‘PEOPLE’ Announces 2013 “Teacher of the Year” Award Winners

NEW YORK--()--PEOPLE, America’s most successful and popular magazine, today announced the winners of its second annual “Teacher of the Year” Awards (#teacherofyear): Marsha Dionisio (Hugh J. Boyd Jr. Elementary School in Seaside, NJ), John Herber (Oakcrest Elementary School in Pensacola, Florida) ), Mary Kurt-Mason (Pagosa Springs High School in Pagosa Springs, Colorado), the teaching team of Brenda Martinez, Radames Galarza, and Elissa Guarnero (A.L.B.A. School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin), Valencia Robinson (New Smyrna Beach Middle School in Volusia, Florida), and PEOPLE’s “Readers’ Choice” winner, Art Almquist (Tucson High Magnet School in Tucson, Arizona).

PEOPLE’s “Teacher of the Year” Awards honor these extraordinary educators – nominated by readers and selected by PEOPLE’s editors with guidance from an all-star advisory board of education professionals – who are changing the lives of their students and paving the way for a new generation of American leaders. Each winner will be featured in the October 28 issue of PEOPLE magazine (on newsstands nationwide Friday, October 18), and will receive $5000 ($4000 for their school and $1000 for themselves). In addition, they will be feted in New York at a special luncheon on October 18. For the second consecutive year, PEOPLE’s “Teacher of the Year” Awards is presented by Kellogg’s® Frosted Mini-Wheats®, a brand that recognizes the important role that teachers play in helping children reach their individual potential.

“We all remember those special teachers who changed our lives, who helped us achieve, who set us on a path to becoming successful adults,” said Larry Hackett, editor, PEOPLE. “The winners of our 2013 contest are doing just that for their students, each in a different way.” Kellogg’s® Frosted Mini-Wheats® “believes in helping kids reach their greatest potential each day in school. That’s why we’re proud to recognize hard-working teachers who share in that mission with us by once again partnering with PEOPLE’s Teacher of the Year Awards,” said Matt Lindsay, Marketing Director, Morning Foods from Kellogg Company.


Marsha Dionisio – Dionisio literally reinvented her fourth grade classroom after the Jersey Shore was decimated by hurricane Sandy last October. “Our classrooms were submerged in water. All our school materials were covered in mud, flooded by the ravaging storm," she explains. Dionisio developed a new curriculum from scratch using the illustrated children’s novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, to teach an array of topics. For geography and art, her students drew pictures of Paris, and she tapped a high school art teacher to teach line and illustration techniques. For math, she enlisted the help of the vice principal, who performed magic tricks dressed as Merlin, and brought to life the illusions discussed in the book. Students used ratio, proportion, and probability to figure out how the tricks worked. "Marsha put aside the fact that she, too, had lost a home, lost a neighborhood,” says the school principal, “and turned lemons into lemonade for her students."

John Herber – Before Herber started teaching at his elementary school seven years ago, only 16 percent of the school's fifth graders were considered proficient in science. Last year, 59 percent passed the test, more than the state or district average. Herber has formed school-community partnerships to help enrich his classes, bringing in experts. "We have learned about honey production and honeybee lifecycles from a beekeeper, the principles of flight and airflow from a pilot, and melting and saturation points from candle and soap makers," he says. Off duty, he volunteers as a football and basketball coach so that kids who don’t qualify for varsity teams have the chance to play; his blue 2008 Subaru often serves as the "team bus." His goal, says Herber "is to ensure my students do not know they are disadvantaged."

Mary Kurt-Mason – Kurt-Mason changed the name of her school’s program from “severe needs” to “special talents.” Her students include those who are non-verbal, non-ambulatory, blind, and who have developmental or emotional issues -- not necessarily a group most teachers would bring on a three-day river rafting trip without their parents. But each year she does just that. “I believe in my students’ right to take risks like everyone else. I teach reading, writing, arithmetic and risk-taking.” She also created the “Walk Across America” program, where the entire class walks daily, accumulating the miles it would take to walk to different states. Once they collectively reach the distance of a particular state, they learn about it. The class received a letter from the White House after “walking” to Washington, DC.

Brenda Martinez, Radames Galarza, and Elissa Guarnero – Martinez, Galarza, and Guarnero banded together 10 years ago to found A.LB.A., a bilingual charter elementary school in Milwaukee’s south side, with the aim of developing positive self-identity in bilingual students through the fine arts and a rigorous curriculum. Prior to founding A.L.B.A., each had worked in Milwaukee schools for at least five years. “We had found ourselves teaching at schools where bilingual students were treated as though their culture and language was a liability rather than an asset,” they said. The school serves a high-poverty population, yet its students have achieved proficiency levels that meet or exceed state averages in reading and math. Last year 90 percent scored proficient or better in math, while reading scores jumped from 50 to 85 percent proficiency.

