2020 Teacher of the Year Nominees

Victoria Tzanev, Reporter

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Every teacher walking the halls of Morton Ranch High School is capable and deserves to win Teacher of the Year. Even so, students and faculty members can only nominate a teacher of their choice, and five of them are chosen from this endless list of magnificent teachers. 

Here they are, Mavs, the five nominees that you picked for the 2020 Teacher of the Year Award: Wendell Ishee, Mary Hernandez, Christopher Owor, Jennifer Alexander, and Angela Angel! 

These five teachers make a difference each day for their students and for our school. Each of them have something unique that makes them stand out from the crowd; it’s what made them shine and be nominated in the first place. 

The first nominee is Mr. Ishee. He’s the AP US history teacher and the offensive line football coach. 

It is truly an honor [to be nominated]. There are so many great teachers at Morton Ranch. They sacrifice their evenings, weekends, and time with families for their students. There are so many worthy of this award. To be recognized as one is truly an honor.” Mr. Ishee says. 

Witnessing Mr. Ishee in the classroom, his direct style of teaching, his invested attitude and support towards his students, and the love and passion he has for the subject, it’s a no brainier as to why he was nominated in the first place. 

“I got observed by my college professor when I was student teaching and she told me I was a natural in the classroom. That changed everything about [my] attitude in education. Funny how a compliment like that can shape a career.” Mr. Ishee admits. 

There’s a stereotype that coaches don’t make good teachers, however Mr. Ishee easily breaks this conformity.

“As a teacher and a coach, it can be overwhelming to keep up with the demands of both jobs,” Mr. Ishee admits. “It’s a job you have to be fully invested in. My parents taught me if I am going to do something, do it through hard work. My dad was successful because he outworked people.  He has instilled that in me.” 

Mr. Ishee is a courageous and selfless teacher who never allows obstacles to stand in his way. He has high goals for himself, for his students, and the halls of MRHS. He doesn’t stand behind a shadow, he leads the crowd to the positive direction inside and outside the classroom. 

“For me, [if I won] I see it as an opportunity to be an advocate for Morton Ranch in the community and the district.” Mr. Ishee said. 

Whether he is on the field or in the classroom, Mr. Ishee is a model of how to be a leader.

The next nominee is Mrs. Hernandez. She teaches Algebra I and II, and is the department chair for math here at MRHS. 

“This nomination is a positive stimulus for me. The people that nominated me can see the positive impact I project both academically and personally in my students,” Mrs. Hernandez begins. “It is also a great responsibility because as a teacher, growth is essential and evolution imperative in order to help our future generations.”

Mrs. Hernandez is not only a teacher to students, but also a friend. She’s patient and persistent to her students. She encourages them to never fall behind in class and to always do their best no matter the situation they are in. 

“I was inspired by my Algebra 1 teacher.” Mrs. Hernandez said. “Her patience, positivity, and willingness to work with us made me love Math more than I already did and made me realize this was the career I wanted to pursue. I love teaching students not just about math, but about life. I have the opportunity to be a positive role model for them. Teaching math is my vocation.”

It’s easy to say that Mrs. Hernandez’s goal as a teacher is not only to educate her students, but also impact their lives. She loves and enjoys the environment here at MRHS, and knows that it’s like a home for her. 

“Morton Ranch has been like a second home to me.” Mrs. Hernandez admits. “After spending 10+ hours daily here it becomes your second home. Not only a home due to the hours you spend here, but the people I get to work with on a daily basis make this job, a tough one, easier. Morton Ranch is a place where I have been able to grow as a professional and able to impact many lives.”

Mrs. Hernandez is a very positive and optimistic person, who always strives to spread it everywhere she goes. 

The third nominee is Mr. Owor. He’s the Teen Leadership teacher and the assistant boys basketball coach at MRHS. 

“I feel very appreciative to be nominated for Teacher of the Year for the third consecutive year.” Mr. Owor said. “I truly feel valued by the students and staff here at Morton Ranch High School.”

As Mr. Owor walks into the room, everyone is immediately struck with his positive attitude and joyous personality. He makes everyone around him smile and laugh, and knows how to bring the energy up in a room. 

“I build quality relationships with all students on campus,” Mr. Owor begins. “My goal as an educator is to strive to provide each student with a positive learning experience that students will look back on and embrace. An experience where students are empowered to take ownership in their learning.”

Even though Mr. Owor initially never imagined himself becoming a teacher, he is certainly a natural. Just by seeing him in the halls, one may believe he’s always wanted to become a teacher, but what ended up inspiring him to take this career path was basketball. 

