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Vasquez is Teacher of the Year

First grade teacher wins recognition

Posted: November 20, 2008 9:59 p.m.
Updated: November 21, 2008 4:55 a.m.

Michelle Vasquez, a first grade Meadows Elementary school teacher, sits with her students on the floor dressed up as Pilgrims and Native Americans to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday season.

Michelle Vasquez staples paper feathers to a paper head dress, puts it on and takes her place at the head of a tablecloth stretched out on the floor in front of her.

Pilgrims and Native Americans sit on either side, all of whom are first-grade students taking their cues from the woman named Teacher of the Year at Meadows Elementary School.

They ate corn on the cob, bits of ham, corn bread and pumpkin pie.

"I was completely surprised and overwhelmed by the announcement," Vasquez said.

What makes the married Valencia mother of three children this year's top teacher?

Six-year-old Cassie Taylor, dressed in imitation buckskin, smiled and said it's the "fun way" she teaches math.

Cassie's friend, wearing a black-and-white paper bib and hat, said "uh-hun."

"It's her expressions," Cassie's friend said, mimicking the dance moves learned in the Vasquez math class.

Vasquez was one of several Canadian teachers recruited by the Newhall School District about a dozen years ago.

"It's not uncommon for me to find her dancing across the room to illustrate a point to her students," Meadows Principal Chad Rose said. "Mrs. Vasquez is a very positive, energetic and enthusiastic teacher. She's kind to everybody - parents, teachers, everybody. We appreciate her many talents."

At least 35 Meadows teachers voted Vasquez as the top teacher.

Joan Summers wore last year's Teacher of the Year crown.

"The kids that come to me from her are so well-prepared," she said. "She's funny, out-going, creative. She makes the kids laugh."

Cassie Taylor's mother, Carrie, was suddenly overcome with emotion when asked to describe the woman who teaches her daughter all day, every work day, for a year.

"I'm going to start crying," she said. "I've been very fortunate to have two kids in her class. She is, by far, the best teacher. She thinks of the whole child. She thinks of the emotional (aspect) and not only the academic. I am so lucky."

Taylor's son, Dean, 8, also had "Mrs. Vasquez" in first grade.

Vasquez's aide, Joe Marenghi, said she has the rare opportunity to observe Vasquez day after day.
"I was in awe of her teaching skills and I had been teaching for 16 years," she said.


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