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Local woman wins national teacher of the year award

One of only 4,000 U.S. educators to receive the honor

Posted: December 12, 2008 10:13 p.m.
Updated: December 13, 2008 4:59 a.m.
 
After 6-year-old Hannah Vera of Valencia drops off her baby sister for daycare, her mind is trained on school. Thoughts of friends, recess, math and her teacher swirl in her mind as she prepares for another day of first grade at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in Newhall.

But Vera's routine was skewed a bit Thursday when, after morning prayers, her teacher Lisa Preach was surprised by Our Lady staff with a Walmart Foundation Teacher of the Year award.

The annual Walmart Foundation teaching award is given to 4,000 educators nationwide who were nominated by anonymous friends, parents, students and supporters who visited Walmart or Sam's Club in August and completed a nomination form.

Principal Sharon Krahl congratulated Preach, who broke down in tears and cried. Before long the entire staff was in tears.

The Walmart Foundation Teacher of the Year award was particularly touching to Preach, a first-year-teacher deeply concerned about doing a good job.

"Being a new teacher is a little nerve-wracking. It's kind of like being a doctor.
"You take all these tests and then they let you loose and tell you to operate," she said.

"I took all these tests and now I have to stand on my own. I do have mentors here. I'm not alone and they are very helpful but I'm still a little nervous. I want to make sure the kids are doing good. I am always self-assessing. I want to make sure."

Preach's dutiful attention to her class paid off in happy students.

Alex Garcia, 7, of Stevensons Ranch, is Preach's student.

He loves music and he likes to read. He's getting to know his first-grade teacher who taught him that she does not like the word "easy."

"She wants us to work hard," Vera interjected.

"No," Garcia said as he squeezed a rock in his hand. "She wants us to know that what may be easy for us might be hard for someone else."

The boy tossed his rock in a planter with a comment on how he loved rock collecting.

"I don't like the E-word," he said.

Garica said that though Preach sometimes has trouble operating the classroom's Smart Board, he really likes when she teaches from it.

The Smart Board is an electronic white board with a touch screen that allows teachers and students to interact electronically with several different subjects. Kids can type, do math and color pictures on the board.

"I like to learn," Garcia said.

Vera smiled wide and shook her head in agreement.

Despite Preach's insecurity about teaching well, her students, co-workers and parent supporters see a very special person on the Our Lady staff.

"This is the first time we've gotten this award since I've been here for the last 15 years," Ministry Director Gloria Regan said.

As part of the award, Preach was given a check for $100 for use in her class, and the school was given $1,000 for use at the school.

Preach will consult her parents and classroom aide Sue Richter before she spends the money awarded to her classroom.

She does not know who nominated her for the award but is thankful.

"We are a private school and we don't get outside funding so this is a real help," Preach said.

Krahl said the school's award money will be used for a color laser printer for the teaching staff.

Preach began attending the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church with her parents in 1986 and spent her entire life as a parishioner.

"I took my first communion here, was confirmed here, married here, had my daughter baptized here and now have my first job here," Preach said.

The small community of students were released for the day and dozens of parents congratulated Preach on her award.

None of them revealed the identity of the anonymous award nominator but all of them were thrilled Preach was chosen Teacher of the Year.

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