Downey Teachers of the Year honored

DOWNEY - Warren High School principal John Harris was especially busy Tuesday as he presented before the board two teachers, its math department's Theresa Wheeler and construction technology teacher Kent Kiess, who received "Teacher of the Year" honors from the Downey United Masonic Lodge No. 220.Also receiving the title were Carpenter's Karen Kjar, representing the elementary schools, and Griffiths' Eric Berchtold, who was similarly honored in the middle school category. In praising Kjar's qualities and accomplishments, Carpenter Elementary principal Ruth Heskett pointed to her work with the district leadership committee on curriculum and instruction, the technology-based programs, "her wearing many, many hats," all attributable to the former's compassion for her students and her "continued commitment to education." Griffiths Middle School principal Gregg Stapp cited the Masons' choice of Berchtold, a sixth grade math teacher, as well-deserved, for his varied and effective juggling of many meaningful and impactful activities and responsibilities, including his determined attempts to increase the number of sixth grade students scoring proficient or above on the math CST from 40 percent to 63 percent as well as, among other things, the successful securing of various grants for the school, and his balancing all this with his responsibilities and commitment as a parent. Harris almost ran out of words in ascribing qualities peculiar to the high school Teacher of the Year, Theresa Wheeler. Harris said Wheeler "has been a valued member of our math department since 1987" and, in teaching all of the courses that have appeared in the school's fundamental math list (general math, pre-algebra, math A and math B, coordinated math, algebra I and geometry), and having dealt closely over the years with the problematic math student, has been uniquely qualified to demonstrate that, given that extra encouragement and advice, there's no reason why students cannot be made to succeed in math. Phil Davis, director of support programs, recounted in detail how one of his teachers, Kent Kiess, began working at 15, driving a multi-ton concrete-mixer truck, and how his admirable work ethic has made him today as one of the most ambitious, level-headed, and forward-looking construction technology teachers he's had the good fortune to have. Kiess has enjoyed many successes, Davis said, but Kiess' biggest success (so far), is with Skills USA where he has molded his students' attitude towards high achievement, leading them to compete at the regional, then the national, level at Mt. Sac. All this, he said, has led to his being chosen, for the first time in CTE's existence, as its Teacher of the Year honoree. Also recognized were the Warren High CIF Southern Section Div. 6 wrestling champions coached by Tim Brogden and assistant coaches Damien Gomez, Ryan Medina and Ruben Gutierrez. Also presented to the board were Elinor De La Torre and Tiffany Ashton for their participation in the PTA Sacramento Safari. Doing the honors was Downey Council PTA president Karin Kirkpatrick.

********** Published: April 19, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 01