Skip to main content
California Department of Education Logo
California Department of Education
Official Letter
California Department of Education
Official Letter
February 12, 2019

Dear County and District Superintendents and Charter School Administrators:

2020 California Teachers of the Year Program

The California Department of Education (CDE) is pleased to invite each County Office of Education (COE) to participate in the 2020 California Teachers of the Year (TOY) Program.

Sponsored by the California Department of Education, the California Teacher of the Year Foundation, and California Casualty, the purpose of the TOY Program is to honor the profession chosen by over 300,000 people in the state and to heighten interest in teaching as a career. The program affords the opportunity to bring attention to teachers who successfully employ strategies to increase academic success and narrow the achievement gap among a range of students and to prepare students for twenty-first century college and careers.

California TOYs are frequently called upon to deliver brief, inspirational messages and serve as ambassadors for the teaching profession. The looming teacher shortage makes their role even more important. By sharing their experiences and success, these outstanding teachers can help elevate public opinion of the teaching profession and perhaps inspire more people to become teachers.

Eligibility Criteria

Eligibility for the TOY Program is limited to candidates who are successful as finalists in their local county competitions and meet any of the following criteria:

  • Fully credentialed teachers in public or private schools who teach any grade level from pre-kindergarten through twelve
  • Adult Education teachers who provide instruction in the same curriculum as those who teach in elementary or secondary grades
  • Instructors who have some administrative responsibilities but for whom teaching students is the primary responsibility
  • Teachers who are available to fulfill ambassadorial duties during the year of service and be supported by their employer
  • Teachers who have been in the classroom for more than eight years

Application Process

Candidates for the TOY Program compete in the state program as nominees of COEs. Most COEs have a TOY Coordinator. In many counties, candidates first prevail in local district competitions.

Some districts establish their own processes and applications for selecting exemplary teachers. These teachers, in turn, advance to the county office recognition program. Such programs generate the primary base of applicants at the state level. Interested applicants should find out if their local district and county have a TOY recognition program and how the recognition processes link to the state program. Candidates from private schools as well as those candidates being sponsored by professional organizations should also submit their applications to the COE.

County Selection Process

Most COEs organize and administer regional TOY recognition programs for applicants within the county. The CDE urges counties to ensure that state and local TOY eligibility and application information is made accessible to all public and private school teachers. Counties should seek applicants who represent the diversity of their students. As in past years, each COE is entitled to send forward for consideration one teacher for every 5,000 (or fraction thereof) teachers in the county. Counties with fewer than 5,000 teachers may submit one teacher for consideration.

Districts and counties are encouraged to hold local competitions in the spring. The state deadline for submission of candidates by COEs is Friday, July 26, 2019. This deadline is driven by the National TOY Program. The CDE recommends that counties use the Timeline of Activities designed to provide local and county agencies with a time frame to organize and conduct TOY selection and recognition activities. Application forms are available on the CDE TOY web page at

Statewide Selection Process

To evaluate the application, the CDE convenes a selection committee consisting of administrators, representatives from professional organizations, and teachers. The awardees will be honored at a gala in Sacramento.

Note: All applications must be postmarked by Friday, July 26, 2019.

If you have any questions regarding this subject, please contact the CDE Awards Team at 916-319-0842 or


Tony Thurmond



Last Reviewed: Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Recently Posted in Editorials & Letters

  • Instructions for Ordering Student Devices (added 06-Aug-2020)
    Letter to County and District Superintendents and Charter School Administrators regarding instructions for ordering student devices from Apple and T-Mobile as well as information on the Tech Planning for Distance Learning 101 webinar.
  • Building Community with STEAM Pre-Conference (added 31-Jul-2020)
    Letter to County and District Superintendents and Charter School Administrators regarding the 2020 California Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics Back to School Pre-Conference: Building Community with STEAM on August 4, 2020.
  • Funds Available for Computing Devices (added 28-Jul-2020)
    Letter to County and District Superintendents and Charter School Administrators regarding funds available for computing devices.
  • $5M Grants to CDE for Distance Learning (added 22-Jun-2020)
    Letter to County and District Superintendents and Charter School Administrators regarding grants for distance learning devices.