United Way of Greater Los Angeles has created the “Teachers to Watch” award to acknowledge the LAUSD educators who are wholly committed to their students and their school communities. We selected 25 educators across LAUSD, choosing nominees who demonstrated a willingness to go above and beyond basic instruction, ensuring that their students are given every opportunity to achieve academic and extracurricular excellence.
We are thrilled to honor these Teachers to Watch at our First Annual Inspirational Teacher Awards. This special event with community and city leaders will highlight each educator’s creativity, leadership and work ethic. United Way will continue to celebrate teachers, school site staff and the teaching profession as a whole in Los Angeles as they are a cornerstone to enhancing the lives of the next generation of leaders.
A group of LAUSD teachers and educators worked with United Way to create the process for choosing this year's recipients. This group helped create the selection process and narrowed down the list from hundreds of nominations to 25 outstanding educators. Along with the award, each educator will receive a number of prizes including a gift bag with gift certificates to Target, tickets to the LA Philharmonic and LACMA and a host of treats. The teachers will also be honored at a special event at the Disney Concert Hall this year.
Read more about the 25 Teachers to Watch below. For a full bio of each teacher, click here.
Sylmar High School English “Mr. Adams is currently working on establishing an after school Contemporary Writers Club that he hopes to develop into a college level course, and he is introducing the spoken word poetry of Get Lit into the school’s English Language Arts program.”
San Fernando Institute for Applied Media (SFiAM)
English and History
“Ms. Arredondo is a tireless advocate for public education and technology-based curriculum. Her goal is to make SFiAM a model of educational reform by preparing all students to be effective communicators in the 21st century.”
Mark Bourgeois Harry Bridges Span School, Wilmington Math, Science and Art “He was selected to be Gulf Avenue School’s Teacher of the Year in 2004 and 2011. Mark is currently a Fellow in the Master Teacher Fellows (MTF) program at CSUDH.”
Daniel Buccieri Venice High School History “Daniel was selected as an LAUSD Teacher of the Year for 2011-2012. His writing has appeared in publications such as the Still Points Arts Quarterly and the Twisted Vine Literary Journal.”
Cynthia Castillo Augustus F. Hawkins High School, South Los Angeles English Language Arts “Ms. Castillo was part of the team that wrote and implemented the school plan for the Responsible Indigenous Social Entrepreneurship School at Hawkins High School. Her passion is creating a positive school culture, which includes finding and accessing the resources that students need.”
Miguel Covarrubias Franklin High School Math and Science Magnet, Highland Park History “Mr. Covarrubias was a member of the founding faculty at West Adams Preparatory High School, which is located less than a mile from his childhood home. He has served in a variety of leadership positions in his career with LAUSD, including Leader Teacher, Department Chair and a member of School Site Council. Armida Delgado William Anton Early Education Center Preschool “Ms. Delgado’s greatest passion as an educator is utilizing her imagination and creativity to earn the trust, and develop the hearts and minds of her preschool students. It gives her great joy to witness the impact art and music has on a child’s learning experience.”
Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies (LACES), Faircrest Heights English and Journalism “Ms. Derdzinske is in her eleventh year of teaching and has taught at LACES for the past eight years. She advises the two school newspapers, LACES Untied and Middle School Matters.”
Edwin Markham Middle School, Watts English “Mr. Gerlach is actively involved in MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science, Achievement) Club. He has served on the Teacher Advisory Council for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and he served on the Teacher Advisory Board for Educators 4 Excellence.”
Huntington Park High School Instructional Coach “Mr. Gettinger graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Masters in Urban Education, where he was named the 2012 Outstanding Graduate Student in Urban Education. He was also was named one of LAUSD's Teachers of the Year in 2013.”
Ramon C. Cortines High School for the Visual and Performing Arts, Downtown English “Mr. Gozonsky recently won first place in the California Association of Teachers of English professional writing contest and has published numerous essays and short stories, most recently "Emily Dickinson Thinks She Looks Like a Kangaroo" and "Nathaniel Hawthorne Has a Pet Monkey" in The Literary Review.”
