Monday, April 20, 2015

District Teachers of the Year announced for 2015

Michelle Yepiz from Zamorano Fine Arts Academy, Brenda Mueller from De Portola Middle School and Dr. Ronald Lancia from Mission Bay High School have been named San Diego Unified School District's Teachers of the Year for 2015.

2015 Teachers of the Year These three devoted educators will be honored at the Day of the Teacher celebration scheduled for 4:15 p.m. Tuesday, May 5, at Madison High School. More than 140 Teachers of the Year from individual school sites, district Teacher of the Year runners-up, Future Educator Scholars and Mashin and STEM scholarship winners will also be recognized.

“Great teachers make a positive impact on students by consistently creating learning conditions that allow students to meet success,” said Superintendent Cindy Marten. “These three individuals are skillful and passionate professionals who are not only dedicated to improving their own skills but also collaborating with colleagues to create the best learning environment for students. With enthusiasm and purpose, they make a difference every day in the lives of their students and in their school community.”

Yepiz has been teaching at Zamorano Elementary for 11 years. Her teaching method is an active and engaging style, and her enthusiasm to teach helps encourage her students to learn. In addition to teaching, Yepiz organizes an after-school theater class to expose her students to the arts and coordinates an annual school-wide musical.

“I firmly believe in educating the whole child,” Yepiz wrote in her application essay. “My philosophy centers on the idea that the arts are an integral part of education. The arts must be integrated into the curriculum, not as an addition, but as an enhancement to learning.”

Mueller has been a teacher for more than 15 years, 11 of them teaching science at De Portola Middle. She is a Noyce Master Teaching Fellow at San Diego State University, constantly honing her craft as an educator. Mueller’s main focus in the classroom is to foster a safe environment in which students can participate in productive discussions and talk about their ideas.

“She is able to build strong relationships with her students while simultaneously commanding their best effort,” wrote De Portola Principal Ryan Brock. “Students flock to Mrs. Mueller and often speak of her friendly demeanor. Class observations show a high level of rigorous and demanding instruction. Brenda offers the best of both worlds (rigor and relationship), which makes for an incredibly powerful educational environment.”

Lancia has been teaching for 16 years, 11 of which have been at Mission Bay High teaching an array of classes in language arts, film, yearbook and AVID. He treats his student as individuals, and seeks to bring them together in collaboration.

He also developed a program called ACES, or the After-school Center for Excellence and Support, which offers students academic support across curriculum. For Lancia, the program represents four distinct areas of personal commitment.

“Hearts represents the importance of mentorship and service,” Lancia wrote in his application essay. “Clubs represents the club/community effect I deeply value. Diamonds signifies a balanced approach to academics, a notion I’ve appreciated since studying multiple intelligences. And finally, spades represents digging deeper one-on-one and building relationships.”

Yepiz, Mueller and Lancia will go on to the county-wide competition along with the three runners-up for the district’s Teacher of the Year. This year’s runners-up are Mary Lou Baranowski from Lindbergh Schweitzer Elementary School, Simone Kincaid from Creative Performing and Media Arts Middle School and Shirley Miranda from Morse High School.

Every year, one teacher at each level – elementary, middle and high school – is selected as District Teacher of the Year along with a runner-up at each level. Nominees are first selected by their school sites, and then have the option to go through the application process, which includes writing essays, an interview and a classroom observation.

For more information about San Diego Unified’s Teacher of the Year program, contact Jennifer Rodriguez at