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District Teachers of the Year announced for 2013

Angela Wolde, Ken Hughes and Jessica Graham Angela Wolde from Euclid Elementary, Lewis Middle’s Kenneth Hughes and Jessica Graham from Kearny High School of Science Connections and Technology have been named the 2013 District Teachers of the Year.

The trio will be honored at the Day of the Teacher celebration, scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 7, at Kearny High School. More than 140 Teachers of the Year from individual school sites, Future Educator Scholars, Mashin and STEM scholarship winners, and the latest class of National Board Certified Teachers will also be recognized.

“Each of these teachers has the remarkable ability to connect with and engage their students, creating an environment in which young people can thrive and develop skills that will lead them toward a successful future,” said Superintendent Bill Kowba. “They are the best of the best, exemplifying great teaching, dedication, and a commitment to excellence on so many levels.”

Wolde has been a first-grade teacher at Euclid Elementary for more than 10 years. She knew at an early age, when she was leading activities on the preschool playground, that she wanted to become a teacher. Wolde’s own first-grade teacher strongly influenced her and played a big role in how she approaches teaching.

“Mrs. Miller was my first grade teacher, but she was so much more,” Wolde wrote in her application essay. “She was my nurse, therapist, activities director, advocate, referee, and my other “parent” when I needed one.”

Wolde strives to create a familial atmosphere in her classroom, which also extends to parents with whom she takes every opportunity to communicate with and build relationships.

Hughes, who teaches eighth-grade history at Lewis Middle School, has taught history for 19 years, including 15 years at O’Farrell and four at Lewis. Hughes initially pursued a military career, but always knew that he would become a teacher. After serving eight years active duty and 13 in the naval reserves, Hughes entered the teaching profession. Each day, his goal is to make History the “can’t miss” period of the day.

“Mr. Hughes makes it appear almost effortless as he skillfully blends his knowledge of history and technology into a ‘yes we can’ culture that expects nothing short of excellence from every child in his class,” wrote Lewis Principal Brad Callahan in Hughes’ application. “He represents everything one would expect as a model of excellence in our profession.”

Graham, in the profession for eight years, currently teachers English at Kearny High’s School of Science Connections and Technology. She also took to teaching early, when she found herself helping classmates in her second-grade class to read.

Throughout her career, Graham has taken a strong stance against bullying. She has incorporated anti-bullying themes into her curriculum and started an after school program called “Power of Passion” with the purpose of developing a generation of student leaders who will promote diversity and tolerance on campus.

“I have made it my goal not merely to teach English, but to create a culture in my classroom that allows my students to learn empathy, compassion and tolerance,” Graham wrote in her application essay.

As part of the Teacher of the Year process, three teaches were also selected as Runners-up: Amy Sanders from Nye Elementary; Lauren Robinson-Hunt from CPMA and David Weber from Preuss. All six are eligible for County Teacher of the Year honors, which are awarded in October by the County Office of Education.

Every year, one teacher at each level – elementary, middle and high school – is selected as District Teacher of the Year and runner-up. Nominees are first selected by their school sites, and then have the option to apply for District Teacher of the Year. The process includes submitting an application with essays, an interview and a classroom observation.