Tech teacher is final teacher of year
Glen Warren was at a loss for words.
That's no small feat for a teacher who can wax eloquent on technology and information science – his main subjects at McPherson Magnet School in Orange.
Warren was shocked when he saw the "prize patrol" of county, district and school officials nearing his classroom door for the last of five 2014 Teacher of the Year surprise announcements on Wednesday morning.
"The blood was leaving my head so fast I was close to fainting," Warren said.
Though Warren said he doesn't deserve the honor, the 30-some crowd of officials, teachers and students didn't believe him.
Warren gently tells students when they miss the mark on a test or assignment, and teaches them how to do better next time, said Patrick Kelly, 14.
He puts energy, passion and humor into every presentation to make it fun for the students and for himself, said Mason Muratalla and Leland Johnson, both 14.
"He's an incredible teacher," said animation student Bryan Boelts, 13.
Warren teaches technology and information literacy to middle school students at McPherson Magnet School. He's been at McPherson for three years, and has been teaching a total of 15 years, as a sixth-grade teacher, teacher librarian and media resources coordinator.
He's led statewide webinars for school districts and parents; and is a Google certified teacher to expand professional development for teachers. Warren won two awards in 2013 – Outstanding Creative Teaching Achievement from the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity, and the Leaders Making a Difference award from the Link Americas Foundation. In 2012, Warren received a certificate from the California Department of Education for his work on the Education Technology Task Force.
Warren hopes his win can be a platform to remind teachers of their love for learning and for their students.
"I have got the best gig on the planet," Warren said.
Linda Horist, Nohl Canyon Elementary
John Horist and his daughter, Allison, 19, struggled all night to keep the secret – that his wife and her mom, Linda Horist, is a county Teacher of the Year.
"She's born to be a teacher and she's awesome," John said.
Linda Horist, a second-grade teacher at Nohl Canyon Elementary School in Anaheim Hills, saw the principal and superintendent first, when the "prize patrol" – and her family – surprised her with the news on Wednesday.
"Then my heart just dropped, probably as far as my jaw. Then I didn't see anyone else that walked in because I was crying so hard," Linda Horist said.
Her teaching life flashed before her eyes – all her former students, fellow teachers and administrators.
Horist, a 15-year teacher, goes beyond the call of duty by calling each of her students the night before the first day of school to welcome them to her classroom, according to her Teacher of the Year nomination form.
Each day, she hosts a Lunch Bunch so students can get to know their teacher and each other.
When students reach graduation, Horist presents each of her former students with a book of writing from their year in her class and a picture of their second-grade class labeled "Where were you 10 years ago?"
She also serves as a SMARTboard technology mentor and Blackboard Website mentor for second grade for Orange Unified.
She raised $1,900 for the school by auctioning off the chance to have her read bedtime stories to students at their home, dressed as Cat in the Hat. She sewed a fleece blanket for each student as part of the auction package, her Teacher of the Year application states.
Horist said she thinks her creativity helped her win the award, but her students had a different take.
Carson Ridge and Carter Swann, both 8, attribute her teaching ability to a fondness for the color purple, diet Mountain Dew, talking off topic in class, giving out raffle prizes and that one day she did a cartwheel in her second-grade classroom.
Carter sums it up: "She's fun."
Alexander Taber, Rancho Santiago Community College District
Alexander Taber was lecturing on macroeconomics Wednesday morning when a "prize patrol" of county education leaders burst through the door of his classroom at Santiago Canyon College in Orange.
At first, Taber thought he would be asked to give directions to a lost student. Then, the real reason for the interruption registered in his mind.
"I'm elated," Taber said. "I'm very grateful. It's a huge honor."
Taber was the third on the list of visits for the Teacher of the Year prize patrol.
Taber has been teaching 23 years – 14 of those at Santiago Canyon College.
Taber teaches statistics and econometrics, monetary theory and microeconomics to graduate students; and macroeconomic theory, intermediate microeconomics and macroeconomics, and principles of those same topics to undergraduate students.
Taber won the Santiago Canyon College Faculty Excellence Award in 2011.
Taber works to engage and reach all of his students each semester by using diverse and creative methods in class, such as using graphs, props, colors and cartoons, or dance. He celebrates student self-discovery and self empowerment, according to his Teacher of the Year nomination form.
