By Sarah Sapeda
A teacher with an environmentally focused curriculum, another who shuttled members of the robotics club she founded to competitions and one who sought out more effective teaching techniques in his free time were named tonight the San Diego Unified School District's teachers of the year.
Dingeman Elementary School third-grade teacher Sara Church, Wilson Middle School technology teacher Khamphet Pease and Crawford High School math teacher Ken Herschman were selected first by staffers at their respective campuses then by previous winners to be the district's 2014 Teachers of the Year.
The trio of winners, runners-up and several other teachers at schools throughout the city were recognized during a "Day of the Teacher" ceremony at Lewis Middle School in the Allied Gardens neighborhood.
"The dedication of all our teachers to teach, to engage, to inspire and to care about our students amazes me," Superintendent Cindy Marten said.
"Our three teachers of the year exemplify the remarkable work being done every day in classrooms across the district. I am proud to work with such committed individuals who have dedicated their professional lives to doing what's best for children."
Church, who has taught for about 35 years, made the environment her focus and nicknamed her class the "Green Team." She adapted the required curriculum to revolve around environmental issues, such as teaching fractions as they relate to monitoring waste and demonstrating volume while planting a garden, district officials said.
Pease, who teaches math, science and robotics, is a UC San Diego biotechnology graduate and previously worked at a biomedical startup but fell in love with teaching.
Grants and fundraising helped establish Wilson's robotics club, and Pease drives her students to and from competitions, science fairs and other extracurricular activities.
Herschman countered his students' low test scores by seeking out a better way to connect with them. He spent his prep periods over the year with a teacher at a nearby school who was known for his and his students' success, which led to improved test scores and success on advance placement tests.
Runners-up were Zamorano Fine Arts Academy first-grade teacher Margarita Idos; sixth- and eighth-grade physical education teacher Dennis Gildehaus of Pacific Beach Middle School; and e3 Civic High ninth-grade humanities teacher Jaimee Rojas.
Marten said each teacher was "making a difference for more than 100,000 children in San Diego this year."
District officials said the winners and runners-up will be eligible to apply for San Diego County Teacher of the Year, which is part of the process leading to the national Teacher of the Year.
Also during tonight's ceremony, the recipients of scholarships for future educators and those planning to study science, technology, engineering or mathematics were recognized, along with National Board Certified Teacher Rachael Tarshes of Mann Middle School.
—City News Service