2016 Orange County Teacher of the Year: Sharon Romeo

2016 Teacher of the Year Sharon RomeoThe “prize patrol” bus loaded with OCDE administrators, media and sponsors continued its journey announcing the five 2016 Orange County Teachers of the Year this morning. Sponsors are on hand with prizes including Disney park passes and a $500 check from SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union. Each winner will also receive a $15,000 prize from the Dr. James Hines Foundation, established by OC residents Bill and Sue Gross, at a dinner in the teachers’ honor in November at the Disneyland Hotel.

We now bring you the story of the next winner: Sharon Romeo.

2016 Teacher of the Year Sharon Romeo and Superintendent Al MijaresApplause broke out in Ms. Romeo’s classroom as county Superintendent of Schools Dr. Al Mijares presented her with the next Golden Apple shortly before 9:30 a.m. This time the pack of well-wishers included Santa Ana Unified Superintendent Dr. Rick Miller and Mendez Fundamental Intermediate Principal Dennis Cole, who shared the good news over the school’s PA.

Romeo, who admitted to being shocked, quickly deferred the credit.

“I couldn’t do it without these guys here because they work so hard,” she said of her students. “It’s not about me really, it’s about you guys.”

Romeo, a language arts teacher at Mendez in the Santa Ana Unified School District, is known for her unwavering belief that curriculum should be rigorous and challenging, and she melds compassion with high expectations.

Described by her peers as a “leader of leaders,” one colleague had this to say: “It’s true Ms. Romeo is an expert at the ‘gifted’ learner, but her bent on equality for all students – English learners, socio-economically disadvantaged, low performing – is what makes her a remarkable teacher.”

Reflecting on the issues facing students from low-income households, Ms. Romeo stresses that poverty is not only limited to financial resources. “A student can be impoverished mentally through lack of rigor in the schools, physically through lack of nutrition and spiritually through the hopelessness that poverty provides in abundance,” she says.

Ms. Romeo says the work of a teacher is to inspire students when things are difficult, and she believes the role of educators is to “always advocate for students, and never underestimate them.”