High school students earn honors in state competition for aspiring teachers

High schoolers from Santa Ana and Orange have won first-place honors in two of three state competitions organized by a group that assists students pursuing teaching careers.

Two students holding awards
Luis Diaz of Century High School (left) won first place and Esperanza High’s Paige Lopez took second in Educators Rising California’s Creative Lecture contest. The photo was taken after a regional competition organized by Educators Rising, which helps young people who aspire to careers in education.

For the second straight year, Luis Diaz of Century High School in the Santa Ana Unified School District took first place in Educators Rising California’s Creative Lecture contest, which challenged students to deliver a TED Talk-style presentation.

Elizabeth Raburn and Elisa Garcia of El Modena High in the Orange Unified School District similarly won first-place honors in a competition that had them write and illustrate a children’s book. Orange County students also earned second-place honors in both categories. 

The top performers were announced March 23 at the Educators Rising California Central Region Conference held at Fresno State University. We’re told the winners are now eligible to compete in the national Educators Rising competition in Orlando this summer.

Educators Rising is a national organization that strives to build a workforce of highly skilled educators by working with candidates at the high school and college levels, as well as those who have just entered the profession. Its state affiliate, Educators Rising California, is run by Project Tomorrow.

Each year, Project Tomorrow invites students who are interested in education or child care careers to attend an interactive conference that includes student workshops, a panel discussion with college students, sessions with college professors and more. This spring, conferences were held in Orange and Fresno.

Here are this year’s competition winners in each of the three categories, as posted on Project Tomorrow’s website:


Creative Lecture

In this TED Talk-like presentation, students were prompted to speak about equity in education.

  • First place: Luis Diaz, Century High School, Santa Ana Unified School District
  • Second place: Paige Lopez, Esperanza High School, North Orange County ROP
  • Third place: Cassandra Ibarra, Sanger High School, Sanger Unified School District

Children’s Literature K-3

This competition challenges students to think of themselves as teachers and storytellers to create an original book, written and illustrated, for a kindergarten-through-third grade audience. The premise of the competition is that children’s book authors — like educators — help young people understand inner truths and to make sense of the world.

  • First place: “You’re Always My Angel” by Elizabeth Raburn and Elisa Garcia, El Modena High School, Orange Unified School District
  • Second place: “Little Chick” by Jenna Flores, Canyon High School, Orange Unified School District
  • Third place: “It’s Okay to Be Blue” by Jennifer Loomer, Clovis North High School, Clovis Unified School District

STEM Lesson Plan and Delivery

This competition challenges young educators to plan and deliver a science, technology, engineering or math lesson of their choosing to an actual classroom of students. Students had to submit a written lesson plan, a short video of their classroom delivery and a reflection piece on what was learned from the experience that will help him/her become a better teacher.

  • First place: “Life Cycle of a Butterfly” by Evelyn Reyes, Judith Moreno and Houa Yang, Fresno Unified Teacher Academy
  • Second place: “Introduction to the Desmos Graphing Calculator” by Maria Higuera, Madera South High School, Madera Unified School District”
  • Third place: “Lego Bridges” by Paige Telliard, Grossmont High School, Grossmont Union High School District
  • Fourth place: “Chemical Reaction” by Jacqueline Manriquez and Maria Torres, Fresno Unified Teacher Academy

For more information on Educators Rising, contact Pilar Comparan at pcomparan@tomorrow.org.