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California Teachers of the Year Awardees 2018

California Teachers of the Year Awardees for 2018.

News Release and biographies of the California Teachers of the Year Awardees for 2018.

Additional information can be found on the October 11, 2017, State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2018 California Teachers of the Year News Release #17-74.

Jaime Yumiko Brown

Grade 12, International Baccalaureate (IB) English, and IB Film Studies
San Diego High School of International Studies, San Diego
San Diego Unified School District, San Diego County

“'Kodomo no tame ni.' This Japanese phrase means ‘for the sake of the children,’ and it has become my personal mantra thanks to my maternal grandparents. The phrase encapsulates so much: a sense of purpose, encouragement to persist in the face of adversity, and a demand to consider the bigger picture. Teachers today can serve as powerful linchpins of support and compassion for our students. Why do we do what we do? Kodomo no tame ni.” — Jamie Brown

Brown has been teaching for 14 years at San Diego High School of International Studies at the San Diego High School Educational Complex. Brown has been shaped by many positive teachers, but also experienced racism and prejudice from one teacher. Both experiences helped her find her own voice, allowing her to speak out against preconceptions and injustice and making certain her own students are also able to stand up for themselves.

Her courses are rigorous and demanding, but are filled with group discussions to allow students to share their own feelings and concerns because she believes these will help make her students feel more comfortable. In her film studies classes, she encourages students to volunteer at local film festivals and also developed a partnership with the San Diego Film Critics Society that brought film critics to her classroom.

Dr. Carmen García, principal, San Diego High School of International Studies, said, “Jaime embodies a ‘you can do it and I’m here to support you' attitude by ensuring students have a voice in their education. As a former International Baccalaureate student herself, she clearly understands the immense pressure her students are going through and reminds them that their success, through perseverance and diligent practice, is around the corner.”

Brown may be reached at San Diego High School of International Studies at 619-525-7455 or

Kirsten Farrell

Grades 9–12, Sports Medicine
Venice High School, Los Angeles
Los Angeles Unified School District, Los Angeles County

“Through my role as a teacher, I have contributed to changing the world. What I have taught my students can be compared to a pebble dropped in the water, as the ripples will continue long after I am gone. I have taught future doctors, physical therapists, athletic trainers, and paramedics. Because of what has happened in Shop-6 at Venice High School, someone’s life will be saved.” — Kirsten Farrell

Farrell has been teaching for 21 years, the last 15 at Venice High School where she is the lead for the Sports Medicine Academy and serves as Sports Medicine Team facilitator. Growing up in a military family and constantly moving from place to place has given her special understanding about the importance and stability that a teacher can provide to her students. She credits her outstanding fifth grade teacher for serving as a role model who inspired her to become a teacher.

As a Regional Occupation Program/Career Technical Education teacher, her main focus is preparing students for life after high school by providing hands-on skills that can be transferred to careers and college such as taking groups to sports medicine competition trips where they learn to navigate travel, speak publicly, be independent, and be responsible to others. In addition, she is a nationally certified athletic trainer and leads a team of student trainers who are knowledgeable about CPR, wound assessment, and emergency action plans.

Gia Perrone, student, Class of 2017, said of Farrell, "From giving someone a place to heal, to giving someone a place to feel welcome, we always know we can count on Ms. Farrell. With her compassion, ability to light up a room, and her willingness to do whatever it takes for the ones around her, we can only wish for more people like her in the world.”

Farrell may be reached through Venice High School at 310-577-4200 or

Gregory Gardiner

Grades 9–12, Advanced Placement (AP) and Special Abilities Cluster (SAC) Environmental Sciences, Academy of Sustainability and Engineering (ASE), and Accelerated ASE Biology
Edison High School, Huntington Beach
Huntington Beach Union High School District, Orange County

“Teaching is challenging work and my challenge to my colleagues all across America is this: join me. Innovate. Sustain. Connect. Together, I’m positive we can improve education for all our students. And I’m positive our students will change the world.” — Gregory Gardiner

A science teacher for 18 years, Gardiner teaches AP classes and started an environmental science program at Edison High School for students with special needs. He is a founding member of the Academy of Sustainability and Engineering (ASE), a group of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (STEAM)-rooted courses that focuses on project-based curriculum and emphasizes critical thinking and is now a model for the district.

He has been instrumental in creating an Innovation Lab where students can have hands-on experiences, problem-solve, and build sustainable systems applying STEAM concepts. Lab projects include aquaculture breeding programs for tilapia, environmental conservation of species programs for trout and white sea bass, and a remote-controlled hydrogen fuel cell car project.

Elliot Skolnick, SAC Special Programs Administrator, Edison High School, said, “If you are very fortunate once or twice in your life, you will meet someone whose true purpose in life is to make things better for all people and creatures that come in contact with them...He is a walking, talking embodiment of creativity, kindness, positivity, and generosity. There is nothing he will not do to help a student or cause reach their potential.”

Gardiner may be reached through Edison High School at 714-962-1356 or

Brian McDaniel

National Teacher of the Year Candidate External link opens in new window or tab.
Grades 6–8, Band and Choir
Painted Hills Middle School, Desert Hot Springs
Palm Springs Unified School District, Riverside County

“An outstanding teacher is a force of nature, an earthquake looking for every opportunity to burst through the surface and change the world. The power of an outstanding teacher can generate countless aftershocks long after they’ve passed on.” — Brian McDaniel

McDaniel has been teaching instrumental and vocal music for 11 years, the last two in his current position at Painted Hills Middle School (PHMS). He also serves as Director of Bands and Choirs at both PHMS and Bella Vista Elementary School and is an adjunct professor at Brandman University, School of Arts and Sciences.

He leads The Regiment, a combined band and choir program which is the largest student group on campus. Each member is challenged to rise “Beyond All Expectations” by having an attitude of gratitude and a heart of service.

Overcoming poverty and homelessness has helped McDaniel understand some of the problems his students face. Besides teaching them about music and theory, he is an advocate, academic coach, mentor, counselor, or friend.

His students Brandon Ulin, band president and Kathryne Whalen, choir president said, “He is our role model, friend, and champion…he understands many of our issues because they were once his. He helps us with our family issues, insecurities, bullying, and always finds a way to make us feel better.

McDaniel may be reached through Painted Hills Middle School at 760-251-1551 or

Erin Oxhorn-Gilpin

Grade 1, Multiple Subjects
Northlake Hills Elementary School, Castaic
Castaic Union School District, Los Angeles County

“Teaching is an ever-evolving profession, requiring teachers to embrace change and a growth mindset. I strengthen and improve the teaching profession because I never lose sight of what is best for my students. I always put kids first!” — Erin Oxhorn-Gilpin

Oxhorn-Gilpin has been teaching for 11 years in the same school district, primarily as a first grade teacher. She uses creativity and hands-on lessons to teach her students the basics of reading and writing—one example being a unit on snails where students learned about them via a picture book, snail races, and snail mail.

Her students were inspired to give back to the community after receiving Chromebooks through a local grant, and organized a fundraiser for the local animal shelter, donating the money raised and learning how they could continue their partnership.

Castaic Union School District Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Janene Maxon said of Oxhorn-Gilpin, “Erin recognizes needs and moves forward. It is that “moving forward” attitude that makes her one of the best teachers ever! Erin is always reflective, always thinking of ways in which to improve planning next steps for our students’ continued progress.”

Oxhorn-Gilpin may be reached at Northlake Hills Elementary at 661-257-4560 or

Questions: Awards Team | | 916-319-0842 
Last Reviewed: Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Recently Posted in Awards and Recognition