Three teachers from across Downey Unified were recognized by the Downey United Masonic Lodge 220 at the Board of Education’s monthly meeting held last Tuesday, April 25.
This annual award, which first began in 1964, is presented to a teacher from each level in the Downey Unified School District. This year’s Masonic Teacher of the Year recipients were Carol Carter, Cindy Espeseth and Greg Elsasser.
Beginning at the elementary level, Carol Carter, a Transitional Kindergarten (TK) teacher at Williams Elementary School, was selected for her "unwavering dedication and superior service to students."
Beginning her teaching career at Williams in 1996, Carter has touched the lives of over 600 students that have walked onto the Williams campus. Becoming a type of “guru” for the TK realm within Downey Unified, Carter’s philosophy remains that giving students the gift of time to develop specific skills will prepare them to be successful life-long learners.
“She continually embraces the district’s vision for our students in what she does with the kids in her classroom,” expressed Williams Elementary School Principal Teresa Medina. “She sets the foundation for her students to become college and career ready, globally competitive and children of strong character. That may sound silly, because they are only 4 years old, but Carol truly believes that the road to their success starts with her.”
Cindy Espeseth, a Social Studies teacher at Sussman Middle School, was chosen as the second Masonic Teacher of the Year. Teaching Social Studies, AVID, English, and even Exploratory Art, Espeseth has positively worked with a diverse student body.
She has also ran the intervention program for five years and was a key player when Sussman Middle School won a Golden Bell Award for Outstanding Middle School Intervention Program.
Espeseth was the first core subject teacher at Sussman, and one of the pioneers in Downey Unified, to integrate computers into her lessons on a daily basis. Today 90 percent of all her lessons are taught utilizing computers and other various forms of technology.
“In June of 2016, Downey Unified was officially designated by The Partnership for 21st Century Learning as a 21st Century Learning Exemplar District for its 21st Century learning practices in preparing students for success in college, career and life,” stated Dr. Robert Jagielski, Sussman Middle School principal. “And Mrs. Cindy Espeseth clearly exemplifies the qualities of what makes a great 21st Century teacher.”
Selected from the high school level, English teacher Greg Elsasser from Warren High School, was the final Downey Unified teacher to be honored. Elsasser began working at Warren High School in 2002 but has been with Downey Unified since 1996, beginning his career teaching at Griffiths Middle School before becoming a Bear.
Aside from teaching, he is the English department chair, serves on various leadership teams, occasionally subs in the dean’s office at Warren and is a published author.
Warren High’s principal, Laura Rivas, had nothing but admiration for Mr. Elsasser as she spoke.
“His students know that he cares about their learning and their well-being… Greg is a caring educator, a supportive colleague, and an uplifting leader. He has earned the respect and trust of his colleagues, administration, students and families.”
All three of the Downey Unified teachers that were awarded the Masonic Teacher of the Year exhibit qualities that direct students down a path that leads them to be citizens of strong character and globally competitive, while providing them with the appropriate tools to be both college and career ready, DUSD officials said.