All-Stars in Education

The Poway Unified School District (PUSD) announced the three recipients for their Teacher of the Year award, two of them here in 92129: Mike Bird from Mt. Carmel High School (MCHS) and Crystal Ochoa of Sunset Hills Elementary School (SHES).

After twenty-five years in teaching, Mike Bird felt his greatest accomplishments in education came in the form of notes written by students reflecting on his “kindness, respect, and big heart.” Mike stated, “If my students leave my classroom at the end of the year with a greater appreciation of the world around them and how it works, I feel that I have fulfilled my purpose as an educator.”

In his geoscience and physics classroom at MCHS, Mike encourages his students to “discover” answers by thinking through problems, trial and error, questioning, and spending time in research and collaboration. In addition, Mike has coached boys and girls volleyball at the middle, high school, and club volleyball levels for twenty-five years with several of his former players going on to play in college, compete in the Olympics, and become coaches themselves.

Crystal Ochoa described her long-ago dream of becoming a lawyer as wanting to be “a voice for the voiceless.” Crystal’s dreams changed in high school when she met a hearing-impaired student and began volunteering in the Life Skills classroom on her campus. When Crystal arrived at SHES fifteen years ago, she was tasked with educating staff, students, and parents about what a successful resource program can and should be. “My open door classroom policy lends itself to establishing trust and effective lines of communication with both parents and teachers,” she explained. “I also lead training sessions with the instructional assistants in how to best meet the needs of our special education students.”

Recognizing that some special education students weren’t receiving Common Core-aligned math instruction, Crystal compiled relevant materials and created resource binders for special education teachers. She also lead CHAMPS instruction (a positive behavior and interventions support system) for interested teachers at her site.