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Trio to be Honored as Teachers of the Year

Three outstanding Long Beach Unified School District teachers recently have been named 2000 Teachers of the Year. Leslie Grimes, a fifth grade teacher at Alvarado Elementary School; Cassandra Richards, a beginning teacher support coach at Addams Elementary School; and Yvonne Potter, a preschool teacher at McKinley Elementary School CDC, will be guests of honor at the Los Angeles County Office of Education Teachers of the Year Luncheon this spring. Grimes and Potter advanced to the semifinals competition for Los Angeles County Teacher of the Year. Although Grimes has been teaching for only three years, she is highly respected at Alvarado for the poise, patience and perseverance she brings to her work. She is well organized, relates extremely well to her students, both personally and professionally, and is highly regarded by her colleagues for her willingness to share her expertise with others. Her exceptional level of organization contributes to smooth transitions between lessons, creating a seamless instructional day for her students. Her classroom instruction techniques and the teaching strategies she chooses are based upon the latest research on best instructional practices. "By constantly learning and applying the latest teaching strategies, I never become bored or stagnant," said Grimes. "My students know that I am doing my part to find the best ways to educate them. In return they give all they have to offer." She is also an advocate of a light touch in the classroom. "Today's teachers also need to have a sense of humor," Grimes said. "Although this may sound obvious, for many teachers it is nonexistent. By making interactions and lessons with students fun, the days are more enjoyable and the children want to be in your classroom. Participation increases if the atmosphere is upbeat and light. Students are more likely to take risks and feel at ease. The teacher's attitude is much more pleasant, and the rigors of the day can be embraced rather than endured." Teacher of the Year Cassandra Richards came to teaching after a career in medical services. When the pharmacy where she was working downsized and relocated to San Antonio, Texas, she pursued teacher training. "I loved everything about the teaching credential program--especially my interaction with students," said Richards. "I am always happy to be with my students because I love my profession. My students understand my genuine care and interest in their success in learning." Since coming to LBUSD four years ago, she has taught second, third and fourth grade at Sutter Elementary School. During the past two summers, she served as lead teacher for the second, third and fifth grade reading initiative summer program. Her involvement in the education of her own children led her to see the importance of active parent involvement and work to achieve it. "This interaction establishes a link between home and school," Richards said. "I get a chance for my students' parents to understand my philosophy of teaching, along with my goals and objectives. Through my home visits, I get a chance to allow my parents to become comfortable with me, which allows effective, positive communication. Because of this relationship, parents are no longer just parents. They become my friends, with the common goal of academic success for their children." As chair of Sutter's Parent Involvement Action Team, she helped to introduce several successful events to bring parents onto campus and to increase partnerships in the community. Teacher of the Year Yvonne Potter is known at McKinley for her variety of ideas and techniques she employs in her preschool classroom. Her awareness of young children's needs and her encouragement of their independence as learners have made her well known in her community. She has a long list of parents wanting to place their children in her class. "There is no more exciting class to teach than California State Preschool," said Potter. "I am surrounded every day with children's innocence, unspoiled excitement in learning, high levels of self-esteem, profound academic improvement, emotional and physical development beyond compare at any other age. As the child's first teacher, a bond develops that is unique. I am loved." She knew from an early age that she would be a teacher. Growing up, much of her day-to-day experience involved caring for siblings. "At times this responsibility proved challenging," said Potter. "But in the end, it allowed me to appreciate the importance of child development and ultimately proved instrumental in my career choice. "It seems as though I have lived my lifetime wanting to be a 'really good teacher.' Since making my friends and siblings sit through creative make-believe classrooms up to my present day classroom environment with 24 happy, energetic children, I am continually reminded how very fortunate I am to be able to teach. I know I am serving in the profession I was created to be in because I would not be happy doing anything else. More than just a job, to me teaching is a way of life."