Three Long Beach Unified School District teachers were honored at a recent Board of Education meeting as Teachers of the Year.
Two of the three also earned the Los Angeles County Teacher of the Year honor and advanced for consideration as California Teacher of the Year.
Irma Magaña teaches English at Lakewood High School; Debbie Holland teaches psychology at Poly High School; and Susan Watson teaches Japanese at Poly High School.
Holland and Watson earned the L.A. County honor. All three were honored at a recent event hosted by the Los Angeles County Office of Educaiton for top teachers throughout the county.
Magaña felt that her first years of teaching were “a struggle,” but worked to become an inspiring teacher who uses that perspective to encourage her students to achieve more than they thought possible.
“I grew up in a tough neighborhood, and I think growing up in a challenging environment prepared me for understanding the challenges that some of my students experience,” Magaña said. “I always tell my students to reach for more, not just be satisfied with what they have. I think about the teachers in my own high school who never gave up on students like me. I help students understand that success is possible with hard work.”
Holland returned to the classroom after 15 years as a school administrator.
“My career has gone full circle over the last 35 years,” Holland said. “I have evidence through my current and former students that I have made a difference in their lives, and mine has been enriched by my time spent with them.
“A few years ago, at my husband’s funeral, I looked into the crowd and recognized many of my former students sitting there providing me the support that in the past I had given them. Many had their parents and families sitting with them, and it made me realize that I had made a difference in their lives and that I had truly made the right choice in my life: to become an educator.”
Watson spent years studying to become fluent in Japanese, despite the words of one teacher who told her that would never happen.
“As a teacher, looking back on it now, I am horrified that I was told this, as if it were the truth,” Watson said. “What would have happened had I listened to that professor? I never would have known that feeling of success when you can communicate with someone in a foreign language.
“My proudest moments as a teacher come when my students experience success, whether it be conquering a complex grammar structure, understanding what is written on a train ticket, or being able to have a conversation in Japanese. Those small victories, when strung together, show them what they are capable of.”