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Teachers of the year

Recruiting a caring grandmother to volunteer in her grandson’s class proved to be one of Laura Allender’s greatest successes in turning a failing student around.

After a hectic day at school, a child wrote Sharon Burns a note that showed her how her students “counted on my balance and acceptance each and every day.”

A teenager “jumped up and down with joy” when she learned she had not only passed a crucial state exam, but passed with a far better score than expected, K.C. Covert recalled.



Nela Dwyer recalled the day a first-grader “learned the world was his” after he grasped the concept of negative numbers, to his classmates’ applause.

Laura Rohrsen recalls how an “inspiring and charming” 9-year-old girl with Down’s syndrome recently completed third grade. The girl began working with Rohrsen when she was age 3 and unable to speak intelligibly.




The districts where Allender, Burns, Covert, Dwyer and Rohrsen teach have chosen them as teachers of the year.

Allender, a fifth-grade teacher at Union Hill Elementary; Burns, a first-grade teacher at Bell Hill; Covert, who teaches academic literacy classes at Nevada Union High; Dwyer, a fifth-grade teacher at Nevada City’s Deer Creek Elementary; and Rohrsen, a speech and language therapist at Pleasant Ridge Union School District in the Lake of the Pines area, were honored this summer.

As part of the application process, the teachers wrote about their careers and philosophies, including the successes outlined above.

Each district uses a different method to choose its teacher of the year, said Stan Miller, Nevada County assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.

More districts are participating in the program, overcoming a reluctance to single out one teacher each year from what superintendents consider a great staff, he said.

“By recognizing one teacher, we’re pointing out to the community at large we have teachers worthy of recognition,” Miller said.

The program started in 1980, according to a plaque in the county Superintendent of Schools Office, Miller said.

One of the five teachers will be named Nevada County teacher of the year at a dinner Oct. 16. The teacher will be informed ahead of time so she can prepare her speech, Miller said.

“It’s not like the Academy Awards,” he said.

The county teacher of the year then must fill out an extensive

application to be entered in the state competition. Five teachers from California will be entered in the national teacher of the year competition, Miller said.


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