Murrieta Valley Unified School District Assistant Superintendent Pam Wilson announced the names of the district’s 2013 Teachers of the Year: Lacey Aarsvold who teaches Pre-Algebra and Algebra at Warm Springs Middle School, Sue Ackley, a 4th grade teacher at Lisa J. Mails Elementary School and Carol Hernandez, a 7th and 8th Grade Theatre and P.E. teacher at Dorothy McElhinney Middle School.
Each of the teachers was named 2012 Teacher of the Year by their school site and they are now eligible to enter the Riverside County Office of Education Teacher of the Year competition.
Lacey Aarsvold teaches Pre-Algebra and Algebra at Warm Springs Middle School and she has been teaching for 20 years. Aarsvold believes every student who walks through her door is capable of learning and achieving great things.
She uses a combination of encouragement, prompting, monitoring and respect to help her students understand that math is an essential skill that everyone must acquire in order to survive in life and hold a job. Aarsvold utilizes a variety of teaching methods including hands-on activities, small group instruction, computer programs and assessment tools to verify that students have mastered the concepts.
Aarsvold believes that taking the time to get to know her students is just as important as teaching the academic content. By working together one on one with a student she establishes a connection with them and discovers how to help them understand the material.
In addition to her math classes, Aarsvold has been the PRIDE Student of the Month coordinator for 9 years.
Through Aarsvold’s efforts Warm Springs has also gained community support through an online charity called DonorsChoose.org which allows people to give teachers tools and supplies. Aarsvold has received sewing machines for the PRIDE sewing class she teaches and four computers, algebra tiles, library books and supplies for her math class from DonorsChoose.
A Master Teacher, Aarsvold said, “At the end of the year, I want each of my students to believe in themselves and know they are capable of being whatever they choose in life. They simply must try!”
Sue Ackley teaches fourth grade at Lisa J. Mails Elementary School and she has taught for 25 years.
In addition to earning a degree in Graphic Design, Ackley’s Masters was on Integrating Technology in the Classroom. Ackley has been on the district’s Gifted and Talented Education, Literacy and Visual & Performing Arts Committees and she has been a grade level leader.
For the past 18 years Ackley has shared her artistic talent and love for the performing arts with her students. She co-authored the music and lyrics for the school songs at Lisa J. Mails, Buchanan and Rail Ranch Elementary.
Ackley has also directed elementary choir and theater groups for the past 18 years. Ackley currently produces two shows a year featuring approximately 75 students. She says the performances transform students’ lives and she enjoys seeing them blossom socially and academically and gain self confidence.
While Ackley uses a variety of teaching methods and assessments to measure student’s performance and growth, she says school is more than textbooks and tests.
“If a student knows you care about them, amazing things will emerge.” Ackley believes students need to see school as a place of safety, comfort, joy and fun. “If they are excited about coming to school, the love of learning will follow.”
As students rotate to leveled language arts and math classes where lessons are accommodate students’ individual needs, Ackley says, “They become authors, scientists, detectives, explorers and more. My job is to offer them a safe “home” from which they can venture and a rich learning environment for when they return.”
If my students make progress, if I can help them feel special, and if they leave my class knowing that they matter, I will have made a difference.”
Carol Hernandez is a seventh and eighth grade Theatre and Physical Education teacher at Dorothy McElhinney Middle School who has been teaching for 19 years.
As a Master Teacher, Nationally Board Certified Teacher, Department Chair and Beginning Teacher Support Provider, Hernandez has mentored and trained other teachers.
She has also provided staff development on integrating arts into the curriculum, multi-cultural integration and making content comprehensible for English learners.
Hernandez is passionate and enthusiastic about the teaching profession which she says is a life style that extends beyond the classroom, evidenced by the work she does with her students before and after school, during lunch and on the weekends.
In addition to teaching, Hernandez has coached Odyssey of the Mind for six years and she coaches the school’s basketball teams. She has also served as a club advisor for Glee Club, Football Club, Student Venture, Guitar Club and the Shakespeare Club.
Hernandez produced and directed a full length feature film starring over 50 of her students and last year she wrote and produced a 2-hour musical presented by her students about the effects of bullying.
Hernandez is a member of the Drama Teachers Association and Inland Theatre League and she has served as a judge for the Shakespeare Festival and the Inland Theatre Family Series.
Hernandez recognizes that students have different learning styles and she carefully plans her lessons using a variety of activities that foster real-life applications and meaningful learning.
Hernandez said as a teacher she strives to inspire her students to take risks, be creative, form opinions, treat people with respect, and follow their hearts and dream big. “Changing lives, that really is what the role of a teacher is,” said Hernandez.