Students Mauricio Muniz, 19, of Anaheim Hills and Eva Polewczyk, 20, of Orange, say Taber spends time outside class explaining economic theory until students understand.
"He never messes up anything. He knows everything about economics," Muniz said.
Scott Bedley, Irvine Unified
Scott Andrew Bedley of Irvine's Plaza Vista School thought he'd blown his teacher of the year interview. So he really wasn't expecting cheers from his family and school officials when he was called to the office on Wednesday morning.
Bedley, a fifth-grade teacher, was in the middle of giving a standardized test when he was surprised the county education prize patrol.
When Bedley saw the crowd waiting for him – including his wife, Kristin, son Dean, 2, and parents, Gene and Sally –ï¿½ he put his head in his hands and tried to stifle the tears.
"Your impact on the lives of our students is so profound because you're laying the foundation," Mijares said. "How you lace your work around character is so important."
Bedley, a fifth grade teacher, has been a teacher for 19 years.
His recent efforts include helping to train other teachers on the new Common Core State Standards, value education and classroom management.
He also worked to create a Technology Applied Science Fair for third- to eighth-graders in Irvine Unified. Their computer projects incorporate music and art, and other student talents. Bedley is hoping to expand the fair to other IUSD schools and schools outside the district, according to his Teacher of the Year nomination form.
His efforts include scheduling a monthly online chat with Santa Clara University's solar decathlon team, and worked with his district to create a Teacher of Promise award for new teachers.
Bedley wrote an activity book based on students making positive community contributions as part of Rachel's Challenge, a nonprofit stemming from the death of Rachel Joy Scott in the Columbine High School shootings.
And he even expanded his reach as a teacher by publishing videos on his YouTube channel. To date, he has more than 1,000 subscribers.
For his part, Bedley lauded the educators he works alongside.
"I feel so blessed to be with these people," he said. "They inspire me every day."
Randy Hudson, Dana Hills
The prize patrol's first stop was in the Capistrano Unified School District, where Randy Hudson teaches at Dana Hills High School.
Hudson got an early tip-off that something was up at when his marine ecology students spotted a "bunch of suits" out the window. So he was not quite as surprised as he might have been when he was one of the five Teachers of the Year.
But even without the surprise, he was still overwhelmed by news.
"This means a lot," said Hudson, who has taught science at Dana Hills for 14 years. "It's very humbling to have the support of colleagues and district personnel. I am able to make a big effort to get kids outside doing science. That's something that stays with them long after the year is over."
Hudson's morning visit did include one surprise – his wife, Kara, also a teacher, and his parents, Marnie and Hank Hudson, also came for the announcement.
"He teaches from his heart, and everything he does, he does looking at what he can do to make the students succeed at life," Kara Hudson said.
Hudson is a busy guy: In addition to teaching, he serves as academic competition coach for the school's National Ocean Sciences Bowl, National Science Bowl, Science Olympiad, Quiz Bowl and Knowledgemaster teams, and he oversees the campus Surfrider Club.
He is also the owner and CEO of Baja de Sea Inc., a program that organizes a nine-day trip to Baja California for more than 70 students over spring break each year. Students explore coastal habitats and write a research paper on the experience. Hudson created the program after the school district stopped supporting the program in 2010, according to his Teacher of the Year nomination form.
Hudson, who once worked as an environmental consultant, also directs a six-day trip for more than 35 students to Monterey and the central coast, where they visit research labs and aquaculture facilities. And he oversees an abalone restoration program in which students grow abalone in class, and then plant them in Laguna Beach to restore depleted populations.
Mijares praised Hudson's dedication.
"He is an absolute winner in our minds," he said.
Students said they can see he cares.
"You can tell he loves his job and he's really good at teaching in a way we'll understand," said Danielle Gambia, 17, a student in Hudson's marine ecology class.
Hudson, who received a golden apple trophy and who will get $15,000 for the honor, said his job satisfaction comes from inspiring students to pursue science.
"That's the best reward I can get," he said.
The five winning teachers were chosen from 56 nominees from K-12 schools, regional occupational programs and community college districts. Fifteen teachers made it to the semifinal round before the final five teachers were chosen.
A dinner and ceremony will be held for all the nominees on Oct. 25 at the Disneyland Hotel. The winning teachers receive a golden apple and $15,000, and become candidates for California Teachers of the Year, an award given in fall.
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