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Honorees 2010

California Teachers of the Year Program award winners for 2010.

Photo of Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell with the 2010 Teacher of the Year award winners Valerie Ziegler, Amber Carrow, Kathy R. Marvin, Kelly Kovacic, and Melanie Tolan.

From left to right: Valerie Ziegler, Amber Carrow,
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell, Kathy Marvin, Kelly Kovacic, and Melanie Tolan.


Amber Carrow

World History
Chemawa Middle School in Riverside
Riverside Unified School District

I have a simple teaching philosophy; reach the student first, and then you can teach the subject. — Amber Carrow

Ms. Carrow has been a teacher for six years, all of which have been spent at Chemawa Middle School, where Principal Sean Curtin says she has “created a positive and exciting learning environment in her classroom.”

“I am challenged by my teacher-student relationships and I recognized that I will always be adjusting, re-thinking, and striving to attain their respect. I work very hard to take my class from ordinary to extraordinary. I attempt to bring history to life through a variety of teaching skills and hands-on learning techniques. As a World History teacher, I am able to teach students about diverse cultural achievements, religions, governments, geography, and arts from around the globe,” Ms. Carrow wrote.

Ms. Carrow not only teaches about the world, she travels around it as well. This past year, she was awarded a Teacher Fellowship Grant from the Earthwatch Foundation to conduct scientific research in Nova Scotia related to the effects of climate change. She was in daily contact with her students via the Web. “They truly were transported through this experience,” she said, “and it has sparked their desire to participate in affecting positive world climate change from their school.”

She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Studies from Pitzer College in Claremont and a Master of Arts in Education from the Claremont Graduate University. She is a Riverside Unified School District Middle School Teacher of the Year as well as the Chemawa Middle School Teacher of the Year.

Kelly Kovacic

Social Studies
The Preuss School in La Jolla
San Diego Unified School District

All of my students will be the first generation of their families to graduate from college. — Kelly Kovacic

Ms. Kovacic has been a teacher for seven years, all of which have been spent at The Preuss School, a charter middle and high school dedicated to providing a rigorous college prep education for motivated low-income students.

“I treat my students as future leaders, because they are,” Ms. Kovacic wrote. “As a teacher, I have been blessed with a huge responsibility, one that I eagerly embrace. I must create an environment in which my students realize the vast extent of their abilities and that, with hard work and dedication, they can accomplish great things. My students also need to know that there are people along the way, teachers like me, who are ready and willing to help.”

Ms. Kovacic graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History. She earned a Master of Arts degree in Education from Stanford University, where she also received a California Professional Clear Credential.

At The Preuss School, she is the chair of the Social Studies Department. In June 2008, she was selected by the College Board to help read and grade the Advanced Placement United States History Exam. Ms. Kovacic is a 2010 San Diego Unified School District Teacher of the Year.

Kathy R. Marvin

Physical Science
Sierra Vista Middle School in Irvine
Irvine Unified School District

I inspire my students to become scientists by giving them the opportunities to be scientists now so they can experience discovery in its rawest form and feel the awe of it. — Kathy Marvin

Ms. Marvin has been teaching for 29 years of which nine years have been in her current position. She is known as the science teacher who blows tiles out of the classroom ceiling during her lesson on how surface area affects reaction rates — one that students don’t soon forget.

“Having taught more than 5000 students over the course of 29 years in education, I recall that when I started teaching, I thought the most important thing I had to teach were concepts and standards. Now I know that the most important thing I can contribute to my students is a joy of learning. My greatest accomplishment is the successful inspiration of my students, not just occasionally, but for every student, every day,” she wrote.

She laments that parents consider science to be desirable career choices for boys 67 percent of the time compared to only 40 percent for their girls. “I strive to inspire all my students to see the wonder and joy of science and math and encourage boys and girls alike to pursue further courses in high school,” she wrote.

Ms. Marvin earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Liberal Studies from San Diego State University, and a California Teaching Credential, Lifetime from the University of California, Irvine. She is a 2010 Orange County Teacher of the Year Finalist, and a 2009 Irvine Unified School District Middle School Teacher of the Year.

Melanie Tolan

English-Language Arts, History, Physical Education
Sarah Anthony School in San Diego
San Diego County Office of Education

To be a student in my class is to be in a class like no other. First of all, it would mean that you are accused of a crime. — Melanie Tolan

Ms. Tolan has been teaching for 14 years, of which nearly three years has been at the Sarah Anthony School, which provides educational programs for young people detained in Kearny Mesa Juvenile Hall. Previously, she taught at the Toussaint Academy, a school located at a homeless shelter for teens.

“I have to establish right away with my students that my classroom is a safe haven from the chaos of Juvenile Hall. I need to gain students’ respect quickly and form relationships so they will respect my classroom as a refuge from the outside; otherwise, the classroom can become a perfect place to fight or cause other problems because there are no probation officers present — just me,” Ms. Tolan wrote.

Mary Glover, the interim executive director of Juvenile Court and Community Schools, called Ms. Tolan a gifted educator well-suited to the particular needs of her students. “Most of her students enter her classroom angry and afraid with school being the last thing on her minds. Melanie was selected to work with this student population particularly because of her demonstrated ability to motivate and engage some of the most challenging students we serve.”

Ms. Tolan earned a Bachelor of Arts in History at the University of California, Santa Barbara, a Master of Arts in Liberal Arts and Sciences from San Diego State University, and a California Professional Clear Multiple Subject Credential and CLAD Authorization from National University. She is the San Diego County Office of Education 2010 Teacher of the Year.

Valerie Ziegler

U.S. History, Economics, U.S. Government
Abraham Lincoln High School
San Francisco Unified School District

Humans thrive on incentives, and identifying what is needed to create lifelong learners can no doubt revolutionize education. — Valerie Ziegler

Ms. Ziegler has been teaching for five years all of which have been at Abraham Lincoln High School, which is in its 67th year as a comprehensive high school serving culturally diverse students from all areas of the city.

“The desire to learn was heavily influenced by the “best master teacher” I had — my mother. My mom taught public school for over 30 years, and most of her career was focused on working with deaf students. She went above and beyond what is required of a teacher. I have memories of buying hearing aid batteries for students, of driving kids to meetings and appointments, and even of visiting former students in jail. I strive every day to be the teacher I know my mother would want me to be,” Ms. Ziegler wrote.

She believes that students need reasons to learn and incentives to do well in school. “The relevancy in curriculum is missing and can also be an explanation for the existence of an achievement gap. Students are given very few choices about their learning…with the virtual elimination of the practical arts classes such as woodshop and auto repair, many students find little in their day that motivates them.”

Ms. Ziegler earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Marketing from Indiana University, a Master’s degree in Education Technology, and has a CLAD Multiple Subject Credential and a Single Subject Credential in Social Studies.

Questions:   Awards Team | | 916-319-0842
Last Reviewed: Thursday, June 8, 2017