The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has awarded 23 teachers the title of “Rookie of the Year” for the 2014-2015 school year from schools throughout the city. In its inaugural year, the Rookie of the Year program honors first-year educators who have gone above and beyond in their classroom and encourages all teachers to keep their passion and commitment to learning throughout their careers.
“Our newest teachers have made this huge commitment and it gives the city a chance to say, ‘We see you and we appreciate what you do’,” said Marjorie Josaphat, assistant human resource officer for the LAUSD. “These teachers are there for the long haul and the number of children that they affect throughout their careers will be enormous.”
The Rookie of the Year program received nominations for 87 individuals from LAUSD school site administrators and new teacher support providers. A committee then selected winners based on performance criteria including high levels of effectiveness in preparing and delivering instruction, providing a positive classroom climate with strong routines and procedures, a dynamic and engaging teaching style and high levels of professionalism. In total, the 23 selected Rookies of the Year represent 16 elementary schools, one middle school, four high schools, one magnet school and one college preparatory school.
Two local teachers, Rosalinda Aleman and Sarah Benyaminy, were among the 23 selected.
“Our teachers are our unsung heroes. They teach, they council, they mother, they father, they love. It’s not like the Oscars, it isn’t like basketball — they don’t get trophies or a lot of money, but they are there every day of the year,” Josaphat said.
According to Michael Thompson, LAUSD teacher quality specialist, the teachers who were selected as Rookies of the Year also symbolize how well their respective school is performing. With approximately 2,000 new teachers employed district-wide in the past school year, the LAUSD has developed numerous institutes that bridge the gap between formal training and the first day in a classroom.
Aleman said that while there were many ups and downs in her first year of teaching kindergarten at Franklin Avenue Elementary, the support and mentoring from more experienced teachers at her school contributed greatly to her success.
“Receiving this award means a lot to me, especially because I am working at the school that I attended as a child. I would have never believed that I would end up at this place, and my students can look up to me knowing that I went to this school and I am doing what I am doing now — it’s very gratifying,” Aleman said. “Plus, the award shows us that we are acknowledged and respected and that our work is valued.”
Benyaminy teaches transitional kindergarten at West Hollywood Elementary School and said the support network in the district and the city assisted in developing the program and lesson plans for her classroom. A curriculum for transitional kindergarten was not fully developed before she began.
“I was a bit overwhelmed with learning how the district and school worked as well as what transitional kindergarten is, but with the support of everyone around me, I really felt a part of the school,” Benyaminy said. “I put my all into this year, but I was worried I wasn’t doing enough — and I always want to improve. It was really wonderful to get this acknowledgment and it will be motivational for the coming year.”
Peter Pannell, principal at West Hollywood Elementary, said Benyaminy’s talent for teaching was evident in the fact that the students from her classroom emerged ready to begin kindergarten the next year.
“She quickly gained a lot of confidence, asked a lot of questions and became a part of the learning process. There is not a lot of transitional kindergarten curriculum out there, and she’s gone through a lot of training to serve the students well,” Pannell said. “I think this recognition shows teachers that we support them. We want them to perform well, be lifelong learners and to know that this is an amazing career and an opportunity to change the world.”
Alongside the LAUSD, The California Credit Union launched the Rookie of the Year program this year in conjunction with Security Benefit, a retirement specialist serving teachers and educators across the country. The organizations came together with the mission to recognize educators within the greater Los Angeles community.
“The Rookie of the Year program is acknowledging first year teachers that are really getting in there and being passionate about what they do — educating our young people — and we wanted to support that excellence in education,” said Amber Danford, chief marketing officer at California Credit Union. “Retaining good talent is important in the school district and important to all business in Los Angeles County.”
The award-winning teachers will celebrate their success at the Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Angels baseball game from a private suite with LAUSD superintendent Ramon Cortines, and Justo Avila, the district’s chief human resources officer. The Rookies of the Year will then be recognized at a school board meeting, and there are plans in motion to have them collaborate with the LAUSD’s Teachers of the Year to form and grow a support network.
“Our teachers are the essence of our great schools by inspiring our young people. They give their students the strength and courage to learn and embrace lifelong learning,” Cortines said. “I hope our honorees will be with the LAUSD for many years to come.”
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