September 21, 2007
Three outstanding Long Beach Unified School District teachers have been selected as 2008 Teachers of the Year.
One of the three, King Elementary School kindergarten teacher Laura Hand, was also selected as a Los Angeles County Teacher of the Year.
Others selected as LBUSD Teachers of the Year are Anna Jorda, who teaches second grade at Burbank Elementary School, and Ruth Mohr Silofau, who teaches physical education at Wilson Classical High School.
The three were honored recently at a luncheon hosted by the Los Angeles County Office of Education for top teachers throughout the county.
Laura Hand is committed to the success of all students and creates a learning environment where all students can succeed. She believes that the wide variety of cultures, backgrounds and experiences of her students can be drawn upon to build understanding throughout her classroom.
“Therefore, my students work together in partnerships and cooperative learning groups throughout the year,” Hand said. “These partnerships and groups are constantly changing, giving my students the opportunity to learn from all their other classmates.”
Hand uses ongoing assessment, from day one, to know what her students have learned and to drive her instruction.
Hand’s interest in teaching grew from her experiences as a student working with classmates on engaging, interactive projects.
“I became a teacher in order to create a sense of community of learners in the way that my teachers had created one for me,” Hand said. “Far from being a radical idea, creating a community would become fundamental in my teaching.”
Her goal is for each student to become a lifelong learner by building a foundation for the future.
“It is not enough as a teacher to deliver well planned lessons,” Hand said. “You must also provide your students with an atmosphere in which they can, and want, to learn. For me, this means that I establish a classroom community where my students feel safe and respected so that they are able to take risks with their learning.”
Although Anna Jorda originally took math and science courses while training to become a computer programmer, she became interested in teaching after the birth of her children.
“I attended all the ‘Mommy and Me’ classes that Long Beach City College offered, as well as classes at the Child Study Center,” Jorda said. “I have always enjoyed being a learner, and this was a practical way to meet that need plus learn how to handle two toddlers.”
After serving as a volunteer in her children’s school, she became a district employee and fell in love with reading and teaching students while serving as a library media assistant.
Through the district’s Career Ladder program, she completed her bachelor’s degree, entered the district’s intern program and earned her credential.
“I am continuing to be a learner as I pursue my GATE/EXCEL certification,” Jorda said. This training has helped her to encourage students to think in universal themes and disciplines. Through tiered assignments, students learn to think with depth and complexity.
A lifelong baseball fan, Jorda is developing an after-school baseball program for girls. While teaching children teamwork, discipline, leadership and sportsmanship, the baseball program will also bring parents on campus and lead them to greater involvement in their children’s education.
“Parent involvement is important, and parents are empowered when they can help their students or school,” Jorda said.
Ruth Mohr Silofau used the process of earning National Board certification to improve student achievement.
“This had an immediate impact on the success in my classroom,” Mohr Silofau said. “We need to change with the times. I never saw that clearer until I really tried to know my students. Knowing them outside of the classroom changed my teaching.”
Mohr Silofau used that insight as she eventually wrote and implemented course outlines for high school physical education.
“In physical education, we are not just impacting lives, not just changing lives, but, indeed, saving lives,” she said. “It is a daunting calling, but it benefits students’ physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.”
She has found abundant inspiration in being a physical education teacher.
“The beauty of my discipline is that we ask our students every day in class to perform,” Mohr Silofau said, “to step out of their comfort zone and push themselves physically, mentally and emotionally. For this reason and many others, I think some of our best teachers are our physical education teachers. Most days I walk away thinking I would do this for free.”