Though not a math teacher, Glendale resident Elizabeth “Betsy” Astor’s most recent accomplishment is quite impressive, given the odds.
Astor, chair of the special education department at Glendale High School, was one of 16 county teachers out of a pool of approximately 72,000 to be recognized as a Teacher of the Year by the Los Angeles County Office of Education.
Astor was one of only two educators selected from a San Fernando Valley school, joining Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies’ Joseph Zeccola. However, she is the only Valley resident lauded this year, having attended Balboa Elementary and Toll Middle School and graduated from Hoover High.
“To represent all the teachers at Glendale High is so fabulous,” Astor said. “As a special education teacher, I’m so lucky that I get to work with every single teacher on campus and the staff, and they’re so supportive of our special need students. To be able to represent them is truly an honor.”
The 23-year veteran instructor was recognized during the LACOE Teacher of the Year banquet held Sept. 21 at the Hilton Universal City Towers.
She was initially nominated by Glendale Unified Supt. Winfred B. Roberson Jr. and his staff, which encouraged her to complete necessary paperwork and participate in an interview as part of the selection process.
Astor said she was comfortable doing the interview.
“In every elementary report card that I ever got, the teacher comments were, ‘she talks too much,’ and I received a degree in speech communications,” Astor said, jokingly.
“So, when I say I was speechless, I was speechless to hear this came from the superintendent’s staff. It was pretty meaningful. He called me on my cellphone and words did not come out. That is still sinking in,” she added.
Part of what made Astor a natural selection for the award was the work she does on top of special-education instruction.
Astor is a Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports coach and has been a key figure in implementing restorative practices at Glendale High, which calls for the building of bonds between students to better resolve and avert problems.
“Positive Behavior Intervention helps students be reinforced for their positive behavior rather than being punished. It’s not that there aren’t consequences for negative behavior, but we want positive behavior to be the norm. We call it the ‘Nitro Way,’” she said, referring to the school’s mascot.
One of the successful PBIS projects has been the cleanup of lunch tables and area, which in the past had often been left filthy.
“Ms. Astor is a phenomenal special education teacher who cares about her students’ success both academically and social-emotionally,” Glendale principal Benjamin Wolf said in a statement.
“As a teacher, coach and department chair, Ms. Astor always takes care of the well-being of both students and adults under her care,” he added.
As for the selection process, Astor was first named the Glendale Unified Teacher of the Year in the spring and was one of 61 district top educators throughout the county. Of those 61 winners, Astor was picked as one of the county’s top 16 educators.
“Her award is very well-deserved,” Glendale High clerk Anjel Besha said. “The parents love her, the staff loves her and she has a very special way of making everybody feel special.”
Astor is now in the running to become one of the state of California’s five Teacher of the Year recipients. The selection process is set to be completed before the end of next month.
Though thankful for the recognition, Astor said she also finds satisfaction at her post.
“When we talk about special-needs kids, people don’t understand that that could be the most severe case to students in AP calculus and everybody in between,” she said. “So, we get a chance to see that growth, and that is so special for me.”