2014 Teachers of the Year: Honoring the ‘best’ | TheUnion.com
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2014 Teachers of the Year: Honoring the ‘best’

Rachael Smith
Submitted |

Last week 11 Teachers of the Year were honored at an annual dinner hosted by the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools and the Association of California School Administrators.

The Teacher of the Year program is a way to “honor what is best in the educational arena in Nevada County,” said Judy Nielsen, assistant to the associate superintendent of schools.

The program is voluntary on the part of school districts. For Nielsen, who has worked at NCSOS office for nearly 25 years, this is the first time all 11 districts have selected a Teacher of the Year, she said.



The 2014 Teachers of the Year are Cooky Watters from Chicago Park, Mindy Chittock from Clear Creek, Roseanne Paul from Grass Valley, Rachael Smith from Nevada City, Jennifer Sheffo from the county Superintendent of Schools Office, Teresa Zoellin from Pleasant Ridge, Joelle Lake from Pleasant Valley, Ann Purdue from Ready Springs, Willow DeFranco from Twin Ridges, Shelly White from Union Hill, and Megan Ross from Nevada Joint Union. Ross was selected as the Nevada County Teacher of the Year. An article featuring her accomplishments ran in the Oct. 3 edition of The Union.

The Nevada County Teachers of the Year process began in March to select the 2014 honorees, Nielsen said.




Each district uses their own selection process for their Teacher of the Year. The fact that this year’s group was all women was just a coincidence. Learn more about what makes these educators stand out from the words of their administrators.

Cookie Watters, first-grade teacher Chicago Park

“She is an amazing woman with an unsurpassed passion for teaching. Cooky’s high level of energy combined with her genuine enthusiasm in the classroom motivates her students to work at their highest levels. When laughter is not beaming from her classroom, then it’s the class singing a song, or perhaps there is a wonderful silence, as her pupils are fully engaged in a writing activity. One thing that can always be counted on is that every child that spends a year in her class, graduates as a fluent reader,” wrote Chicago Park Superintendent/Principal Dan Zeisler.

“Cooky has so many positive attributes, there are simply too many to list,” Zeisler added.

Among her accomplishments and attributes, he mentioned Watters great rapport with her peers, respect by the entire school community and the successful after school reading program for struggling readers in grades 1-3 that she runs.

Mindy Chittock, first-grade teacher at Clear Creek

“Mrs. Chittock’s classrooms are vibrant and full of excited learners. She teaches with a calm and soothing voice that sets the tone for the students. Not only is there a great amount of learning that takes place in her room, but the students are so engaged that disciplinary issues are almost non-existent,” Clear Creek Superintendent/Principal Scott Lay wrote about Chittock in a letter to the County Teacher of the Year selection committee.

“Although I could go on and on in regards to how wonderful Mindy is as a teacher and a person, the bottom line is she is one of the finest teachers I have had the pleasure of working with over the past 22 years. She already is our Teacher of the Year,” Lay concluded in his letter.

Rosanne Paul, special education and Title 1 teacher at Bell Hill Academy

“As the Special Education/Title 1 teacher at our global studies school, Rosanne blends her passions for special education and cross-cultural students to help close the achievement gap for typically underserved populations. I am constantly inspired by Rosanne’s thirst for new learning opportunities. She values knowledge and research, and looks for opportunities to advance her skills through workshops and collaborations,” wrote Bell Hill Principal Deborah Plate.

“She dives into data, looking for ways to improve her teaching and student outcomes. As a result, Rosanne has a profound understanding of instructional strategies and technologies, and expertly adjusts her program to maximize student learning and engagement.”

“She is extremely supportive of students, families and colleagues, and gives her complete attention to those who seek in or out of the classroom. …” Plate also wrote.

Rachael Smith, physical education teacher at Sevens Hills Middle School

“Rachael fosters a sense of urgency and responsibility among all stakeholders for achieving student and school success. She seeks out the materials and training needed to ensure that students receive the highest quality curriculum and instruction,” wrote Nevada City Superintendent Roxanne Brown Gilpatric.

