For more than 30 years, the university has asked its incoming freshmen to identify and commend outstanding high school educators who have challenged them intellectually and who have contributed to their academic and personal development.
Former student Regan Caraher, who took Alvarez's economics class last year as a senior, nominated him for the award.
In a note thanking Alvarez for his role in her high school education, Caraher said, "Taking your class was by far one of the most pivotal points in my high school career. I want to thank you for teaching such a rigorous class in a way that still keeps your students eager to learn, for gifting me the knowledge that I use and will continue to use every day, and for inspiring me to strive for the highest standards."
"I am honored that Regan remembered me and thrilled she is pursuing further studies in economics," Alvarez said in the release. "My experience over the years at Laguna Beach High School is that the students are so thoughtful and appreciative. I couldn't ask for a better place to do what I do."
The university's admissions office gives the award to teachers who have demonstrated exceptional dedication to the education and mentorship of their students.
Alvarez was one of multiple teachers throughout the United States who were recognized because of nominations from former students, Karen Schrum, the university's assistant vice president for enrollment and student advancement, outreach and communications, said in a phone interview.
"Teachers make such a difference in the lives of kids," Schrum said. "To have someone come back later on and say, 'My success is because of you,' there is no better feeling than that."
Alvarez has taught at Laguna Beach High for 15 years and currently instructs more than 300 students in economics, Advanced Placement macroeconomics, and Advanced Placement United States government and politics.