Teachers of the Year revealed by school board

COSTA MESA — The school board on Tuesday night recognized the Newport-Mesa Unified School District Teachers of the Year.

Costa Mesa High School's Dana Kahawai, 30, and Newport Elementary School's Terri Clarke, 31, were given flowers and congratulations for being honored and representing the district at the county level.

"We have so many great teachers in this district," said Trustee Dana Black. "This is the best of the best."

The two were chosen for the distinction by their peers for being effective teachers, being involved outside the classroom and being teacher leaders, said John Caldecott, the district's executive director of human resources.

Kahawai has taught English at Costa Mesa High for four years and spent one year at Estancia High School. She teaches regular and Advanced Placement English classes for sophomores and AP English literature for seniors.

The Santa Ana resident and Estancia alumna is the advisor to the senior class, the National Honor Society and the California Scholarship Federation. She also writes grants and is an AP coordinator.

"She's been a teacher-leader since she set foot on the campus," Caldecott said. "She's also one of the most positive forces on the planet."

Clarke started in the district as a student teacher in 2003 at Pomona Elementary School, Caldecott said.

Since then, she has been teaching for seven years at Newport Elementary.

The Costa Mesa resident has spent two of those years teaching second grade, which she currently teaches.

It was one of those second-grade students that was unhappy Clarke won Teacher of the Year, Caldecott said.

"One of her students seemed a little disappointed," he said. "[The boy] said 'Teacher of the Year? She's teacher of the universe.'"


In other actions, trustees approved paying out up to $125,000 to resolve an issue with a former employee.

The district approved revising the amount to settle a claim with a now 73-year-old cafeteria manager/baker over retroactive temporary disability from up to $100,000 to up to $125,000.

A claim is the precursor to a lawsuit.

The board on Feb. 15 approved up to $100,000 to settle the issue and $33,320 to settle for permanent disability, which is an injury or illness that prevents the person from working, according to agenda documents.

The former employee continuously injured their neck, lower back, right hip, and left hand and wrist from the mid 1970s to February 2000, documents allege.

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