IUSD Announces 2017-18 Teachers of the Year

IUSD teachers of the year 2018

Early this morning, a caravan of District staff and IUSD Board Members traveled to seven schools to announce the three Teachers of the Year and the four Teachers of Promise for the 2017-18 school year. Click here for this year’s Teachers of Promise.

Now in its 32nd year, IUSD’s Teacher of the Year program recognizes exceptional instructors at the elementary, middle and high school levels. Below are this year’s honorees.

Elementary School Teacher of the Year
Emily Bucago
Transitional Kindergarten Teacher
Westpark Elementary

Elementary teacher of the year Emily Bucago has been with IUSD for nearly 14 years. She received the Elementary Teacher of the Year designation for her never-ending enthusiasm and energy. Each day, Westpark Elementary’s youngest students begin their day of wonder as they are greeted by Bucago, who wears a different themed outfit, reminiscent of Mrs. Frizzle of the Magic School Bus series.

According to Westpark Principal Deanna Rutter, “Mrs. Bucago has created a classroom environment that fosters learning and development through fun and play. Her students never know how intentional every activity is but Mrs. Bucago does. Her infectious love for teaching and her students inspires us all!”

Bucago has also built strong relationships with her parent community, providing them with in-depth information about student progress and needs. She will often take pictures and videos of student work so parents can regularly see what is happening in the classroom and their child at work.

Her passion for students and education extends beyond her classroom. She champions athletics, coaching the girls after-school soccer team and the school running club for any student who wishes to participate. She also serves as a District mentor to other transitional kindergarten teachers, working to align best practices.

Middle School Teacher of the Year
Nelly Tsai
Science Teacher
Lakeside Middle School

middle school teacher of the year Nelly Tsai has worked for IUSD at Lakeside Middle School since 2012 as a science teacher. She has taught 7th and 8th grade science and served as department chair, Green Team advisor, Professional Learning Community facilitator coach, and science mentor. Tsai has written and reviewed items for the California Science Test, she has reviewed instructional materials for national standards and has been selected to review exemplary science lessons twice a year in various parts of the country.

Additionally, she was awarded an Irvine Public Schools Foundation grant to partner with UCI, is a recipient of the Cox Innovation and Education classroom grant, and she was awarded a 1:1 tech grant from the District for a Chromebook cart for her classroom.

Principal Gina Cuneo said, “Everything Nelly does is for her students, from building a garden to having them investigate the water of Woodbridge Lake. Every grant she writes, every state and national committee in which she is involved in is for one reason – to benefit her students. She strives to make them better and more enthusiastic science students. She is a gem!”

High School Teacher of the Year
Archana Jain
Math Teacher
Irvine High School

high school teacher of the year Archana Jain has been an IUSD teacher for more than 12 years. Prior to joining IUSD, she was an aerospace engineer for a decade. Jain not only uses her experience and impressive background in the classroom but she also has used it to create an engineering pathway for Irvine High School and formed the Irvine Technology and Engineering Center to give students access to rapid prototyping tools and industry software. By establishing a dynamic, project-based environment, she has helped students, who may be struggling in core classes find academic success and purpose.

Jain serves as a mentor to all students. She has encouraged and inspired young women to get involved in STEM. She is a mentor for the Robotics Club, the Society of Women Engineers, the Engineering Club, Astronomy Club and OC Maker Challenge. She is also working as a mentor for the propulsion team for the Irvine CubeSat program, which is an after school work-based learning program in which students from six Irvine schools have successfully built a Nano-satellite, scheduled for launch this year. As a leader in the program, she led the teacher/mentor presentation at the California STEM conference. The first and second year teams for the CubeSat program have been more than 50 percent female from Irvine High School.

Irvine High School Principal Monica Collunga said, “Archana has embraced a growth mindset and intellectual risking taking – utilizing her real-world experience to foster a love of learning and resiliency for her students. She is an inspiration both inside the classroom and out, introducing and engaging students in STEM.”

More information about the Teacher of the Year program
Nominations are submitted by District employees and candidates are later interviewed by a committee that includes teachers, principals and administrators. That panel ultimately narrows the field to three, using the following criteria: Evidence of a wide range of instructional strategies used effectively; commitment to the teaching profession; and demonstration of Irvine teachers’ values of integrity, empowerment, learning, collaboration and trust.

Teachers of Promise
IUSD also recognizes a handful of standout first- and second-year teachers, who are announced as “Teachers of Promise.” Click here for the 2017-18 Teachers of Promise.

Excellence in Teaching Awards Banquet
All of this year’s honorees will be formally recognized on April 27 at the Excellence in Teaching Awards dinner, which is organized each year by the Exchange Club of Irvine and the Irvine Teachers Association.