Thursday, 26 January 2023

Kelly named California Teacher of the Year

Jennifer Kelly, center, at the Lake County Teacher of the Year Award Dinner earlier this year. On Friday, November 12, 2010, Kelly was named one of the five California Teachers of the Year. She is pictured with, top row, husband, Ron; childhood friend, Susie; and, front row, parents Herring and Lisa. Photo courtesy of the Lake County Office of Education.


MIDDLETOWN, Calif. – A local star teacher has been honored as one of the state's top educators.

On Friday State Superintendent of Schools Jack O’Connell announced the five teachers recognized as California Teachers of the Year for 2011.

Among them was Jennifer Kelly, an eighth grade science teacher at Middletown Middle School.

Also honored were Shannan Brown, fifth grade teacher, Thomas Edison Elementary School, San Juan Unified School District, Sacramento; Darin Curtis, eighth grade physical education, Tierra del Sol Middle School, Lakeside Union School District, Lakeside (San Diego County); Beverly Gonzalez, fourth grade mathematics and writing, Santa Fe School, Baldwin Park Unified School District, Baldwin Park (Los Angeles County); and Khadir Rajagopal, ninth through 11th grade mathematics, Grant Union High School, Twin Rivers Unified School District, Sacramento.

“Our California Teachers of the Year are amazing instructional leaders who have a great passion for helping students reach their full potential,” O'Connell said. “They each have unique ways of teaching and thinking that inspire their students to love learning. The Teachers of the Year inspire me, and I hope they inspire veteran teachers and encourage future teachers to follow their footsteps into the classroom.”

In 1972, California began recognizing outstanding teachers to honor the profession chosen by 300,000 persons in the state and to heighten interest in teaching as a career.

The process results in the annual selection of five teachers statewide who successfully employ strategies to increase academic success and narrow the achievement gap with a range of diverse students.

The five teachers serve as California Teachers of the Year for a one-year term. Their responsibilities include effectively representing the state’s teachers; motivating and inspiring other educators; and championing the positive contributions of the teaching profession.

In May Kelly was recognized as Middletown Unified District Teacher of the Year and soon after she completed the countywide selection process and was nominated Lake County Teacher of the Year.

After submitting a 21-page application in August, she was notified that the state had chosen her as a finalist.

An on-site visit was conducted to observe her teaching, and then she was invited to Sacramento for an intensive panel interview.

During the process, Kelly said this of her profession: “As the world around us becomes more complex, the value of teaching grows even more in importance.”

Only one other Lake County teacher has received such recognition in the California Teacher of the Year's 37-year history – Alan Siegel from Carlé Continuation High School in Lower Lake was selected as 2005 California Teacher of the Year. Additionally, Marc Morita, a seventh grade English teacher from Middletown Middle School, was selected as a finalist in 2008.

“When you walk around campus and ask students about their favorite classes, they continuously rank Mrs. Kelly’s science class as a favorite,” said Middletown Middle School Principal Dan Morgan.

“Her energy and enthusiasm is inspiring,” Morgan said. “She has a huge variety of hands-on projects and tons of activities. Year after year, her students score proficient and advanced on the California STAR Tests, regardless of their demographics, socio-economic status, or ability level in other subjects.”

Kelly grew up in Mill Valley and earned a bachelor's degree in zoology from the University of California, Davis, and three credentials from San Francisco State – a single subject credential in life science, a supplementary credential in chemistry and a multiple subject teaching credential.

A teacher for more than 20 years, Kelly came to Middletown Middle School in 1999. She and her husband, Ron, have three sons – Tanner, Scott and Jacob.

Kelly said she feels fortunate to be teaching in Middletown. “Middletown Unified School District supports teachers; they give you the freedom to teach to your strengths while covering the curriculum.”

Showing students she cares and developing exciting lessons are ways Kelly is able to encourage students to learn the skills necessary for success. She is adamant that educators can have students be successful on state tests without sacrificing creativity in presenting the curriculum.

“I love teaching; I enjoy the challenge of taking concepts and turning them into ideas the students are inspired to question, learn and understand,” she said.

Kelly is enthusiastic about fulfilling her role as an ambassador of the teaching profession. “I am excited about promoting education in Lake County, and helping to educate the public on the challenges and successes of the teaching profession.”

When asked what new endeavors might be in her future, Jennifer is clear. “I am ready and eager to help and support other teachers, but I have no desire to move into any other career focus. I want to keep teaching.”

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