Educators at 15 L.A.-Area Schools Win Monetary Awards for Boosting Student Skills

Times Staff Writer

Teachers and administrators at 15 schools will receive 2003 Excellence Awards, a local organization that works to improve student achievement announced this week.

The Los Angeles Educational Partnership of educators and community members made its selections based on significant, documented improvements in student reading, math and language skills.

“We chose to honor schools and teachers in high-need areas that are successful despite the odds against them,” said Susan Way-Smith, the nonprofit organization’s president and chief executive.

The $5,000 teacher awards are given in pairs or groups, reflecting the organization’s philosophy that the greatest change occurs when people work together, Way-Smith said.


Carrie Suksi Gasper and Margaret Talvin won a teacher award for creating a class at Rio Vista Elementary School in North Hollywood that combines general-education kindergarten students with special-education kindergarteners and first-graders.

“The students help each other sound out words,” said Gasper. “They sometimes work together on an assignment and share ideas. There’s a real sense of community.”

Other winning teachers are:

* Candace Baker and Steven Hicks from Accelerated Charter School in Los Angeles, who developed an all-day kindergarten program.

* Judy Jones-Chandler and Janette Lopez from Lawrence Middle School in Chatsworth, who teach a variety of subjects through the study of ancient Egypt.

* Ray Hutchison, William Nassour, Barry Shrewsbury and Debra Thomas of Madison Middle School in North Hollywood, for a program that emulates the military atmosphere of a basic-training unit.

* Christina N. Beltrocco, Kris Hall, Jeanne Claire Hartman, Cheryl Arthur Morelan, Dianne O’Donnell, Elizabeth S. Reuss and Claudia Tom of Multnomah Elementary School in Los Angeles, who meet weekly to discuss strategies for teaching second grade.

* April Ann Cooper, Nancy Louise Dunlap, Louise Foote, Carrie Gammel, Anita Diane Higer, Edith Scott-Pinkus and Rebecca E. Ruvalcaba of Riverside Drive Elementary School in Sherman Oaks, who integrate such subjects as social studies and science through extensive writing and hands-on lessons.


* Tricia Avant, Danna Coonen-Lee, Olga Kokino and Frances Nichols of University High School in Los Angeles, who supervise a student-produced weekly newspaper.

* Roberta Mann, Hector Martinez and Sharie Schneider of West Valley Special Education Center in Van Nuys, who teach severely disabled students by using photography and computers.

Four schools each won $10,000 for their exemplary efforts: Accelerated Charter in Los Angeles, Arts and Humanities Academy at Belmont High in Los Angeles, James Monroe High in North Hills and 156th Street Elementary in Gardena.

Three schools each won $10,000 for working with the local community: Lanai Road Elementary in Encino, and Miramonte Elementary and Vernon City Elementary, both in Los Angeles.