Two Huntington Beach educators were among six who were surprised Tuesday with awards as 2019 Orange County Teachers of the Year.
Huntington Beach High School English teacher Jodi Young and Ethel Dwyer Middle School science teacher Laura Zellmer are among the county winners who will now compete for the state title.
The honorees were notified by the Orange County Department of Education’s “prize patrol” — a school bus full of department officials, including county Supt. of Schools Al Mijares.
Each received a tote bag, water bottle and phone battery charger. In the fall, they will be honored with a dinner reception at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim and a $500 cash prize.
Huntington Beach High School’s marching band paraded into Young’s classroom Tuesday along with county officials and students carrying a banner.
“We’re here to salute an amazing teacher; thank you for the work you do,” Mijares told Young, who was joined by her husband, children and mother.
Young has taught Advanced Placement English, American literature and students with limited English proficiency at Huntington Beach High since 2006. She also is the advisor for the National Honor Society, a club that encourages students to engage in community service and help their peers.
“What I’m doing is my dream,” Young said while standing next to her mom, holding a photo of them when Young was in preschool. “It’s not a job.”
Young said she went home from kindergarten one day and said, “I want to teach kindergarten because it’s what I know most about.”
“And apparently,” she added, “I just kept changing the year as I grew older.
“In high school, my junior year, I … knew I wanted to teach American lit and talk to kids about growing up and becoming adults and the hardships that exist in high school that we often don’t talk about. And literature is such a great way to do it.”
Zellmer’s lesson on hydraulics was interrupted Tuesday as Huntington Beach City School District officials and the county prize patrol entered her classroom to congratulate her on her award.
“We just want to salute you,” Mijares told her before the class broke into applause and cheers.
Zellmer, who began teaching at Dwyer Middle School in 2010, described her job as being an entertainer, a coach, a salesperson and a motivator. Her passion for outdoor learning pushed her to create the school’s first environmental science elective course.
She also established partnerships with the Huntington Beach Wetlands Conservancy and One Ocean Diving to provide students with firsthand experiences on how human activities can affect nature. She regularly takes her students on trips to Catalina Island and Yosemite National Park.
“I love my job and I love my students,” Zellmer said. “There’s a lot of special kids in this class. You guys make me want to come into work every day.”
Times Community News contributor Daniel Langhorne contributed to this report.