Educators inspired by the ‘light bulb’ moment | TheUnion.com
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Educators inspired by the ‘light bulb’ moment

Teachers who live for the “light bulb” moments and the opportunities to empower children were selected by their school districts as part of the annual Teacher of the Year recognition in western Nevada County.

A committee of retired administrators will announce its selection for county Teacher of the Year in October prior to a dinner honoring all the teachers by their school districts.



“It’s to recognize the hard work done by all teachers,” said Stanton Miller, associate superintendent from the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools.

The following excerpts from letters written by the teachers offer a glimpse of each educator’s passion for learning.




Dan Martinez

Dan Martinez taught fifth grade at Yuba River Charter School last year, in the Bitney Springs area. His ideal teaching day occurred outside the classroom.

“We had been studying Greek mythology and history. We were reviewing the beginning days of Greek democracy and the importance of the orators presenting to the public in the Agora.

“The class assignment was to create a persuasive speech to present to the ‘citizens in the public square.’ The day for the speeches arrived and we went outside and presented without scripts. For every single student (26), there was a responsive and lively audience. Enthusiastic agreement and genuine disagreements were both very alive and still civil. The energy and interest in creating new points of view mirrored the true spirit of democracy.”

Adriana Jensen

Adriana Jensen taught second and third grade at Cottage Hill School last year. She has worked for 20 years in the Pleasant Ridge School District, in southern Nevada County.

“I enjoy the daily challenges of making textbook concepts and state standards become real life skills and experiences for each of my students.”

Jensen reflected on one student who was showing growth after years of struggling in school.

“He works hard even when the subject matter is difficult, refusing to shut down. In the area of math, which is extremely challenging, he is actually expressing that it is getting easier… Caring and the gift of patience truly make a difference.”

Shelly Anderson

Shelly Anderson taught third grade at Union Hill School last year.

“I believe I will make a difference in each and every child’s life. My ability as a teacher is to take what could or possibly has been a negative experience and turn it into an opportunity to empower each child to give them a sense that they are capable. This is why I teach. This is my passion.”

Corlene Mapes

For the past eight years, Corlene Mapes has taught third grade at Hennessy School and has spent 15 years with the Grass Valley School District.

“Teaching is not an eight-hour-a-day job and needs to be done by teachers who are dedicated and compassionate role models. It is with you every hour of every day, where ever you are and whomever you are with.

“It is a team effort job where everyone I work with also deserves this award because they are incredible, talented educators. It is a job that I passionately love and would gladly choose to do again.”

Hannah Nielsen

Hannah Nielsen has been teaching kindergarten through third grade for several years at Vantage Point Charter School, part of the Ready Springs Union School District in Penn Valley.

“Inspirational moments are why teachers teach. My inspirational moments come from the ‘light bulbs.’

For instance, I’m trying to teach ‘Jeff’ how to add. Every day, we work on adding. We use his fingers, a number line, objects and a different number line. Then, all of a sudden, Jeff’s adding on his own. Ah-ha, he’s got it.

“Kids become so excited when they really grasp something new. It is my inspiration.”

Sharon Laton-Schmidt

Sharon Laton-Schmidt has taught fifth and sixth graders at Pleasant Valley School in Penn Valley for a number of years. In her letter, she wrote about her recovery from a massive stroke when she was 23 and how the life-changing event affects her teaching today.

“Since becoming a teacher, one of my major goals has been to help my students realize their potential, strive to do their best, to not be satisfied with mediocrity and grow to be strong, caring people, while building that strong personal foundation.”

Mary Anne Morgan

Mary Anne Morgan teaches kindergarten and special education at Chicago Park Elementary School, in Chicago Park.

“I provide numerous opportunities for my students to mature, respect each other and learn from August to June. When a former student says, ‘I wish I were in kindergarten again,’ I know I provided the excitement and memories in kindergarten that they will remember throughout their school career.”

To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail lbrown@theunion.com or call 477-4231.


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