Parenting OC, a magazine that provides information and resources for parents in Orange County, has announced the winners of its 10th annual School Heroes of Orange County awards. The awards recognize the outstanding teachers, employees, and leaders who have made a positive impact on the education and well-being of students and families in the county.
The awards are divided into three categories: Top Teachers, Top Employees, and Leadership Award. The nominees for each category were submitted by principals, school heads, district officials, parents, peers, and students. The nominations were then reviewed by a panel of judges, who evaluated them based on the following criteria:
- Top Teachers: Creativity in teaching method, teaches other teachers, passion/personally involved, community service/nonprofit work, multiple school duties, heads up and starts up other school programs, years of service, writes grants or raises funds for school, student and/or parent favorite.
- Top Employees: Multiple school duties, contributes beyond job description, passion/personally involved, years of service, student and/or parent favorite.
- Leadership Award: A lifetime achievement honor that goes to an individual who has paved the way for others, created change, and led the way, and has devoted their career to education.
The awards cover all kinds of education, from private and public to alternative and online schools.
The Winners and Finalists
The winners and finalists of the School Heroes of Orange County awards are featured in the March 2023 issue of Parenting OC magazine. They are also celebrated in a live announcement event, which can be viewed online. Here are some of the highlights of the winners and finalists:
- Top Teacher Award: Adrienne Kessler, a preschool teacher at Speech & Language Development Center, won the Top Teacher Award for her dedication and innovation in teaching children with special needs. She uses a variety of methods, such as music, art, and technology, to engage and motivate her students. She also mentors other teachers and volunteers for various community organizations. Rebeca Martinez, a high school teacher at Los Amigos High School, and Patty Fabian, a grade school teacher at Vibrant Minds Charter School, were among the finalists for the Top Teacher Award.
- Top Employee Award: Maria Garcia, a custodian at Santiago Elementary School, won the Top Employee Award for her hard work and kindness. She not only keeps the school clean and safe, but also helps out with various tasks, such as translating for parents, organizing events, and tutoring students. She is loved and respected by the school community. Jose Hernandez, a bus driver at Orange Unified School District, and Nancy Nguyen, a library clerk at Bolsa Grande High School, were among the finalists for the Top Employee Award.
- Leadership Award: Dr. Al Mijares, the Orange County Superintendent of Schools, won the Leadership Award for his visionary and collaborative leadership. He has been instrumental in advancing the quality and equity of education in the county, especially during the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. He has also fostered partnerships with various stakeholders, such as businesses, nonprofits, and colleges, to support the success of students and schools. Dr. Mijares has been serving as the county superintendent since 2012.
The Importance and Impact of the Awards
The School Heroes of Orange County awards are a way of honoring and appreciating the educators and staff who make a difference in the lives of students and families every day. They also showcase the excellence and diversity of the education system in Orange County, which is home to more than 600,000 students and 28 school districts. The awards inspire and encourage others to strive for excellence and innovation in education, and to serve the community with passion and dedication.