Wednesday, Pasadena Rotary Honors Five Local Superstar Teachers

Published : Tuesday, May 16, 2017 | 5:28 AM

L-R: Tyara Brooks, Diana Habib-Nairouz, Tina Minkler, Linda Ortega, Jason Taylor

The Pasadena Rotary Club’s annual “Teachers of Excellence” award ceremony will honor a superstar lineup of five select Pasadena Unified School District teachers Wednesday to recognize their personal impact on the lives of their students.

The five teachers will each be awarded $1,500 and an additional $500 will be presented to each recipient’s school.

“The impact that these five outstanding teachers have on their students is immeasurable, and I am pleased to partner with the Rotary Club of Pasadena to recognize them,” said Superintendent Brian McDonald. “Our teachers are working every day to ensure that students continue to learn and achieve at higher levels, and become lifelong learners.”

Now in its 27th year, The Teachers of Excellence is a collaborative program of the Rotary Club of Pasadena and PUSD.

The 2017 honorees are Tyara Brooks of Longfellow Elementary; Diana Habib-Nairouz of Hamilton Elementary; Tina Minkler of Jackson Elementary; Linda Ortega of Washington STEAM Magnet Academy; and Jason Taylor of Wilson Middle School.

“Rotary’s interest in supporting this program is a way to recognize just the great work that teachers in the community are putting forth. We play a very small role in doing that, but it’s a way to raise awareness of all the great teaching that’s going on in the school district,” said Pasadena Rotary Teachers of Excellence Program Co-Chair Mark Waterson.

The program’s genesis was the product of hard work and dedication on the part of Pasadena Rotary members who were inspired by the story of Jaime Escalante, the charismatic former East Los Angeles high school teacher who taught the nation that inner-city students could master subjects as demanding as calculus.

The Teachers of Excellence Program demonstrates the Pasadena Rotary’s commitment to public schools and to exceptional teachers who deserve special recognition.

“By recognizing teachers who are going above and beyond in their creativity and their dedication to the subject matter and the engagement with students, I think it does raise morale with the rest of the teachers in the district. What it also does is show the community that there is excellence in education in the public school system, which is important in this day and age,” said Waterson.

Tayara Brooks is a fourteen year PUSD veteran who teaches third grade at Longfellow Elementary School who will be honored at the luncheon.

“I became a teacher because I wanted to inspire students and I wanted to instill in them a love of learning. Since I love to learn and I love to make connections within my learning, I wanted to bring that into my classroom,” said Brooks who immerses her students in current events as a method to help them apply what’s learned in the classroom to the outside world.

“Teaching is the one profession where every year is new and exciting for new students to be able to learn and to be able to feel success. That’s what makes teaching awesome. To see that wonderment and excitement in a student is priceless,” said Brooks.

For Hamilton Elementary Education Specialist Teacher Diana Habib-Nairouz, teaching children is not just a carer, but a calling.

Habib-Nairouz joined PUSD in 2013 and is already making her mark as a teacher of excellence.

“I love my job and my students, and I cannot imagine doing anything else besides teaching,” said Habib-Nairouz. “To me, it’s the most enjoyable and rewarding work experience ever.”

Over at Jackson Dual Language Magnet Academy, Kindergarten teacher Tina Minkler focuses her energy with a one-student-at-a-time approach, making sure no child is left behind.

“I believe that each child is a unique individual who needs a secure, caring, and stimulating atmosphere in which to grow and mature emotionally, intellectually, physically, and socially. It is my desire as an educator to help students meet their fullest potential in these areas by providing an environment that is safe, supports risk-taking, and invites a sharing of ideas,” said Minkler who has worked as an educator in PUSD for 17 years.

Teachers are often associated with selfless characteristics and such is the case for Washington STEAM Magnet Academy sixth grade math and science teacher Linda Ortega whose mission is to open a pathway of success for disadvantaged students.

Ortega has been with the PUSD for ten years.

“My ultimate goal of becoming a teacher was to try to help kids that come from backgrounds where the odds are stacked against them and trying to get them to understand that they are capable and able to succeed at whatever they do regardless of their background,” explained Ortega.

The next generation of visionary scientists are being taught by Wilson Middle School’s Jason Taylor who teaches advanced math and the school’s renowned robotics program.

“I think [Taylor] is a representation of all of the good teaching that happens at Wilson Middle School,” said Wilson Middle School Principal Sarah Rudchenko.

“I think the Teachers of Excellence Program recognizes those outstanding teachers that are in our school district and I believe our teachers give one hundred and ten percent all the time,” added Rudchenko.

All five teachers will be honored at the “Teachers of Excellence” luncheon Wednesday at the University Club located at 175 N Oakland Ave. The public is invited to attend. There is a fee for the luncheon.

Rotary is an organization comprised of business and professional leaders united worldwide to provide humanitarian service and help to build goodwill and peace in the world. It is comprised of 1.2 million members working in more than 33,000 clubs in 200 countries and geographic regions.

The Pasadena Rotary Club has over 200 members that meet at a weekly at the University Club Pasadena with amazing, dedicated members contributing to the well-being and growth of the community, region, and world.

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