Teacher of the Year Andee Aceves Makes a Difference

Andee Aceves isn't your typical third grade school teacher. She doesn't come from a family of teachers and she didn't decide to become a teacher until she was in her 30s. Now she is one of California's Teachers of the Year for 2008.

Aceves received the Teacher of the Year distinction from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell in February 2008 and this weekend the California Lottery recognized her exceptional effort as a "Hero in Education" during Saturday's "The Big Spin®" show.

Aceves teaches at San Altos Elementary School in the Lemon Grove School District in San Diego County. Raised by non-English-speaking grandparents, she experienced first-hand the disconnect between home and school that still exists today for many of California's children. Aceves says, for her, school was a place where she felt like an uninvited but tolerated guest. That experience shaped her teaching style.

"I know that not all students have equal access to resources," Aceves explained. "I understand that loving, caring parents cannot always help with homework. I even recognize the strength of the unruly child who comes to school despite the chaos he or she lives in.

"I was that bright, skeptical, and belligerent child in the class; the student that teachers talked about with disparagement in the teacher's lounge. Having been that child gives me an empathy that other teachers may not have. My personal teaching style reflects a willing acceptance and consideration of skeptical students and their families. I teach to make a difference in their perception of school and to remove those barriers that interfere with learning."

If you visit Aceves' classroom you will find students don't learn quietly. That's because Aceves feels noise is an essential part of the process, whether students are learning about probabilities, writing a personal narrative or creating a habitat with construction paper. She also makes sure to spend a few minutes each day one-on-one with students and feels strongly about emphasizing a sense of community so each child can see his or her part in the big picture.

The California Teachers of the Year Program pays tribute to the tireless efforts of our state's outstanding teachers. The Teachers of the Year program brings attention and recognition to the more than 300,000 teachers in California. The California Department of Education invites county offices of education, school districts, charter schools, professional organizations, and private schools statewide to participate in the program by nominating teachers that they feel go above and beyond the call of duty. Additionally, one of the selected California Teachers of the Year is then nominated as a National Teacher of the Year. Since the National Teacher of the Year Program began in 1952, California has had six National Teachers of the Year.

The California State Lottery's "Hero in Education" award has been presented monthly on The Big Spin show since 1999. The Lottery presents these awards to recognize special individuals who volunteer time and resources to their school and community.

The award was presented to Aceves by actor Leslie David Baker, who plays Stanley Hudson on the hit sit-com, "The Office." Baker, a former teacher, said while presenting the award, he is thankful that there are teachers like Andee Aceves and that the children in her classroom are lucky to have her to show them the way.