Hollenbeck Middle School, Boyle Heights English “Ms. Grijalva loves being in her colorful classroom but also believes in the importance of contributing to the school environment and professional development. She is active in Parent Engagement and contributes to school culture through various student activities, including their community garden.”
Santee Education Complex Computer Technology and Design “Mr. Jacquez has an enormous passion for improving student achievement. He is a leader in the APEX credit recovery program, which helped lead to a 12% increase in Santee’s 4-year graduation rate last year.”
Adam Kuppersmith John Muir Middle School, South Los Angeles English “Mr. Kuppersmith has only taught at schools that are identified as ‘turnaround’ schools, working hard to try to equalize access to quality educational experiences in places where opportunities did not previously exist. He led the only "teacher led" team of educators to put a bid on a turnaround school in Public School Choice 2.0, standing up for students rights over his own career.”
Ariel Legaspi El Sereno Middle School Instrumental Music “Mr. Legaspi teaches the advanced band and jazz band, which have received Excellent and Superior ratings at music festivals and competitions. He also teaches the El Sereno Middle School Drumline, which has won six consecutive LAUSD District Drumline Championships and took third place at the American Drumline Association Championships last year.”
Sara Leimbach Samuel Gompers Middle School, South Los Angeles English Language Arts “Ms. Leimbach considers her greatest achievement to be her role as a national teacher ambassador for the Do The Write Thing Campaign in Washington D.C., which allowed her students to have their poems entered into the Library of Congress.”
Eduardo Lopez Theodore Roosevelt High School, Boyle Heights Social Sciences “Mr. Lopez works as an Education Consultant with the Social Justice Learning Institute and instructs its Urban Scholar Compadres (“brotherhood”) program, a program aimed at increasing the academic and personal success of young men of color.”
Jorge Lopez Theodore Roosevelt High School, Boyle Heights Social Studies “Mr. Lopez is currently a member of his school's Restorative Justice Task Force and LAUSD's Successful School Climate: Progressive Discipline and Safety Committee, working to eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline and create a safe and caring school learning environment.”
Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School AP Chemistry “In addition to teaching his courses Mr. Morgan coaches over ten teams for academic events. He has coached 32 semifinalists in national Olympiads and a member of Team USA in Physics. At Bravo he is considered the guru of all things Nerdy.”
Lisa Quon Heinsen San Pascual Elementary, Highland Park Language Arts “As a teacher-leader at her school, Ms. Quon Heinsen has been active with Parent Engagement, facilitating parent PDs about CCSS and parent-student support at home, creating opportunities for parents to become more active in student learning.”
John Muir Middle School, South Los Angeles Science and Engineering “In addition to teaching, Ms. Schafenacker runs an afterschool MESA program, is a member of the technology committee, is a UCLA TIIP Grant Recipient and recently became an LAUSD Science Fellow.” Martha Shorter Rowan Avenue Elementary, East Los Angeles Third Grade “Ms. Shorter began her career as a teacher in 1996. She taught first and second grade for 14 years. Martha has served as a Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) mentor.”
Laurie Walters New Open World Academy, Korea Town First Grade “One of the biggest accomplishments in Dr. Walters’ career has been starting the New Open World Academy on the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools Campus.” Acacia Warren Educational Service Center East Common Core Teacher Expert “Ms. Warren’s number one objective is to enhance and accelerate teacher efficacy in pedagogy, curriculum planning, assessment, and reflection. She is enthusiastic about using her repertoire of strategies to equip and empower fellow educators.”
MarineYanikian-Sutton Carthay Center Elementary, Carathay Square Fourth/Fifth Grade Combination Class “During her four years at New Open World Academy, Ms. Yanikian-Sutton became an advocate for the gifted child, guiding their differentiation program as the GATE Coordinator. She facilitated Common Core Professional Developments across a K-12 span, and collaboratively wrote for $35,000 in grant funds that would empower them to implement a Balanced Reading Approach.”