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1970 - Lagasse family helps save Mentryville buildings as Newhall and Malibu brush fires erupt & join into worst fire in SoCal history. Twelve fires over 10 days burn 525,000 acres, kill 13 people and destroy approx. 1,500 structures. [story]


Sixteen Teachers Named ‘Best of the Best’ by Hart District Schools
| Wednesday, Sep 14, 2011

Kate Povletich, a Golden Valley High School social studies teacher, was announced as the District Teacher of the Year by the Wm. S. Hart Union High School District Governing Board, last week. Povletich is the social studies department chair, senior class advisor and a member of the professional development team.

Povletich teaches Advanced Placement (AP) world history, U.S. History, government and economics. She holds national board certification and started teaching at Golden Valley in 2004, following seven years teaching at Arroyo Seco Junior High, where she was a past recipient of the teacher of the year award. Povletich has a passion for developing curriculum that is interesting and meets a wide variety of learning styles and levels. She is known for her ability to work with students until they figure out how to succeed. Povletich attended the University of Wisconsin where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education, then went on to earn a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from National University.

Povletich set out on a new challenge when she moved from Arroyo Seco to the newly opened Golden Valley High School and has reflected on her decision to make this change. “I realize that the joys of teaching have not changed,” Povletich said. “The methods change, the people you work with change and the students change, but my passion has never wavered.”

Sixteen teachers representing all of the Hart District’s schools have been named Teacher of the Year by their respective sites. The honorees were introduced to the Hart District Governing Board at its September 7 meeting and honored for their outstanding contributions to their school.

This year’s Teachers of the Year and the schools they represent (click photos to enlarge):

Anna Bettencourt has been a special education teacher in the Hart District since 2005 and she has been the department chair since August 2007. She teaches students from 18 – 22 years old at Transition Learning Charter (TLC). TLC students are prepared to meet the challenges of the future as lifelong learners and responsible citizens. She earned a liberal studies degree from Cal State University, Bakersfield and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in special education. Bettencourt prides herself on the fact that there is a sense of mutual respect in her classroom where teamwork and problem solving are valued. “The reason why I became a special education teacher was because I felt I could make a difference in someone’s life,” she remarked.

Aaron Davis has been a science teacher at Valencia High School since 2007. He earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Cal Poly Pomona and his master’s degree in geography at Cal State University, Northridge, where he also taught for a year.  As a teacher, he stands out because his lectures change daily based on the mood of his class. Davis said, “I do not look at my classroom purely as an institution of learning, but a place that provides guidance, knowledge and compassion, while emphasizing on the foundational tools that help students tackle the challenges of life after high school.”

Lesley Day started at La Mesa Junior High School in 2007 as a math teacher. Currently she is been a member of the La Mesa professional development committee and a La Mesa Builders Club founder. Day earned her liberal studies degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and recently completed her master’s and educational administration credential at Cal State University, Northridge. Day describes that her class thrives on the connections she makes with her students and the relationships they build with her and each other. They learn from each other through listening, high expectations and laughter. When talking about her teaching methods, Day said, “I will put my heart into connecting with you. I will listen to you and respect you. You will drive my instruction. By the end of the year we will both miss each other, but you will leave prepared for what is to come in your future.”

Rachel DeMik has been teaching since 1994 and joined the Hart District in 2007. She started at Rio Norte Junior High School teaching Teen Issues. DeMik is currently a math teacher and the ASB Director at Arroyo Seco Junior High School where she has been since 2008. She earned her bachelor’s degree from San Diego State University and teaching credential from National University. She starts each day ready to accept challenges and using the best teaching practices based on the needs of students. DeMik believes that the only way goals can be accomplished is by working together.

Jennifer Dermody started teaching in 1985. She has taught at three different schools in the Hart District since 1990. Dermody started at Sierra Vista Junior High School, then moved to Passport Academy and is currently teaching math and is the ASB Director at Bowman High School. She has been involved in a variety of projects from writing math curriculum to starting the Bowman recycling program. Dermody recognizes that some of her students come from troubled backgrounds and she does her best to treat them like her own children and incorporates life lessons into her math lessons.

Summer DeWitt is a product of  a district school, having graduated from Canyon High School then moving on to earne an English degree and credential from Cal State University, Northridge. She is now an English teacher and ASB director at Sierra Vista Junior High School. DeWitt has been teaching in the Hart District since 2007. Her fondest memory was making a troubled student her student service (teacher assistant). The only condition was that the student had to raise his grades to Cs or better throughout the semester. Seeing his present and future success confirmed the fact that DeWitt is more than a teacher to her students.

