Alicia McBride of La Mesa was caught off-guard when she was the last of 10 finalists for county Teacher of the Year to be named at a televised ceremony Saturday.
But when she was announced as one of five winners—for her work with mentally ill and other students at a Probation Department-run school in La Mesa—she said she was shocked.
“I had no idea” she’d be chosen for the $1,000 prize and a chance of becoming state Teacher of the Year, she said Monday morning from her school in an industrial/commercial center of central La Mesa. “It was just an honor to be nominated.”
A La Mesa resident for two years, McBride says she shares the honor with her school and students—about 30 in all from seventh to 12th grades who take her English and history classes after being let out of juvenile detention, including a facility in Campo.
“Regardless of their past, it’s important they start with a fresh slate,” she said of her students, some of whom have drug dependencies that lead to commotion in the classroom.
When students first enter the Reflections program classroom, hosted by a local business, they can be verbally aggressive, said McBride, a former probation officer. But once they’ve been with her for a while, they settle down and show respect.
Success isn’t immediately noted, she said.
One male student left the program on poor terms, but three years later called to invite her to his high school graduation.
“Those are the big successes—when kids remember,” said McBride, 38, who has taught at the school since 2007.
One student contacted her after the ceremony, telling her: “You were my Teacher of the Year. Now everybody knows.”
A previous county Teacher of the Year—Sandra McBrayer of San Diego’s Homeless Outreach School, another under-the-radar program—was named national Teacher of the Year in 1994.
McBride said the award also served to honor her school as well, and said: “It’s not about numbers [of students]; it’s about passion.”
When judges for the state Teacher of the Year visit her class next week, she said, she’ll do whatever she normally does, but “we might have a crisis when they come in,” she said.
Awareness of her school, whose exact location isn’t being publicly disclosed, is an opportunity for the community to be “part of the solution” to youngsters with mental health and drug issues that wind up in the juvenile jail system.
In her application for Teacher of the Year, McBride said:
My students are frequently going through some of the most difficult ordeals of their lives. They may have been removed from their home and placed in a group home the previous day. A parent may have been arrested or sent back to prison. They carry the burden of not only their own mistakes, but of their family members as well. My classroom is a place where they can not only escape the stress of their current situation, but can feel a sense of pride in their
academic accomplishments as well as hope in their future.
Cox Presents: A Salute to Teachers will replay on Channel 4 San Diego Friday, Oct. 7, and at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15. The show about the 21st annual awards was presented by Ashford University in cooperation with the San Diego County Office of Education. It was televised live on Channel 4 San Diego from the Balboa Theater in downtown San Diego.
Other 2011-12 San Diego County Teachers of the Year are:
- Mark Alcorn, Robert E. Lee Elementary School (San Diego Unified School District)
- Yolanda Sherard, Rancho del Rey Middle School (Sweetwater Union High School District)
- Mark Burroughs, San Pasqual Union School (San Pasqual Union School District)
- And Jo-Ann Fox, Reidy Creek School (Escondido Union School District)
The five Teachers of the Year will go on to represent San Diego County in the California Teacher of the Year program, which will be announced later this year. Nominees for San Diego County Teacher of the Year were selected by their school districts based on student achievement, teaching philosophy, familiarity with current issues in education and community involvement.
Winners also got an electronic tablet and an engraved crystal apple.
How does McBride deal with the stresses of her job?
She noted in her application (attached):
Amazingly enough, to this day softball plays an important role in my life. Some of my fellow teachers and I play in a coed softball league. Although now it does not pay my college tuition, it does help me unwind and release the stress of a tough week in the classroom. After a challenging day, I look forward to the time I spend with my colleagues, laughing together and sharing our classroom experiences with one another.
I believe that in order to be an effective teacher you must also be a healthy and well rounded person.