“The person who inspired me to be the best version of myself was my high school basketball coach.” Mr. Owor said. “Basketball is my platform to develop leadership because it made me who I am throughout life during my time as a student-athlete. I was fortunate to have a high school who taught me who to handle life trials and tribulations through the game of basketball.”

He easily interacts with all students and teachers, and is never afraid to stand out of the crowd. It’s quite evident that he has a true passion and love for his job. 

“Morton Ranch is a school that has a student body that is compassionate, selfless, hard working, and welcoming. Also, the administration creates an environment where risk taking is promoted and I believe that has led to a creative and innovative campus like no other school in the state.” Mr. Owor said. 

Mr. Owor sees himself in his players, because he’s been in their position before and now has become the coach that once inspired him, and hopes that his students and athletes will pass that good will on.

The fourth nominee is Mrs. Alexander. She teaches PreAP English I and AP Lang here at  MRHS.

“Being nominated for teacher of the year, is amazing. I am honored that students and colleagues have considered me for this award. So many teachers at MRHS are deserving of this award so I consider myself lucky to be among the other nominees.” Mrs. Alexander said. 

Mrs. Alexander has been a teacher here since 2004. Growing up she knew she had a passion for teaching, she knew it was something she’s always wanted to do. 

 “In my mind, I became a teacher when I was a kid. I felt like I was on a journey or meeting a new person every time I picked up a book. I wanted to teach and help others become excited just as I did.” Mrs. Alexander said. “In addition, I was lucky to have Ms. Boniol as my English teacher; she was inspiring and encouraged me to work hard and reach for my dreams. I’ll never be a Ms. Boniol, but I can certainly try each day to help my students feel more confident and love something about reading and writing.”

Mrs. Alexander appreciates every single one of her students and only wishes the best for them. She strives to make sure that all of them improve inside and outside the classroom. She always tries to make sure that she makes a positive impact in their lives and leads them to the right direction. 

“I’m focused on helping my students become better thinkers and writers for success in the class and beyond. I want them to return after college and share their success stories and tell me how much the class helped them reach their goals. To me, that is more than enough of an award!” Mrs. Alexander shares. 

It’s evident that Mrs. Alexander enjoys her job as she walks in everyday with a smile on her face. She loves the environment, the community, the students, faculty, everything. She’s a true Maverick, and doesn’t see herself working anywhere else but here. 

“I love the teachers who say hello and strike up a conversation at the microwave or in the restroom. And I love the spirit and determination I see in so many kids on different fields, courts and dance floors at our school. Not only that, but I love that I am encouraged by the administrators and other staff to work hard and try new things in the classroom.” Mrs. Alexander shares.

 Mrs. Alexander is willing to experiment and try new things, and in doing so sets a standard for her students to follow and get outside their comfort zone to push the boundaries of what they are capable of.

The fifth and final nominee is Ms. Angel. She is the Life Skills teacher at MRHS. 

“I feel very honored and humbled to be nominated. There are so many amazing teachers at The Ranch. I feel I’ve been very blessed!” said Ms. Angel. 

Looking up to her mom, Ms. Angel knew she wanted to become a teacher from the start. She loved being around children and teaching them something new, so growing up she always wanted to do what she loved. 

“I love kids and always have! I played teacher as a child and have wanted to teach my entire life.” Admits Ms. Angel. “My mom was a teacher and was an absolute inspiration to me, as I watched her care for and about her students, I learned what it really meant to be a teacher.”

No matter what Ms. Angel is doing, she’s always found motivating and captivating the people around her, especially her students. 

“I learned to be accepting of everyone because of their differences, their unique abilities and special gifts.” She shares. “I am currently a life skills special education teacher and am in absolute awe of my students and their families.  All they are able to accomplish and overcome is incredible! I am so pleased that I am able to be even a small part of helping my students and their families grow!”

Not only does Ms. Angel care and love MRHS, but everyone there cares and loves her as well. She always brings a smile to everyone’s face when she walks in a room and is passionate in everything she does. 

“When I walk in the door every morning, I feel comfortable and happy! The people in the Morton Ranch community are very welcoming and caring. I feel very blessed to be able to call Morton Ranch my home away from home and would be thrilled to be recognized as an integral part of my school!” She shares. 

Ms. Angel represents the sense of community at the ranch, where everyone looks after one another, regardless of creed, class, or ability. She reminds us that we are all mavericks, and that we are all in the same road going in the same direction; forward to the future.