Teachers of the Year for 2014-15 announced during surprise visits to their schools


The time has come, once again, to honor three Irvine educators that have been selected as IUSD’s elementary, middle and high school Teachers of the Year.

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venableThis years Elementary School Teacher of the Year is Paula Venable, a fourth/fifth-grade teacher at Portola Springs Elementary School.

Venable began in IUSD twenty-seven years ago, and she continues to bring passion and excitement to her work on a daily basis. Her unwavering commitment and positive attitude help to foster strong support from all facets of the school community.

Venable’s impact as a teacher leader is felt on the IUSD Continuous Improvement Council, the Teacher Advisory Forum, and by the new teachers she has supported as a BTSA provider. She stays current with pedagogical changes by engaging in professional development at Columbia University during her summer breaks.

Striving to build a rapport of trust with her students, Venable’s classroom provides an environment which facilitates learning. She puts the learning of all students first, and recognizes that they are our legacy. As a founding member of Portola Springs Elementary School, she has fostered a spirit of community service in providing leadership opportunities for students.

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sarmientoMiddle School Teacher of the Year is Susana Sarmiento, an English Language teacher at Venado Middle School.

Sarmiento is a natural leader, and as such, contributes to her school, the district and the community. She is deeply committed, collaborative, and well respected. She designs and shares curriculum, and is an active member of the campus Tutorial Committee, School Site Council and IUSD’s Teacher Advisory Forum.

The at-risk student holds a special place in the heart of Sarmiento. She is innovative and empowering and her daily work in the classroom illuminates her interest in creating learning opportunities which are accessible by all students.

When visiting Sarmiento’s classroom, there is overwhelming evidence of her student-centered teaching style. Her commitment to teaching and learning is clear, and her caring and sincere demeanor is the backbone of the positive rapport she has with students.

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haleyThe High School Teacher of the Year is Christine Haley, a Language Arts teacher at Woodbridge High School.

Haley exemplifies collaboration, but it’s her enthusiasm for learning, humor and intellect that are at the core of her work. She is a versatile teacher who can engage all students, from Advanced Placement scholars to those who require additional help or are coping with learning difficulties. Haley supports student learning across all abilities and collaborates with her peers to meet the needs of individual students.

Outside the classroom, Haley chairs the English Department at Woodbridge High and is a lead teacher in transitioning the school into the Common Core. In addition, she works at the district committee level developing writing standards and providing staff development.

Haley is seen as an expert among administrators as well, as evidenced by her selection to serve on the self-study team and chair the WASC process.

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Now in its 29th year, IUSD’s Teacher of the Year program recognizes exceptional instructors at the elementary, middle and high school levels. Nominations are submitted by district employees, and candidates are later interviewed by a committee that includes teachers, principals and administrators.

That panel ultimately narrows the field to three using the following criteria: Evidence of a wide range of instructional strategies used effectively; commitment to the teaching profession; and demonstration of Irvine teachers’ values of integrity, empowerment, learning, collaboration and trust.

IUSD also recognizes a handful of standout first- and second-year teachers, who are announced as “Teachers of Promise.”

All of today’s honorees will be formally honored in May at the Excellence in Teaching Awards Banquet, which is organized each year by the Exchange Club of Irvine and ITA.