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California Department of Education
News Release
Release: #14-106
October 22, 2014
Contact: Communications
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Names California Teachers of the Year

Los Angeles County educator nominated for National Teacher of the Year honor*

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today named five outstanding educators as the 2015 California Teachers of the Year, one of whom he nominated as California's National Teacher of the Year.

"It is an honor to recognize these five incredibly dedicated teachers who devote their energy, passion, and creativity to helping all their students achieve inside and outside the classroom," Torlakson said. "These teachers have made a huge difference in their students' lives."

The California Teachers of the Year Program, presented by California Casualty, began in 1972 to acknowledge the growing complexity of challenges faced by the profession and the need to promote collaboration among teachers to address challenges. The program is also designed to encourage new teachers to enter the field.

The five 2015 California Teachers of the Year are:

  • Amy Laughlin, a kindergarten through sixth grade intervention teacher at Hansen School, Savanna School District, Anaheim, Orange County.
  • *Maggie Mabery, a seventh and eighth grade science teacher at Manhattan Beach Middle School, Manhattan Beach Unified School District, Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles County. Torlakson nominated Mabery as California's representative to the National Teacher of the Year competition.
  • Lovelyn Marquez-Prueher, an eighth grade English teacher at Dodson Middle School, Los Angeles Unified School District, Rancho Palos Verdes, Los Angeles County.
  • Christopher O'Connor, a ninth through twelfth grade science teacher at St. Helena High School, St. Helena Unified School District, St. Helena, Napa County.
  • Erin Rosselli, a kindergarten teacher at the Panorama Elementary School, Orange Unified School District, Santa Ana, Orange County.

Profiles and contact information for each teacher are attached.

The competition is open to educators teaching pre-kindergarten through grade twelve. County offices of education nominate winners through their regional Teachers of the Year competitions. A state selection committee reviews candidates' applications and conducts site visits to evaluate the teachers' rapport with students, classroom environment, presentation skills, and teaching methods, among other criteria. The teachers are interviewed at the California Department of Education in Sacramento. The State Superintendent then selects the awardees.

The 2015 California Teachers of the Year, the finalists, and semi-finalists will be honored by Torlakson at a gala to be held February 16, 2015. The list of finalists and semi-finalists is attached. For more information on the award program, please visit the California Department of Education's California Teachers of the Year Web page.

The 2015 California Teachers of the Year
Amy Laughlin
Kindergarten through sixth grade intervention teacher
Hansen School
Savanna School District

"School is hard for the students I teach. Every day they come to school and sit quietly in their homeroom. They don't raise their hands. They don't know the answers. They don't always turn in their homework, and when they do, it's often wrong. They frustrate their teachers, and they disappoint themselves. School is an intimidating place for my students, and I am honored to be their teacher."

—Amy Laughlin from her 2015 California Teachers of the Year Application

Laughlin has been teaching for 16 years, 13 of them at Hansen School—and the last six as a Title I Intervention Specialist there. Her class, called Husky Time, is an intensive reading intervention program she created for struggling students in all grade levels.

Traditional education does not always work for her students; she must offer something different. She nurtures confidence and instills a sense of pride and self-worth into children who may have felt alone and unworthy. She calls herself their biggest cheerleader, "and they are my heroes." It is her job, she stresses, to ensure every child succeeds. "Whether it is the child who has fallen so far behind that the teacher is at a loss on how to help, or the child who may be academically proficient yet inwardly battles social and emotional conflict."

"Simply put," writes Shannon D. Wyatt, principal of Hansen School, "Amy Laughlin is the most amazing educator I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Amy's greatest strength is her ability to motivate and build relationships with students."

Savanna School District Superintendent Sue Johnson calls Laughlin a "dynamic educator who has a desire to enhance teaching and learning with a heart for and dedication to the children she serves."

Laughlin may be reached through Hansen School at 714-236-3835 or

Maggie Mabery*
*National Teacher of the Year candidate
Seventh and eighth grade science teacher
Manhattan Beach Middle School
Manhattan Beach Unified School District

"Making connections to the science world around us is my ultimate passion. I strive to educate the future scientists of the world that allows them to understand the effect science has on their lives. The value lies in the connection students make to their world."

—Maggie Mabery from her 2015 California Teachers of the Year Application

Mabery has been a science teacher for 15 years, of which 13 have been spent at Manhattan Beach Middle School, where her class motto is "Keep Calm and Science On." She takes pride in the boisterous nature of her technology-based classroom.

Her philosophy of teaching? "Noisy, breaking materials, lighting stuff on fire, out of seats, creating from scratch, active, group work, tech savvy, hands-on, engaging, intriguing"— is how she sums up her classroom environment.

She writes that she has always been intrigued about technology and has shared it with enormous enthusiasm with her students and other teachers: IPads, white boards, apps—all are common tools in her classes. She believes this is her greatest contribution to education.

"Currently, education is at the dawn of its largest shift," she wrote, "not only as a result of the Common Core movement, but also due to the timing of the technology revolution. My students are at the front of this revolution and learning more outside the classroom than they ever have."

Principal John Jackson wrote, "Maggie has become the face of (Manhattan Beach Middle School). People have come to recognize her as the go to person when they need information, help, or advice."

Mabery may be reached through Manhattan Beach Middle School at 310-545-4878 or

Lovelyn Marquez-Prueher
Eighth grade English teacher
Dodson Middle School
Los Angeles Unified School District

"Go ahead. Dare. Dare to be different. Dare to be the first one. Dare to sound smart, to get caught doing something kind, to be respectful to adults, to help someone in need, to stand up to a bully. Dare to be everything that you think makes you 'not cool.'"

