Two Long Beach Unified School District teachers were honored recently as Los Angeles County Teachers of the Year and will advance to the statewide competition.
Kari Milton teaches technology at Bancroft Middle School, and Stephanie Heilig teaches life science and health at Stanford Middle School.
Both will be honored at LBUSD’s Oct. 18 Board of Education meeting.
Milton also was recently nominated by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction as a finalist for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. The award is described as the highest recognition in the nation for a math or science teacher.
She spent a year in the business world before realizing she would find greater meaning in her life by pursuing coaching and teaching.
“Even as a beginning teacher, I distinguished myself in technology use,” she wrote.
After Milton earned a degree in educational technology, her principal requested that she teach computer electives.
“To prepare for my new role, I secured a summer position as a Youth Tech Camp Director to discover engaging methods to teach a comprehensive computer-based curriculum,” she wrote. “I took many of the courses alongside the kids to learn basic programming and web design skills.”
Her leadership in the field was acknowledged when she was appointed to the National Board Committee to rewrite standards in career and technical education.
“Serving in this capacity gave me a powerful voice in defining my practice, especially in how standards pertain to middle school,” she wrote. "Published in 2015, the standards have been referenced in CTE organizations globally and have reached a much broader audience than anticipated. I spent considerable time refining my practice as I applied the new standards to my daily lessons.”
She finds teaching stimulating and rewarding.
“Each day I feel I made a difference in the lives of those I teach,” she wrote. “I am glad I changed careers 18 years ago, as teaching allows me to be creative, inspire youth, and to be inspired daily by the students that I teach.”
Heilig finds value in helping to guide her middle school students through their adolescent years.
“I have the best job in the world because middle school students are ‘wonderfully misinformed,’” she wrote. “From my 19 years of experience, I have realized that it is less about teaching and more about learning.”
She begins by creating a safe and welcoming environment. She recounted an experience when she met a student who had missed the first two weeks of school.
“When she approached my door, I saw the anxiety on her face and I remembered the tremendous burden that missing work had on me as a child,” she wrote. “To diminish her stress level, I did not greet her with ‘Oh my gosh, you’ve missed so much work,’ but instead energetically said ‘You must be Danielle. I’ve been waiting for you.’ It worked! She cracked a smile and I saw the rush of anxiety leave her face.”
She monitors her own teaching to better adapt and change it to meet current circumstances.
“Not only does this provide me with student misconceptions in content knowledge, but it also reveals struggles that my students might have in processing skills such as comprehension or analyzing,” she wrote. “Students know that I am not ‘grading them,’ but I am gathering information that will allow me to design lessons to put students in a position to succeed.”
She pointed to gifted teachers in her past as examples that have helped her to develop the tools and skills necessary to help students succeed.
“My greatest accomplishment is that I build positive relationships with all students," she wrote. "This is easy because I love being a teacher.”