Ms. Wendy Umekubo, a Mathematics teacher at Valencia High School in Placentia, CA was recently selected to receive one of the four 2022 “Carlston Outstanding Teachers of America” awards, presented by the Above & Beyond organization. Three other teachers representing high schools located in Hemet, Garden Grove, and Valley Center have also been honored and each will receive a $15,000 cash award. Additionally, each of their high schools will receive a grant in the honored teacher’s name in the amount of $5,000. This award will be announced at the January 11, 2023 meeting of the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District Board.
The Above & Beyond awards are given only to California public high school teachers who primarily teach in the most challenging school environments. A teacher must be nominated by former students who are either currently enrolled in a four-year college or university or who already have earned a college degree. In 2021-22, the organization received over 100 nominations from students attending or who have graduated from colleges throughout the United States. The evaluation and selection process is extensive and involves interviews with as many as seven or more former students, the school principal, several teaching colleagues, and the teacher being nominated. Ten teachers are selected as finalists and each finalist is observed in their classroom by Above & Beyond’s Executive Director.
Students who nominate their former teachers describe the reasons for their nomination, identify the specific characteristics of their former teachers that influenced their learning, and focus on specific teaching strategies that increased both their interest in the subject and the motivation to rise to the high expectations of their teachers. Each former student shares in detail the life changing impact their former teacher had on his/her life. Over 80% of the nominating students are first generation college students, many of whom have overcome significant obstacles to become academically and personally successful, and they give credit to their former teacher for their success.
When interviewed, Ms. Umekubo said, “When I decided to go into teaching, 42 or so years ago, I sought a job —-one that would be sustainable, satisfying , at which I thought I would be good. I had no idea that I was entering a very long career that would enable me to touch so many lives in so many ways—beyond the teaching “of the math”. Auntie Fumi always told me, “Wendy, create memories that your students will always remember—even cherish.” When I realized that between the equations and the theorems and the algorithms, I could share life skills from my childhood, schooling, and career and not only send off improved math students, but more enlightened people who will support and change the world—-it was overwhelming, exciting, and invigorating. Much of this knowledge came from the formers who would visit or call and/or eventually email me of their current doings and afterthoughts. This award has sent me that message….that I did even more than planned back in 1981 and I feel blessed and satisfied that I have done “my duty” and there are so many who acknowledged it well enough to support this prestigious award.”
Ms. Umekubo and the other three honorees will join 86 previous honorees as members of the Above & Beyond Board of Advisors and will participate in the Annual Educational Symposium that focuses on addressing major issues facing education in California. This exceptional group of educators also provide professional development to early career teachers throughout California and support their novice colleagues in one-to-one mentoring relationships.
The Above & Beyond organization is a public charity dedicated to equitable educational opportunities for all students. Their work is to help ensure that all high school students receive a high-quality education, all teachers have access to support, and that educational equity and excellence are prioritized by the public and in educational policy.
More information can be obtained at AboveBeyond.org or by contacting Dr. Beverly Young, Executive Director, at (714) 683-6822 or Byoung@abovebeyond.org