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    Pacific Graduates Receive Prestigious, $15,000 Teaching Awards: Teachers Are Nominated by Former Students from Low Performing Schools

    May 14, 2010

    High schools in low-income areas often have teachers who work late into the evening, or through their lunch break, to ensure their students reach their full potential. Despite having classrooms filled with educationally-disadvantaged students, and teaching in underfunded schools, they have a profound, life-changing impact on students' lives. Yet these teachers are rarely recognized for their efforts.

    To help shine some light on these deserving educators, the Carlston Family Foundation each year recognizes five exceptional California high school teachers. This year two of the Carlston Family Foundation's Outstanding Teachers of America are University of the Pacific graduates. Both will receive a $15,000 cash award and $5,000 for their schools. The Newport Beach-based nonprofit organization will honor the teachers during a ceremony on Oct. 16.

    The honorees from Pacific are Alicia Taylor, a calculus teacher at Edison High School in Stockton, and Nicole DiRanna, a biology teacher at Centennial High School in Compton. Taylor graduated from Pacific with a bachelor's degree in math in 1987. DiRanna received a psychology degree from Pacific in 2001. The teachers were selected for the awards on April 3 and recently notified by the foundation.

    "These teachers consistently produce academically successful students in the most challenging circumstances," said Tim Allen, executive director of the Carlston Family Foundation. "Despite the circumstances, they elevate their expectations for their students and do everything in their power to make sure the students meet those expectations."

    To be eligible for the awards, the teachers must be nominated by former students who are either currently enrolled in a four-year university or have already graduated from one. The foundation then interviews other former students, colleagues and the principal of the teacher's school. The goal is to determine if the teacher has consistently been a life-changing influence in students' lives. 

    The foundation began the Outstanding Teachers of America Awards in 2003 as a way to reward dedicated teachers who have a documented history of success, despite the obstacles of teaching in low-performing schools and low-income areas. The selected teachers also sit on an advisory board for the foundation's annual education symposium. The symposium is designed to address significant educational issues affecting teacher effectiveness, teacher recruitment, teacher retention, professional development and student performance.