When asked what phrase she says to her students most often, Lisa Anderson says she immediately replies, “It’s all about you.”
Anderson’s unwavering focus on her students has made the American Canyon instructor Napa County Office of Education 2013 Teacher of the Year.
Speaking at an awards ceremony at Tuesday’s board of education meeting, Anderson, who teaches 5th grade at Napa Junction Elementary School, said she learned that lesson early on.
“It’s not all about me. It’s instead all about the individuals who surround me in my classroom,” Anderson said.
That’s what drives her teaching, Anderson said.
Anderson and two other finalists, Napa Preschool program’s Danielle Merkel and St. John the Baptist Catholic School’s Julie Picard, were recognized at the meeting in the multi-use room of Napa Junction Elementary.
Anderson, a teacher for 12 years, has taught at Napa Junction since 2007. She also taught at schools in Highland Park, Illinois and Goleta, California.
“She has the ability to teach kids how to set goals,” Barbara Nemko, Office of Education superintendent said before giving the award. Nemko praised Anderson’s teaching methods, saying traditional teaching methods can isolate students.
“We don’t do things in isolation in the real world,” Nemko said. “In the real world we have to solve problems.”
Anderson is a leader in local efforts to implement project-based learning at the elementary school level, both at her school site and the district level, according to Nemko. She also teaches the Read 180 reading intervention program, a program for students who are several years behind in reading skill, in addition to her regular duties.
“Although teaching the essential standards in each subject area is a requirement, I believe the underlying teaching methods are the foundation of a truly successful school day. In my classroom, these methods include relationship building, goal-setting, and student-led inquiry,” Anderson said in a written statement.
Nemko cited an example of Anderson’s project-based learning: As part of anatomy study, Anderson’s brother, a physician, called the classroom via Skype, the Internet video-phone website, and described patient symptoms. Students then worked in groups to reach a diagnosis and possible treatment.
The selection process for the award begins in March when teachers, students and members of the public are invited to nominate exemplary teachers. Nominated teachers are then notified and invited to apply for the honor. This year 41 Napa teachers were nominated, and 20 submitted applications, from which the three honorees were picked after observing the applicants at work in the classroom.
The California Department of Education began the Teacher of the Year program to recognize outstanding teachers in 1972.