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LAUSD sports education teacher named among California’s Teachers of the Year

Mike Szymanski | October 12, 2017

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Kirsten Farrell has been named a California Teacher of the Year. (LAUSD)

Kirsten Farrell, who teaches life-saving techniques as a medical technology teacher at Venice Senior High School, has been named one five California Teachers of the Year for 2018.

Three of the five winners are in the Greater Los Angeles area, and all five are in Southern California.

A teacher for 21 years, Farrell created one of the district’s first sports medicine teams and teaches sports medicine, sports therapeutics, and medical terminology to ninth- through 12th-graders. She teaches how to treat athletic injuries and recognize signs of concussions and trains them in CPR, use of a defibrillator, and other life-saving techniques.

Farrell said she believes that what she is teaching at the high school will someday save someone’s life.

Through my role as a teacher, I have contributed to changing the world,” Farrell said in a district news release. “I have taught future doctors, physical therapists, athletic trainers, and paramedics. Because of what has happened in Shop-6 at Venice High School, someone’s life will be saved.”

Farrell is among the 22 LA Unified teachers selected as finalists for the teaching honor that recognizes excellence, creativity, and ability to make a difference in the lives of their students. The finalists included teachers in elementary, secondary, and adult schools, special-education programs, affiliated charters, and magnets.

Farrell grew up in a military family and said she understands the importance and stability that a teacher can provide her students. She recalls that a fifth-grade teacher inspired her as a role model.

“We are incredibly proud of Ms. Farrell for this important distinction,” said LA Unified Acting Superintendent Vivian Ekchian. “In addition to exhibiting educational excellence, she is someone who embodies an entrepreneurial spirit. Breaking new ground in important fields, she is an amazing role model for students everywhere.”

The Venice High sports medicine team. (LAUSD)

Venice Principal Dr. Oryla Wiedoeft said, “She is an absolute superstar. Through her vision, creativity, dedication, and leadership skills, she has led the development and execution of a unique small learning community that has achieved tremendous success and helped markedly increase enthusiasm among students and enrollment at our school.”

Each of the seven school board members also praised the teachers.

Before coming to Venice, she taught at St. Monica Catholic High School in Santa Monica, Leysin American School in Switzerland, and Nishimachi International School in Japan.

The other four winners are:

  • Brian McDaniel is the band and choir director for sixth- through eighth-graders at Painted Hills Middle School in the Palm Springs Unified School District. McDaniel will be the state representative to the National Teacher of the Year competition.
  • Jaime Yukiko Brown teaches International Baccalaureate English and film studies to 12th-graders at San Diego High School of International Studies in San Diego Unified.
  • Gregory Gardiner teaches Advanced Placement environmental science and biology to ninth- through 12th-graders at Edison High School in the Huntington Beach Union School District. He started an environmental science program at Edison High for students with moderate to severe disabilities.
  • Erin Oxhorn-Gilpin is a first- and second-grade multi-subject teacher at Northlake Hills Elementary School at the Castaic Union School.

County offices of education nominate the teachers through local competitions. A state committee reviews candidates and conducts site visits to gauge the teachers’ rapport with students, classroom environment, presentation skills, and teaching techniques.

The awards began in 1972 to honor outstanding teachers and encourage new teachers to enter the profession and are presented by California Casualty and the California Teachers of the Year Foundation. The California Teachers of the Year will be honored Feb. 12 at a gala in Sacramento.

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