Allison Fitzpatrick has been an English teacher at Placerita Junior High School since 2006. She earned an English degree from UCLA and her credential and master of education at University of La Verne. She started as a substitute teacher in the Hart District. She has been part of the professional learning community leadership team and is currently a site professional development coach at Placerita. Fitzpatrick stresses the fact that humor is necessary in the classroom, to learn from your mistakes and do not sweat the small stuff.

Richard Haring started teaching in the Hart District in 2001. He started his career as a science teacher at Valencia High School and moved to West Ranch High School in 2004. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from UCSB and a master’s in education administration from Cal State University, Northridge. Haring currently serves as AVID coordinator, professional development coach and the science department chair. Additionally, he is also the head boys’ soccer coach at West Ranch. “When I walk across West Ranch High School and see my colleagues and hear what they do for our students, I am constantly reminded of the power of this profession and how important we are as educators,” Haring said.

Patricia Kingery has credentials in general and special education. She has been with the Hart District for 10 years and is currently teaching special education at Canyon High School. Many of Kingery’s students have emotional difficulties and learning disabilities. She says that when students enter her classroom they can expect to be respected, feel safe, challenged academically and over time, learn how to trust her and each other.

Doug Labus has been teaching in the Hart District since 1995. He started at Placerita Junior High, then taught at Hart High School and now he teaches math at Academy of the Canyons. He earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and math credential from The Master’s College. At Academy of the Canyons he is the department chair, a member of the professional development and leadership teams and designed math curriculum for a new department. “My goal is to help students rise above their feelings and see that with some hard work, good study habits and a systematic approach to learning, they can win thie battle within themselves, and that is why I love being a math teacher,” Labus said.

Laura Luxmore is a Valencia High School graduate and currently works as a special education teacher and ASB director at Sequoia Charter School. She graduated from Loyola Marymount University and earned her master’s degree at Cal State University, Northridge in mild/moderate special education and also earned an autism certification. “I believe that as teachers, the most important function we serve is as cheerleaders for our students,” Luxmore said. “Instilling them with the confidence that they are incredible individuals, just as they are, and that the best thing you can be in yourself.”

Brenda Mumford teaches English at Rancho Pico Junior High School. In the Hart District, she has also taught at Valencia High School and Placerita Junior High School. As a College of the Canyons graduate, Mumford was the Valedictorian and went on to receive an outstanding student teacher award at Cal State University, Northridge, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English and teaching credential. “Becoming a teacher has been my dream from as far back as I can remember,” Mumford said. “I can still picture my brother and sister in strategically placed chairs, as I wrote on a small chalkboard, conveying a lesson.”

Rene Paragas teaches social studies at Saugus High School, following four years of teaching at Sierra Vista Junior High School. Paragas earned a history degree from Cal Poly Pomona and credential from University of La Verne. Following his passion for coaching, Paragas has been the cross country and track and field coach at Saugus for seven years, while making his role as a teacher his top priority. “It is my responsibility to make lessons as fresh and relevant as possible,” Paragas said. “An educator these days must not only be an expert in their respective field, but know how to present information in such a way as to capture and retain students’ attention while doing it.”

Pete Pew was previously honored as Teacher of the Year in 2004. He has been teaching at Hart High School since 1977. Pew received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Loyola Marymount University. In addition to being a mentor teacher, Pew has been the history department chairperson for 14 years and teaches US history, AP US history, government and AP government, serves as an AP government and politics faculty consultant for The College Board and is a National AP Reader and test grader.  “Teaching certainly has its ups and its downs, but a constant for me has been the students at Hart High School,” Pew said. “In the long run they have never let me down.”

Chad Powell began teaching history in the Hart District in 2002 at Placerita Junior High and later moved to Rio Norte Junior High where he was the history department chair, member of the professional development team and ASB Director. He was appointed assistant principal for Rio Norte and Arroyo Seco Junior High School starting with the current school year. Powell earned his bachelor’s degree in history and teaching credential at Cal State University, Fresno and his master’s in educational administration at Cal State University, Northridge. As a teacher, he described his classes as a learning environment where his students’ opinions count and they can feel comfortable being who they are.

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