Teaching stars shine during awards dinner


More than 40 of Irvine’s brightest teaching stars were honored Friday night during the 24th annual Excellence in Teaching Awards Dinner at The Irvine Marriott.

Organized by the Exchange Club of Irvine in conjunction with the Irvine Company, the Irvine Teachers Association and the Irvine Unified School District, the formal banquet was attended by approximately 800 guests.

The audience included IUSD teachers, staff and family members, as well as Board of Education President Sharon Wallin; Board trustees Gavin Huntley-Fenner, Sue Kuwabara, Michael Parham and Carolyn McInerney; Superintendent Gwen Gross; Irvine Mayor Sukhee Kang; city officials; executives from the Irvine Company; Exchange Club members; representatives from the Irvine Public Schools Foundation; and community leaders. The event was sponsored by the Irvine Company, the Irvine Marriott;  the law firm of Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo; Hoag Hospital; SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union; Harbottle Law Group; and C.W. Driver.

Earlier this year, teachers from all of IUSD’s campuses, as well as a handful from special programs throughout the district, were selected as Outstanding Teacher Representatives by their peers. On Friday night, each took the stage and was presented with a plaque and a crystal apple. Emcees Jerry Amante of the Exchange Club and IUSD teacher Jeanne Jelnick – who would later be honored as IUSD’s High School Teacher of the Year – shared touching and often humorous stories about the recipients.

The evening concluded with the formal recognition of IUSD’s three Teachers of the Year, whose names were announced on Feb. 10.

In addition to Jelnick, who teaches English at University High School, Connie Fritsch of Northwood Elementary School was named the Elementary Teacher of the Year, and Kris Linville of Sierra Vista Middle School was named Middle School Teacher of the Year.

Also honored Friday were a handful of outstanding first- and second-year educators who were selected as this year’s Teachers of Promise.