Valencia Robinson – Robinson has her own against-the-odds story as a “slow learner,” so when she graduated from college, “my mission was to help every struggling reader and every disadvantaged youth I could.” Today she teaches “at-risk, homeless, autistic, ADD, ADHD, you name it. It’s the kids who many turn their back on when it comes to reading.” After students work with Robinson, their standardized test scores increase 55-60 percent. Through grants, she has acquired new tools and technology, like the Edmodo social learning app, which has bolstered her students’ engagement. She also cares about more than just reading scores. “Through field trips to plantations, universities, and state parks, I take my students places they would never get a chance to see otherwise. Outside of the classroom, my husband and I started a foundation to support the struggling families of the children I teach. We have paid water bills, bought groceries, and helped with mammograms.”

Art Almquist – Over the last 17 years, drama teacher Almquist has helped dozens of at-risk students — some homeless, many from troubled homes — graduate and go on to college. He’s inspired hundreds more to express themselves through improvisation and original written works. When he first started teaching at the 3,000-student school near the Mexican border, the theater had outdated equipment and graffiti-stained chairs. Almquist “went into fundraising overdrive” and raised $125,000. While producing plays that take on topics as wide-ranging as AIDS, immigration, and issues faced by military families, he has built an award-winning theater program, honored for the last six years by the American High School Theater Festival.


Jennifer Bohn – One of PEOPLE's 2012 “Teacher of the Year” award winners. Bohn is coordinator of the International Baccalaureate program at Maynard Evans High School in Orlando, Florida. An 18-year veteran at Evans, she teaches Leadership Development to at-risk students. As an adviser for the BETA club, a group that teaches leadership skills, Bohn helped her students publish a 138-page book, Everyone Has a Story to Tell, a collection of interviews of 30 homeless people from the area.

Dr. John Deasy – Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second largest. Prior to joining the LAUSD in August 2010, Deasy served as Deputy Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where he led the programmatic work on effective teaching.

Lily Eskelsen-Garcia – A sixth-grade teacher from Utah and Vice President of the more than three million-member National Education Association. She was named by President Obama to serve as a commissioner on the White House Commission on Education Excellence for Hispanics.

Wendy Kopp – Founder and chair of Teach For All and Teach For America, which has enlisted 33,000 new graduates to commit two years of teaching in low-income communities and to become lifelong leaders for educational excellence and equity. Kopp is also Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Teach For All, a global network of independent social enterprises, which are similarly working to expand educational opportunity.

John Legend – Grammy-winning recording artist and philanthropist. He is the founder of the Show Me Campaign, an organization that works to break the cycle of poverty through education.

Otha Thornton – President of National PTA. He is a senior operations analyst with General Dynamics in Fort Stewart, Georgia. Thornton is a retired United States Army Lieutenant Colonel; his last two assignments were with the White House Communications Agency and United States Forces-Iraq in Baghdad. He earned the Bronze Star Medal for exceptional performance in combat operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom 2009-2010.


PEOPLE revolutionized personality journalism in 1974, and each week, the PEOPLE brand brings more than 53 million consumers the latest news, exclusive interviews and in-depth reporting on the most compelling people of our time. In addition to unparalleled access to the entertainment community, the stories of real-life “Heroes Among Us” remain an essential component of PEOPLE’s editorial approach. PEOPLE.com is the premier web destination for celebrity news, photos, style and entertainment coverage. With reporters across the globe, PEOPLE is headquartered in New York City. For more information visit www.PEOPLE.com/teacherofyear.

About Kellogg Company

At Kellogg Company (NYSE: K), we are driven to enrich and delight the world through foods and brands that matter. With 2012 sales of $14.2 billion, Kellogg is the world’s leading cereal company; second largest producer of cookies, crackers and savory snacks; and a leading North American frozen foods company. Every day, our well-loved brands nourish families so they can flourish and thrive. These brands include Kellogg’s®, Keebler®, Special K®, Pringles®, Frosted Flakes®, Pop-Tarts®, Corn Flakes®, Rice Krispies®, Kashi®, Cheez-It®, Eggo®, Coco Pops®, Mini-Wheats®, and many more. Because we believe in the power of breakfast, we focus our philanthropic efforts on global hunger relief through our Breakfasts for Better Days™ initiative, providing 1 billion servings of cereal and snacks - more than half of which are breakfasts - to children and families in need by the end of 2016. To learn more about our responsible business leadership, foods that delight and how we strive to make a difference in our communities around the world, visit www.kelloggcompany.com.


Kathryn Brenner, Kathryn_Brenner@peoplemag.com
Julie Farin, Julie_Farin@peoplemag.com

Release Summary

PEOPLE, America’s most successful and popular magazine, today announced the winners of its second annual 2013 “Teacher of the Year” Awards (#teacherofyear)


Kathryn Brenner, Kathryn_Brenner@peoplemag.com
Julie Farin, Julie_Farin@peoplemag.com