DOWNEY – Downey educators Lisa Mitchener, Natalie Soto and Ryan Chitwood received "Teacher of the Year" honors at Tuesday's school board meeting, courtesy of Downey United Masonic Lodge 220.
Since 1964 the Downey Masonic Lodge has presented its Teacher of the Year honor to an educator from each level in the Downey Unified School District.
Beginning at the elementary level, Lisa Mitchener a fourth-grade teacher, was selected for her "unwavering dedication and superior service" to the students at Gauldin Elementary School. She began her teaching career at Gauldin in 1994 and quickly took leadership roles, becoming a BTSA Support Provider, a GATE leader and a Carnival of Champions Coach.
Knowing the importance of technology in education, she took part in the 1999 Vons/Pavilion’s Teach the Teacher Collaborative in which she created an online computer project. This project was one of nine projects selected to be part of the Smithsonian’s permanent collection in its effort to track the Information Age.
“Even 17 years ago she saw the importance of technology,” stated Gauldin principal Dolores Goble. “Lisa always embraces all of the new curriculum and technology with her usual finesse and gets to business. I feel extremely blessed to work side-by-side with her on a daily basis.”
Natalie Soto, a science teacher at Griffiths Middle School, was chosen as the second Masonic Teacher of the Year. Teaching eighth-grade Physical Science and sixth-grade Earth Science at Griffiths for the past six years, Soto provides her students with face-to-face interactions with professionals to enrich their learning though her participation in NASA’s Airborne Research Experience for Educators.
Her Master’s level work has aided in her comprehension of the Next Generation Science Standards, while strengthening her knowledge and understanding of scientific principles and student development.
“Mrs. Soto makes her love of teaching science evident as she connects with students and works hard to engage them in the subject,” said Dr. Rani Bertsch, Griffiths Middle School principal. “With the help of her leadership, our school has earned outstanding science scores.”
Soto has also been on the forefront of piloting Griffiths’ HERO program to acknowledge student effort and is on the Positive Behavior Interventions and Support Committee.
Selected from the high school level, math and physical education teacher Ryan Chitwood from Columbus High School, was the final Downey Unified teacher to be honored.
Chitwood graduated from Long Beach State University with a degree in Mathematics. He started his teaching career almost seven years ago at Columbus and makes a daily practice of motivating students.
Chitwood builds relationships with students who often have a challenge with school, and through these relationships, he makes it his mission to create lesson plans and materials that will aid in their success.
Columbus High’s principal, Anthony Zegarra, had nothing but admiration for Mr. Chitwood, saying “Ryan is a leader on campus and most of all a cheerleader for our students. He has the ability to motivate and work with every student and he gives them hope that they too can achieve anything.”