Local California Educator Winner of the Great American Teach-Off – Wins $10,000 Classroom Grant from GOOD and University of Phoenix

Published : Tuesday, April 24, 2012 | 12:17 AM

Daryl Bilandzija

Thousands of teachers from across the nation have been nominated but only ten were named finalists in the Great American Teach-Off. The online community GOOD, and University of Phoenix teamed up to host the contest, which awarded a $10,000 classroom grant to one innovative middle or high school teacher.

The winner is: Daryl Bilandzija: Odyssey Charter School, Altadena, CA

Daryl Bilandzija has been teaching English for ten years, woodworking for fifteen, and gardening for almost his entire life. Daryl combines his love of design and building with his passion for literature to create dynamic learning environments where his students can explore real world problems and ponder life’s great philosophical questions in inquiry-based settings. At his former high school, Daryl developed an internship program where he taught his students woodworking and ecological garden design.

At his current school, Daryl designed and built all the furniture for the middle school bungalows using all sustainable materials. Daryl is currently converting a quarter acre of the school campus to edible gardens and fruit orchards, which will eventually serve as part of the school’s healthy lunch program.

In addition to bringing sustainability into the curriculum, Daryl believes in the power of theater arts to create transcendent experiences for his students and the larger community. Every year, Daryl directs and produces a play for the entire school. The last two years Daryl directed Shakespeare plays, and this year, he and his students are working on an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, which will be performed in the edible learning gardens that he and his students are creating.

Daryl is certified in Permaculture Design, received his BA in English from Sonoma State University, his teaching credential from San Francisco State University, and is completing his Masters of Arts in Urban Sustainability from Antioch University.

A solid foundation in education is what drives innovation, ambition and our economy,” said University of Phoenix President, Bill Pepicello, Ph.D. “We are proud to recognize the hard work of classroom teachers across America for their leadership and commitment to making a better tomorrow.”

“GOOD has always existed as a platform to shine a spotlight on the most creative ideas, people and organizations moving the world forward, and in a time in which it is commonplace to criticize and blame teachers for some of the educational challenges our children face, we decided to create the Great American Teach-Off in order to refocus some of that lens to all of the educators across the country who are making a real impact in their students’ lives,” commented Ben Goldhirsh, co-founder and CEO of GOOD. “Partnering with the University of Phoenix is a natural fit as they stand behind the idea that education is the path to success both personally and as a broader global community.”

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