make the most of every minute,” she explains.
Vilo Del Rio came to the Hart District in 2004 as an English teacher at Saugus High School, where he has coached the Academic Decathlon team since 2006. He often teams with the school’s history and social studies departments to support both Advanced Placement and at-risk students. His teaching style weaves humor and energy into the content with the objective of infecting students with a love for words, for clarity and critical thought.
Robert Evans has been named Most Inspirational Teacher by the students at Golden Valley High School in 2006-07 and Teacher of the Year by his peers in 2009-10. He not only teaches English but also coaches Golden Valley’s track and field and cross country teams, where he has led his teams to state championship meets. His goal is to liberate students from the materiality of their daily lives and introduce them to the beautiful world of the abstract: poetry, literature and philosophy.
Chris Forbes first came to the Hart District as an English teacher at Jereann Bowman High School in 2001, where he served as English Department chair in 2004-05. He then moved to Rancho Pico Junior High, where he also teaches a critical thinking and review writing exploratory class. He has served as teacher, coach and site coordinator for the district’s summer Intensive Literacy Program. He uses music, wholeclass debate and curriculum-based games to keep student interest high.
Pat Hibbert came to Sequoia Charter School in 2005 with a background in both elementary behavior and gifted programs. She was named Teacher of the Year in 2007 and again in 2010 and serves the school as a department chair and CAHSEE coordinator. She loves teaching because “there is a potential each morning that something say or do will have an impact on a student. I truly care about them and their lives.”
Stacey Killinger teaches government and economics at Bowman High School and also is a CAHSEE math teacher, including sheltered and regular classes. She is director for the school’s Associated Student Body and member of the School Leadership Team, Site Council and Action Team Partnership. She came to Bowman from Sierra Vista Junior High, where she was a long-term substitute teaching keyboarding and technical communications. “I feel that I help students far beyond the classroom and help them develop into young ladies and gentlemen,” she reflects on her work with at-risk students.
Holly Martin’s first assignment in the Hart District was as a Spanish 1 and 2 long-term substitute at Hart High School. She then moved to West Ranch High School, where she is currently in her fifth year of teaching Spanish and her third year as Foreign Language Department chair. She also is the school’s head frosh/soph girls soccer coach. As an intervention teacher, she holds weekly study/tutoring sessions after school to help students struggling in Spanish. “Intervention and a positive connection with the teacher supports every student’s learning,” she explains. “It is part of my job to discover how my students learn best.”
Sandra Kay Maxson works with special needs students at La Mesa Junior High, where she has developed a Peer Tutor program currently in use at Hart District junior and senior high schools, as well as two schools in Utah. Her students are enriched by such opportunities as the “adaptive skiing” program at Big Bear Ski Resort. Her classroom regularly serves 10 severely mentally and physically disabled students plus three to six regular education students each hour who are taking the class as a peer tutor elective. “Like my peer tutors, I really enjoy and love my students,” she says.
Elizabeth Meddaugh has been in the Hart District since 2005 as an eighth grade resource specialist and department chair at Rio Norte Junior High. She has developed collaborative classes in English and algebra and a reading lab and Power Math focused intervention classes, both during and after school. “Students come to my Study Skills, Basic Pre-Algebra, or Reading Lab prepared to learn and at ease to ask questions and participate,” she explains. “Through empowerment, every one of my students has opportunities for success.
Melissa Palmer has been instrumental music director at Canyon High School since 2007. She is active in the Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association and organized the first Hart District Jazz All-Star honor group. She views her classes as a “family,” where students are united in a common love of music, despite their academic levels. “Our goal is not to win,” she explains, despite a highly successful marching band season last year. “Our goals are to do our personal best and to continue our process of learning.”
Rick Pendleton holds a bachelor’s degree in history/social sciences and a master’s degree in special education, leading to his position as a special education teacher at Sierra Vista Junior High and department co-chair for the 2009-10 school year. “I hope that I’ve made young people think over the years…and act,” he reflects. “Thinking about important ideas, coming up with new ones is an important thing. But it’s what we do that really matters.”
Michele Siner came to the Hart District from Glendale Unified, first teaching biology, chemistry and AVID at Early College High School and most recently at Academy of the Canyons, where she is also Science Department chair and a member of the professional development and leadership teams. She approaches teaching with a determination to make chemistry and biology fun, challenging and able to be mastered by all of her students.
Joni Stiman has been a social studies teacher at Valencia High School since 2003, teaching AP U.S. History, U.S. History and two levels of Peer Counseling. She also taught psychology and developed and supervised Valencia’s Peer Mediation program for 15 years. She came to Valencia from Sierra Vista Junior High, where she was an interim assistant principal. “My job is colorful and different every day and that is what makes it interesting,” she commented.
Yara Wright comes to the Hart District from Brazil, where she taught English as a second language (ESL) for 13 years and was a principal for six years at a language school affiliated with Oxford University. She has been with Golden Oak Adult School as an ESL teacher since 2008. She loves it when her students tell her that they were able to overcome an obstacle at work or reached a goal in their lives because of something that she taught them.
Teacher of the Year honorees are chosen by their peers and the administration at each site. The District Teacher of the Year advances to the county level, where a small number of honorees are selected to represent Los Angeles County at the state and possibly even the national level.
All of the district’s Teachers of the Year will be honored at a luncheon this fall at Robinson Ranch, in addition to their Governing Board presentation. Their portraits will be on display in the district’s Administrative Center for the 2010-11 school year.