—Lovelyn Marquez-Prueher from her 2015 California Teachers of the Year Application

Marquez-Prueher has been teaching for 11 years, six of which have been at Dobson Middle School. She is considered a mentor, a leader, and a promoter of partnerships with parents and the community.

As a mentor, she shares her knowledge and expertise with other teachers so together they can make a greater impact on student learning. She is a National Board Certified Teacher and also encourages other teachers to pursue the highest credential they can.

She believes that parents are an integral part of education and invites them to share in their children's experiences. If parents are unable to come to the school for conferences, she goes to their homes.

"After these visits, her students' work began to improve as reflected by their scores on standardized periodic assessments and their overall attitude about school," wrote Agnes L. Pitlik, assistant principal.

As an immigrant child, Marquez-Prueher's own school experience in America had a difficult beginning. But she is proud of the fact that she has come full circle, from being considered an outsider and different to becoming a public school teacher who embraces a philosophy that learning is a journey.

"I intend on using what I learn about myself to understand the diversity and culture of every child that walks through my classroom door. Through this, I believe that I can ensure that all students learn to function effectively in today's diverse society," she wrote.

Marquez-Prueher may be reached through Dodson Middle School at 310-241-1900 or

Christopher O'Connor
Ninth through twelfth grade science teacher
St. Helena High School
St. Helena Unified School District

"I believe science should be central to K-12 learning. Fortunately, the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards aim to accomplish this! We are born as natural experimenters, and educators have the opportunity to capitalize on that and to reinforce the natural curiosity that is innate in all of us."

—Christopher O'Connor from his 2015 California Teachers of the Year Application

O'Connor has been a teacher for 19 years and for 10 of those years has been at St. Helena High School teaching Biology, AP Biology, and Science & Media. Before he became a teacher, he worked in various research science positions, including in biotech and as a fisheries biologist in Alaska. These experiences, he wrote, inevitably guided him to a career in teaching because of its dynamic nature:  its continual change, continual growth, and space to innovate and adapt.

He points out that teaching is not for the timid, especially in terms of mental exhaustion. "(But) as an influential teacher, you have the unique opportunity of helping to shape the life of another, often in powerful and transformative ways."

O'Connor has had many innovative science projects, not least of which was to convert local waste vegetable oil into a diesel fuel alternative. The self-sustaining operation has been a success as community cars boast bumper stickers that read: "Powered by St. Helena High School Biodiesel."

Napa County Superintendent of Schools Barbara Nemko wrote of O'Connor: "During the 10 years that Mr. O'Connor has been teaching at St. Helena High, he transformed his early career as a research scientist into the coolest, most exciting science program that could exist on a high school campus."

O'Connor may be reached through St. Helena High School at 707-967-2740 or  

Erin Rosselli
Kindergarten teacher
Panorama Elementary School
Orange Unified School District

"The opportunity to be a part of educating our nation's future developers and leaders is truly a privilege. A teacher must have a passion for education and be dedicated to meeting the needs of children. Rewards and inspiration come daily in the faces of our students."

Erin Rosselli from her 2015 California Teachers of the Year Application

Rosselli has been a teacher for 14 years and has been at Panorama Elementary School for six of those years. She started her teaching career in special education before transitioning to regular education to continue her work in early education to provide students with appropriate supports. She introduced her young students to technology and with iPads in hand, the children created phenomenal, collaborative multimedia projects.

Each year, she strives to look at each child as an individual and develop a program that enables them to unlock their full potential. By the time kindergarten ends, her young students, she says, are empowered with the skills and desire to be passionate learners.

Rosselli stresses that teachers do not work alone and encourages increasing collaboration across the educational field and within the community.

Principal Kathy Martin wrote: "Mrs. Rosselli's students leave her classroom ready for the first grade, with a solid skill set, in-depth knowledge, technological savvy and a love for learning that is beyond compare."

Rosselli may be reached through Panorama Elementary School at 714-997-6265 or

2015 California Teachers of the Year Finalists
County Name Subject Grade School District


Dan Phillips

Assistive Technology/ Augmentative Communication

PK-Post Secondary

Marin COE

Marin SD


Diana Twiss

Language Arts


Orange Grove HS

Corona-Norco USD

Los Angeles

Isabel Morales

Gov/Econ/AP Gov/AP Psych/Yearbook


Los Angeles HS of the Arts

Los Angeles USD

Los Angeles

James Estabrook



North HS

Torrance USD


Kathleen Switzer

Language Arts/Theater


El Dorado HS

Placentia-Yorba Linda USD


Michelle Bebout



Casa Roble HS

San Juan USD

2015 California Teachers of the Year Semifinalists
County Name Subject Grade School District


Ann-Marie Delgado

AVID, Economics, U.S. Government, Women's Studies


Buhach Colony HS/Yosemite HS

Merced Union HSD


Deborah Parr

Multiple Subject/Credit Recovery


Ramona HS

Riverside USD

Los Angeles

Edward Meyer



Sierra Vista HS

Baldwin Park USD

Los Angeles

Hector V. Perez-Roman

AP World History/World History


Arleta HS

Los Angeles USD


Michelle Labelle-Fisch

Multiple Subject


K.I. Jones ES

Fairfield-Suisun USD


Zona Hoggard

Office Occupations


Business Technology Center, Kings ROP

Kings COE

# # # #

Tom Torlakson — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

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