IUSD Announces 2016-17 Teachers of the Year


Early this morning, a caravan of District staff and IUSD Board Members traveled to seven schools to announce the three Teachers of the Year and the four Teachers of Promise.  Click here for the 2016-17 Teachers of Promise.

Now in its 31st year, IUSD’s Teacher of the Year program recognizes exceptional instructors at the elementary, middle and high school levels.  Below are this year’s honorees.

Elementary School Teacher of the Year

Mary Thomas-Vallens
Fifth Grade APAAS (Alternative Program for Academically Advanced Students) Teacher
Brywood Elementary

Mary Thomas-Vallens has been an educator since 1977.  Her passion for teaching is as strong today as it was when she first began 39 years ago.  Thomas-Vallens empowers students to strive for academic excellence in a supportive and empowering environment.  In addition to a focus on academic rigors, she encourages students to think beyond themselves and offers a range of service learning projects, such as Families Forward, Team Kids and more!

Her expertise extends beyond the classroom.  Thomas-Vallens has elevated the teaching of thousands of IUSD teachers through her Launch Point Professional Development training by teaching instructional strategies that support higher level thinking skills.  College students just beginning their careers benefit from her support through her coordination of field-study work for UCI students.

As best stated by Brywood Principal Astrid Ramirez, “She does more than teach…she touches lives.”

Middle School Teacher of the Year

Lauren Morrison
Education Specialist – Special Education
Jeffrey Trail Middle School

Lauren Morrison is a devoted and knowledgeable team player who has an excellent relationship with both her students and school staff.  She works tirelessly with her students to ensure they are supported and have every opportunity to be successful.

A typical day for Morrison starts before school with an IEP meeting, followed by a Special Education meeting; she then teaches a full class schedule.  Any free time is usually filled with principal, school psychologist or PBIS team meetings.  After school, she provides academic support to students.  This is only a snapshot of her day and does not fully capture her incredible work to serve our students each and every day.

Jeffrey Trail Principal Mike Georgino said, “Lauren is not only an enormous asset for JTMS but also to the teaching profession in general.  She deserves this recognition for being an outstanding teacher.”

High School Teacher of the Year

Christina Banagas-Engelerdt
English Teacher
Northwood High School

Christina Banagas-Engelerdt has been a member of Northwood High School’s staff since the school opened in 1999 and has established herself as a leader on campus.  From crating English curriculum in the school’s early days to her current role as WASC Chairperson, Banagas-Engelerdt embodies the Northwood core values of Compassion, Mutual Respect and Integrity.

As a compassionate teacher, Banagas-Engelerdt has served as the school’s intervention lead for several years and has had oversight of the creation of countless support classes – teaching several of these classes herself.  As a result, students know they can always come to her for guidance and support.  She is reflective in her teaching and strives to create a challenging yet supportive environment for her students.

Banagas-Engelerdt is held in the highest regard by her colleagues for her tremendous work ethic and her constant willingness to help others.  She has mentored numerous student teachers, helped innumerable students through many obstacles and has been a key player in the school’s evolution.

Principal Leslie Roach stated, “Christina is everything we could ask for in a Timberwolf and we are honored to have her here and Northwood High School.”

More information about the Teacher of the Year program
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.

Teachers of Promise
IUSD also recognizes a handful of standout first- and second-year teachers, who are announced as “Teachers of Promise.” Click here for the 2016-17 Teachers of Promise.

Excellence in Teaching Awards Banquet
All of this year’s honorees will be formally recognized on Friday, April 21 at the Excellence in Teaching Awards Banquet, which is organized each year by the Exchange Club of Irvine and the Irvine Teachers Association.