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San Juan Unified names 2022 Teachers of the Year

Michele Horner surprisedWhen Trajan Elementary School 4th and 5th grade combination teacher Michele Horner was surprised with flowers and balloons in her classroom, she began shaking. 

She hadn’t expected to be named one of San Juan Unified’s Teachers of the Year for the 2021-2022 school year. 

Likewise, Bella Vista High School teacher Michael Lee stood in shock at his announcement, stating this surprise made his week. 

At San Juan Unified, teachers are not just chosen for their student-focus, but their site leadership, willingness to make adjustments, and their focus on ensuring our students are being taken care of emotionally and socially during this difficult year. 

Both these teachers have spent years mastering their crafts and learning how to connect with students in this district. 

Lee began teaching at Bella Vista High School 29 years ago and has been at the school ever since. Lee has taught Economics, Driver’s Education/ Health, AP Psychology, Psychology, Math A, U.S. History, Physical Education, Freshman Orientation and is planning to start a new class on campus: Sports Psychology. 

As for Horner, she has taught at the district for the past 21 years, with the last seven spent at Trajan Elementary School. 

In Horner’s application for Teacher of the Year, she wrote about this past year and how it has been different than any other. Adding, she feels teachers will need to do more to help students overcome the trauma and obstacles this last year may have come with. 

“As this past year has been unprecedented, I think education is going to need to take a broader instructional view than just reading and writing,” Horner said. “Teachers will need to explicitly teach their students stress-management and mindfulness techniques so they can process emotions when they come up. If educators create this space for their learners, students will recover from the trauma of this past year and begin to learn again.”

In Lee’s application he went further in detail about what it means to create this space for students not just during trauma but everyday to connect with students through thoughtful changes. 

“An engaged, energetic, hard-working teacher will always do well for kids, but these kids are less equipped for a sit down, be quiet and listen classroom.” He added, “kids need to know you are there for them, there for their success, have high expectations for them and yet create an environment that is both interesting and fun to “this” generation.”

Both Lee and Horner are now nominated to be the Sacramento County Office of Education Teacher of the Year.

Michael Lee holds awardMichele Horner