Alhambra Educator Earns Award

Times Staff Writer

Teachers in the San Gabriel Valley and the South Bay are among the winners of the 1988 California Educator Awards.

Among 12 educators honored statewide are Lorna Mae Nagata, an administrative intern in the Alhambra School District who was the 1987 California Teacher of the Year, and Marilyn Whirry, an English teacher at Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach.

The winners, each of whom will receive a cash award of $25,000, were announced last week by state Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig. The educators, who did not know they were being considered for the honor, were chosen by a committee of county superintendents of schools and state Department of Education representatives. They were selected for their exemplary leadership abilities, professional achievements and their commitment to excellence in education, a state education official said.

Creative Teacher


The awards, first given in 1987, are funded by the Milken Family Foundation of Los Angeles, a charitable organization with a special interest in education.

Nagata, 41, taught for 16 years at Fremont Elementary School in Alhambra. Since September she has been an administrative intern in her school district, preparing for a new career as a principal or curriculum coordinator. Nagata, who was born in Hawaii and lives in Monterey Park, was lauded as a creative teacher and faculty leader.

Nagata said the giving of a monetary award helps enhance the status of educators as valued professionals. “By making this award, they are giving credibility and recognition to teachers and educators,” she said.

Nagata said she had no plans, as yet, for using her cash award.


Teacher for 23 Years

Whirry, 55, has taught English for 23 years. In 1987 she was named outstanding English teacher by the Southland affiliate of the California Assn. of Teachers of English. Whirry, who lives in Torrance, was described by an official of the South Bay Union High School District as the kind of teacher “who can get the very best out of (students) without them being aware of what she is doing.”

“It’s unfortunate we can’t clone her,” school board member Lyn Flory said.

Whirry said she was overwhelmed by the unexpected honor. She said she has not yet decided how she will use the money, although she would like to buy a home computer and books for her classroom.

Other local honorees are Jewell Boutte, principal of Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles, and Jaime Escalante, the Garfield High School mathematics teacher who was profiled in the film, “Stand and Deliver.”

The award winners will be honored Wednesday at a luncheon at the Four Seasons hotel in Los Angeles.