OC teacher wins top state honor

The state Department of Education on Wednesday named Gregory Gardiner, a science teacher from Edison High School in Huntington Beach, as one of five 2018 California Teachers of the Year.

Gardiner has taught science for the past 18 years, ranging from Advanced Placement courses to classes geared for students with mild to moderate disabilities.

He is a founding member of the Academy of Sustainability and Engineering, a group of science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics, or STEAM-rooted courses that focus on project-based curriculum and emphasize critical thinking.

As part of his lessons, Gardiner has taken students to work in the wetlands of the Bolsa Chica Conservancy to restore native plant species. He also served as the founding teacher of the White Sea Bass in the Classroom Program, which allows students to personally grow, feed, monitor and release sea bass. The program has spread to 11 other schools across the region.

Science teacher Gregory Gardiner, left, leads a class lesson with students.
Edison High science teacher Gregory Gardiner, left, leads a class lesson with students.

His Advanced Placement environmental science lab features a half-dozen fresh and saltwater tanks, where students grow everything from sea bass and trout to corals.

Gardiner qualified for the state award, the highest honor in California bestowed on individual teachers, after he was selected in May as a 2018 Orange County Teacher of the Year.

“Teaching is challenging work and my challenge to my colleagues all across America is this: join me. Innovate. Sustain. Connect,” Gardiner said. “Together, I’m positive we can improve education for all our students. And I’m positive our students will change the world.”

The other statewide honorees are: Brian McDaniel, a music and choir teacher at Painted Hills Middle School in Palm Springs Unified School District; Jaime Yukiko Brown, an International Baccalaureate English teacher at San Diego High School of International Studies in San Diego Unified School District; Kirsten Farrell, a sports medicine teacher at Venice High School in Los Angeles Unified School District; and Erin Oxhorn-Gilpin, a first- and second-grade teacher at Northlake Hills Elementary School in Castaic Union School District.

McDaniel was chosen to represent the state in the national Teacher of the Year Competition.

“These teachers are deeply committed, hard-working, and creative,” state Superintendent Tom Torlakson said in a news release. “They help students find their inner strengths and achieve their dreams, while inspiring, challenging, and supporting them every day. They represent the best of their profession.”

Two other Orange County teachers were semifinalists for the statewide honor. They are: James Blackie, a science teacher at Horace Ensign Middle School in Newport-Mesa Unified; and Tiffany Badger, an English language development teacher at El Dorado High in Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified.

The 2018 California Teachers of the Year and semifinalists will be honored at a gala in Sacramento on Feb. 12.