2009 HonoreesMilken Family Foundation National Educator Award winners for 2009.
Teacher of Grades Nine and Twelve
School of International Studies
San Diego, CA
As International Baccalaureate (IB) English department chair at San Diego’s School of International Studies, Jaime Enochs develops innovative ways to navigate students through the rigors of IB curriculum. From this blend of creativity and critical thinking emerged her "character meter" for students to track Hamlet's anxiety level during each act. She decorates her classroom with elaborate charts she makes herself. She fashioned pins for her seniors to wear for confidence and solidarity during rigorous testing. Almost all her seniors passed the California IB English language exam.
Under Enoch’s direction, almost 100 percent of grade 9 students passed the California High School Exit Examination, a rate far above the state averages. The principal attributes these numbers to Enochs' preparations as the coordinator of the school-wide testing program. Her leadership also triumphed in 2008, when she coordinated the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) committee. The school received the highest rating possible with a six-year accreditation. This was the first time a San Diego school had received this level of accreditation in nine years. Enochs is so dedicated she called her principal on the way to the hospital, ready to give birth to her first child, so that she could give her directions about the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program exams.
Seventh Grade Teacher
Virgil Middle School
Los Angeles, CA
Roberto Gonzalez can be seen after school running along Silverlake reservoir surrounded by students. He is not a physical education teacher, but a grade 7 science teacher at Virgil Middle School in Los Angeles. Each year, Gonzalez coaches roughly 25 students as part of Students Run LA, a program for students to train to run the Los Angeles marathon. Gonzalez takes training very seriously, whether it's prepping students for 26.2 miles or gearing up for the next science exam.
As department chair, Gonzalez directs a 12-person team in addition to his classes. Under his leadership, the department nearly tripled student achievement on California Standardized Testing, the highest scores in Los Angeles Unified School District for middle schools in 2007-08. The science department maintains the highest gains in the school.
Gonzalez was instrumental in the school's recently implemented FLEX schedule that incorporates student intervention, study hall, and enrichment into the school day. Teacher turnover at the school is high, so Gonzalez always mentors at least two new teachers, guiding and providing support in the inner-city environment, where almost 90 percent of students qualify for free and reduced-price lunch programs. Gonzalez continues his own professional development as well, recently enrolling in UCLA's Principal Leadership Institute.
Teacher of Grades Nine through Twelve
Lynwood High School
It was just a decade or so ago when Ana Higuera was a senior preparing for her own graduation from Lynwood High School. Today as a grade 9 through 12 social studies teacher at her alma mater, after earning a degree from the University of California Los Angeles, she teaches to give back to the community that gave her the tools for higher learning.
Higuera also coordinates and teaches in the Advanced Via Individual Determination (AVID) program, where underachieving middle and high school students interested in college opt into a rigorous college-prep curriculum to get on track for college. Ninety percent of students in the AVID program at Lynwood go on to college. Over the past three years, Higuera has built AVID participation up to some 400 in the current school year.
Higuera arranges three college tours and overnight stays for AVID students each year. Many of them have never seen a college campus and will be the first in their families to attend. Since Higuera's students have been so successful in gaining acceptance to colleges, many former students serve as tour guides for these trips. Just as Higuera has inspired them, this next generation of students passes the torch on to current students so that they, too, can achieve their goals.
Seventh Grade Teacher
Richardson PREP Hi Middle School
San Bernardino, CA
Marisa Rivas covers a multitude of concepts in her English classes at Richardson PREP HI Middle School. Rivas gives her students a whirlwind of engaging activities to spark creativity and spur academic achievement.
Rivas is both scientific and artistic in creating lesson plans. Her structured methods include Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) strategies for all learners. She also developed a well-researched sequential process to help students better enjoy writing. Rivas's classroom also has a creative streak. Her students are responsible for incorporating technology into their finished products. Students also present expository speeches on topics of their choice, complete with visual aids. Even though Rivas teaches middle school, she attends high school Advanced Placement (AP) training seminars to ensure her curriculum will prepare students for a demanding AP schedule.
This balance between data-driven instruction and artistic expression has paid off. Ninety percent of Rivas' students scored proficient or higher in language arts on the California Standardized Test for the past four years and roughly half of all students achieved perfect scores on the state writing exam.