California Educator

November / December 2016

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Megan Gross teaches grades 9-12 at Del Norte High School, San Diego, Poway Unified School District. A special education teacher for nine years, she leads a team of instructional assis- tants who collaborate to design and support unique learning opportunities and experiences for their students. "My background is inclusion, so my students are inte- grated into the general population," Gross told the San Diego Union-Tribune. " There's a rich curriculum on campus, and I want to make sure all my students benefit from that." Gross has developed modified books to give her stu- dents access to material like To Kill a Mockingbird and Romeo and Juliet. She has also published a training man- ual to close the gap in special education training among teachers. Her students have gone on to community college and four-year universities. " Teaching is life-fulfilling work," she says. "I love the challenge of identifying the best instructional and support strategies for my new students each fall, and delight in the rewards of each student's 'aha!' moment that ultimately leads to growth and continued success." Torlakson has nominated Gross as California's representa- tive for the National Teacher of the Year competition. She will compete against other state nominees, and the 2017 National Teacher of the Year will be named in the spring. Corrie Traynor teaches at Barrett Ranch Elementary School, Antelope, Dry Creek Joint Elementary School District, Placer County. Traynor used her struggles with dyslexia and a severe read- ing disability as a child to drive her to become the best teacher she could be. She has been teaching for 22 years. "So why did I become a teacher? It is simple: I never want one of my students to feel that they cannot be whatever they want to be," she says. "I have dedicated my life to children of poor circumstance where I can guide them to a full understanding that we all can be successful in life with hard work, determination and perseverance." As an advocate for children, she teaches other educators not to lower their expectations for at-risk students. "My message has always been that it is not about us, it is about the kids in our classroom seats," she says. Isela Lieber teaches at James Monroe High School, Los Angeles Unified School District. Lieber has been teaching for 10 years. An immigrant who came to the U.S. with a sev- enth-grade education and little knowledge of English, she strongly identifies with her students, leading by example and sharing her personal story. Lieber sponsors SUCCEED, a student club that provides information and support to first-generation high school graduates, all English learners, most economically disad- vantaged, and helps them become future first-generation college students. SUCCEED provides after-school workshops on applying for financial aid as well as community workshops for parents on the importance and process of college. " Teaching is an act of social justice," Lieber says. " To be a teacher is to be an agent for change. It is a dynamic profession that promotes lifelong learning, as well as ongoing challenges to analyze student data to drive our instruction and rethink our approaches to pedagogy so that all learners' needs are met." Presented by California Casu- alty and the California Teachers of the Year Foundation, the California Teachers of the Year Program began in 1972 to honor outstanding teachers and encourage new teachers to enter the profession. For more information about the program, see ISELA LIEBER United Teachers Los Angeles, ninth- and 10th-grade English, ESL, and ESL science teacher MEGAN GROSS Autism spectrum disorder teacher, San Diego CORRIE TRAYNOR Dry Creek Teachers Association, fifth-grade multisubject teacher 51 November / December 2016 Photo credit: Amanda Douglass, Enlightened Artwork

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