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Five Educators Named San Diego County Teachers of the Year.

SAN DIEGO -- Five local educators selected from a field of 49 nominees were named San Diego County Teachers of the Year during the 17th annual "Cox Presents: A Salute to Teachers" in cooperation with the San Diego County Office of Education. Televised on Channel 4 San Diego, the event honors the county's 26,000 public school teachers. The 2007-08 San Diego County Teachers of the Year are: Andee Aceves, San Altos Elementary School (Lemon Grove School District); Freddie Chavarria, Jefferson Middle School (Oceanside Unified School District); Vicki Pilling, Solana Santa Fe School (Solana Beach School District); Tammy Reina, East Mesa School (SDCOE); and Chris Stanley, Carlton Hills School (Santee School District).

The five teachers of the year will go on to represent San Diego County in the California Teacher of the Year program, which will be announced later this year. Nominees for San Diego County Teacher of the Year were selected by their school districts based on student achievement, teaching philosophy, familiarity with current issues in education and community involvement.

In Andee Aceves' third-grade classroom at San Altos Elementary School, there is only one rule: "Treat others as you want them to treat you." Aceves believes in developing a sense of community by inviting her students to post photos on the classroom's Inspiration Bulletin Board of people in their lives who encourage them. This forum reminds her students that they are important, and that everyone has people who love them and believe in their potential for success. Aceves is concerned about the cultural disconnection between school and the outside world, and the dropout rate of Latino and African-American boys who disengage from school. Aceves, who is a 15-year teaching veteran, holds a master's degree in math curriculum from San Diego State University, and is the first Latina president of the Lemon Grove Teachers' Association and the first Latina Teacher of the Year for Lemon Grove.

Everyone in Freddie Chavarria's family worked as gardeners, masons or house cleaners, and when he went to high school, Chavarria's goal was to become a gardener just like his dad. But Chavarria got sidetracked. He went to college and his life was transformed forever. While attending graduate school, he was a substitute teacher and worked in a forensic toxicology lab. After several months in the lab, the calling to be a teacher became too strong. As an algebra and pre-algebra teacher to seventh- and eighth-grade students at Jefferson Middle School, Chavarria considers one of his greatest contributions in education to be his own personal background and unique experiences, which he readily shares with his students. He knows first-hand what some of his struggling students experience because he was an English language learner and a struggling student. Chavarria holds a master's degree in education from the University of La Verne, and has been teaching for 8 years.

Vicki Pilling believes that children learn best when programs are tailored to their individual learning styles and support their strengths and weaknesses. A teacher at Solana Santa Fe School for grades 3-6, this philosophy serves Pilling well with her students, who have varying degrees of learning handicaps. Pilling says, "In order for my students to find their way, I must understand who they are, how their disability affects learning and how they learn." As a young child, Pilling learned she had the ability to attentively listen and understand messages of others. Her partnerships with the community include developing a functional life skills class with a local supermarket and offering her expertise in behavior management and planning at Helen Woodward Animal Hospital. One of the most significant challenges she sees in education is closing the education gap. She has been a teacher for 23 years, and has a master's degree in education from the University of San Diego.

A teacher at East Mesa School, located at San Diego's all-male East Mesa Juvenile Detention Facility, Tamara Reina passes a razor wire and sliding steel doors to her classroom. Her students cannot go home after class; Instead, they return to their small, locked cells to read, write in their journals, or think about the loved ones they won't see. Many students are entrenched in gangs and have been in and out of San Diego's detention facilities for years. Despite the grim reality of Reina's classroom, she greets her students with a smile and a goal of re-engaging them with a love of learning. For Reina's students, her classroom is the one constant in their lives, a place where they can escape the stress of their current situation, feel a sense of pride in their accomplishments, and find hope for their future. Reina is passionate about teaching, and believes in celebrating small successes. She volunteers her time during parent visitations, keeps in contact with former students, and sends books to students who have been sent to prison or Youth Authority. Since her students cannot go into the community, she brings the community into the classroom, offering them a poetry workshop and a book club. Reina, who has been teaching for 10 years, holds a master's degree from National University. She teaches English, U.S. History and GED preparation to students in grades 9-12.

A seventh- and eighth-grade language arts/social studies/PE teacher at Carlton Hills School in Santee, Chris Stanley's motto is "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." Growing up in San Carlos, Stanley encountered a number of life-changing experiences and struggles that eventually led him to the teaching profession. When he was in third grade, Stanley witnessed the death of his principal, Mr. Wagg, on his elementary school campus. Stanley was 10 feet away from his principal when teenager Brenda Spencer, who lived next to the school, started shooting. It's a memory Stanley will never forget -- his principal yelling for the students to run, only to be fatally shot trying to protect them. For Stanley, teachers not only inspired him, they literally saved his life. Through the years, Stanley struggled to find direction and found his way to the teaching profession, working as a school aide. After his first year of teaching, he began organizing fishing trips for fourth-grade students. These trips, he says, changed his life. Stanley, who graduated from National University, has been a teacher for 12 years, and volunteers his time coaching Junior Olympics.

Rounding out the 10 finalists were: Beth Duncan, Vista Academy of Visual and Performing Arts (Vista Unified School District); Lisa Hawk, The Preuss School UCSD (San Diego Unified); Raquel Luna, Sweetwater Springs Community School and La Mesa Dale Elementary School, (La Mesa-Spring Valley School District); Marcia Sevigny Resetco, Winter Gardens Elementary School (Lakeside Union School District); and Carrie Danielson, Olympian High School (Sweetwater Union High School District).

"Cox Presents: A Salute to Teachers" will replay on Channel 4 San Diego on Wednesday, Oct. 17 at 9 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 27 at 7 p.m.; Wednesday, Nov. 21 at 7 p.m.; and Saturday, Nov. 24 at 7 p.m.
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Date:Oct 7, 2007
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