“She sets a stellar example for colleagues through impeccably ethical and professional behavior. It is evident through Rachael’s behavior and demeanor that she loves teaching and being engaged for her students and staff. Rachael is a student, colleague, and an administrator’s dream come true!” Brown Gilpatric concluded.

Jennifer Sheffo, kindergarten through eighth-grade teacher, Twin Ridges Home Study Charter

“She consistently inspires her students to explore each subject matter with academic enthusiasm and creative drive by incorporating fieldwork and hands-on learning activities. In this way, she encourages student participation as well as reflexivity and self-awareness,” wrote Twin Ridges Home Study Director Jaynie Aydin.

“Central to her role as a home study teacher, Ms. Sheffo effectively collaborates with parents in order to pinpoint the best teaching strategy for each of her students. This collaboration process illustrates her status as a lifelong educator. … I believe she will continue to produce high quality work throughout her teaching career and will uphold the degree of integrity that the Nevada County Schools are known for statewide.”

Teresa Zoellin, special education teacher, Alta Sierra Elementary

“Teresa has worked as a Special Education teacher for 17 years and during her tenure with the Pleasant Ridge School District she has created and designed an amazing learning center and program for students on the Autistic Spectrum. This program has been so successful that in its first year it caught the attention of national specialists in the field of autism,” wrote Cottage Hill Principal Shar Johns.

“Of course, it is our students that benefit from her dedication and expertise, and they have experienced tremendous growth and success in her program.”

“Teresa has an amazing heart and collaborative work ethic that has made her an invaluable part of the Pleasant Ridge family. She is an exceptional educator and mentor with a wealth of knowledge and tools to pull from and is an amazing resource for her colleagues and peers. … “ Johns wrote.

Joelle Lake, fourth-grade teacher, Pleasant Valley School

“She is the kind of teacher where former students come back to share with her their successes because they know that she cared not only about them as students, but also about their futures,” wrote Pleasant Valley Superintendent Debra Sandoval. “A child in Ms. Lake’s classroom experiences an environment where children are engaged in their own education. Their faces turn toward her in anticipation of the next learning adventure. … She created an environment where children feel encouraged to take risks to learn something new and to create learning opportunities which may actually extend beyond Ms. Lake’s initial goals.”

“Ms. Lake is a true model of the lifelong learner who is continually seeking ways to further her knowledge and hone her skills. Her efforts have helped instill a love of learning in generations of students. Through her work and example she sets, Joelle Lake defines the excellence that makes us all proud to be in our profession!,” Sandoval concluded.

Anne Perdue, Title 1 teacher, Ready Springs School

“She is highly committed to her students’ education and teaches with an amazing creativity and innovation that keeps her students excited about learning every day. Students are ‘tuned in and turned on’ into her units. Children are drawn to her enthusiasm and genuine caring personality. She demonstrates her personal involvement in the success of every student and succeeds in helping all children believe in themselves and their ability to be successful. Children thrive in her classroom!” wrote Ready Springs Union Superintendent Debra Sandoval.

Willow DeFranco, teacher at Grizzly Hill School

“Ms. Willow DeFranco is simply amazing — a teacher that does it all! As the superintendent/principal of the smallest elementary district is Nevada County, I know what each of my employees has to do in order to make it all work. We all have to wear multiple hats, but Ms. DeFranco wears the most. She does this not only as a necessity, but in order to give her students all that they deserve,” wrote James Berardi.

“In addition to her teaching assignment and other duties, Ms. DeFranco facilitates our school-wide assemblies on academics, behavior and attendance. (She) planned our academic awards program in which kids earn the right to attend a special field trip. … Ms. DeFranco, like many educators, has often reached into her own purse to pay for items to be used within her classroom. This year she bought several Kindles so that her students could have access to educational activities online. Her efforts in her classroom and to the school as a whole were an integral part of Grizzly Hill increasing its API by 119 points last year,” Berardi concluded.


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