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Pasadena Unified Teachers Receive Local And National Accolades

PUSD teachers

Courtesy Photo from L to R: Ravishanth Dev Anandhan (Sierra Madre Middle School), Mellason Chidester, (Longfellow Elementary School), Rose Evans (Pasadena High School), Maria A. Soto (Willard Elementary School) and Kaiulani Sallas Venable (Jefferson Elementary School).

The Pasadena Rotary Club honored five PUSD educators as “Teachers of Excellence” during their annual ceremony in May that honors teachers who excel in their profession. This year’s honorees are: Ravishanth Dev Anandhan (Sierra Madre Middle School), Mellason Chidester, (Longfellow Elementary School), Rose Evans (Pasadena High School), Maria A. Soto (Willard Elementary School) and Kaiulani Sallas Venable (Jefferson Elementary School).
The Teachers of Excellence program is a collaborative effort between the Rotary Club, the PUSD, and the United Teachers of Pasadena. The Rotary Club invites all school principals and parent associations to nominate teachers for this honor, and a selection committee composed of administrators, principals, Rotarians and previous winners reviews the entries.
This year’s Teachers of Excellence recipients have distinguished themselves as teachers who engage students in learning, create an exciting classroom environment, and have a positive impact on the future of PUSD students. Finalists submitted an essay, and a video, filmed and produced by PUSD’s KLRN television station, to demonstrate classroom activity and discuss their personal experiences, perspectives, and goals.
Teachers of Excellence winners were honored during an awards ceremony May 21. One winner, Mellason Chidester, will have the additional honor of being named the PUSD nominee for Los Angeles County Teacher of the Year. Video vignettes about each of the winners can be found at
Fifteen California teachers spent June 4-7 in New Orleans participating in TeachFest, a unique professional development event focused on creating high-quality Common Core curricular resources. The educators attended the event as part of LearnZillion’s national Dream Team of 200 talented math and English language arts (ELA) teachers.
At TeachFest, the Dream Team kicked-off a rigorous summer-long collaboration with educators from around the country – deepening their understanding of the Common Core State Standards and gathering best practices as input for their work with LearnZillion. Dream Team members have now returned to their respective districts to continue their work as part of a LearnZillion-facilitated digital professional learning community (PLC).
Participants from California included: Cheryl Shay, Berryessa Union School District; Debbie Neighbors, Berryessa Union School District; Debi Bober, Long Beach Unified School District; Helen Papadopoulos, Walnut Valley Unified School District; Jaime Bonato, San Juan Unified School District; Kim Bobadilla, Davis Joint Unified School District; Kristen Miller, Natomas Unified School District; Laureen-Nadirah Nayo, Pasadena Unified School District; Lisa Stone, Santa Clara County Office of Education; Marcello Sgambelluri, Santa Clara Unified School District; Miriam Hannig, Union Elementary School District; Nikole Gaines Reina-Guerra, Davis Joint Unified School District; Rebecca Scarfone, Temecula Valley Unified School District; Ryan Keeley, Berkeley Unified School District; Ashleigh Swiontek, graduate student.
“Like every member of our Dream Team, these educators embraced this challenging professional learning opportunity because they are passionate about developing their practice and scaling their impact for the benefit of teachers and students around the world,” said Eric Westendorf, LearnZillion CEO. “It is an honor to work with and to champion talented, impact-oriented educators like this group from California.”
The diverse 2014 Dream Team members were selected from a competitive pool of 4,000 applicants. They represent 42 states, three countries (U.S., Singapore and Tunisia) and over 2,300 years of teaching experience, ranging from two to 42 years in the classroom. Click here for a complete list of educators.

Two Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) teachers will be conducting research in Tahiti this summer alongside marine biologists from top California universities. Washington Elementary STEM Magnet teachers Margaret (Marge) Blackford and Amethyst Juknavorian will be immersed in the environment of scientific research as part of the Moorea Coral Reef Long Term Ecological Research (MCR LTER) project.
The MCR LTER is a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded project with marine scientists from several UC & CSU sites conducting research to understand the effects on coral reefs due to natural and human events via data collection and analysis. The research takes place at UC Berkeley’s Gump South Pacific Research Station on the island of Moorea, French Polynesia. Over the past decade a tremendous amount of raw data has been collected and catalogued.
MCR LTER has partnered with Washington Elementary in PUSD since 2007 to bring marine science education to district students and teachers. In 2014 MCR LTER conducted a workshop at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) for teachers from Washington, Jackson, Madison, Cleveland and Field Elementary Schools. MCR LTER desires to further collaborate with public education to share data, develop curriculum and inspire students and teachers. NSF & UCSB realize that the sustainability and preservation of ecologies is dependent on relevance to K-12 education. The impact of their work will be carried out with direct connection to teachers and students.
Blackford and Juknavorian will join MCR LTER marine scientists in Moorea for 20 days: 10 days on the Kilo Moana research ship and 10 days at the Gump Research Station. They will be blogging, interviewing and bringing an educator’s experience to the work. Following the summer research experience, the teachers will work with Washington Elementary’s STEM Coordinator, Jodie West, to develop lessons and student projects that can be provided to MCR LTER’s library for free teacher use.

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