For 21 years, teacher Gail Hume-Nivette has worked to give students a second chance.
Hume-Nivette, a teacher with the Orange County Department of Education’s alternative education division (ACCESS), has spent most of her career working with students who are chronically truant, have dropped out of school, were expelled or have even been part of the juvenile justice system.
Her job has been to get them back on their educational track, and ultimately to graduation. Over two decades, Hume-Nivette has helped hundreds of at-risk students prevail over often overwhelming obstacles, including homelessness, teen pregnancy and other personal challenges that their traditional teachers didn’t always know about.
“This job has been my calling,” she said. “For me, it’s more than teaching students about grammar or World War II. It’s about teaching young people life skills.”
Hume-Nivette’s dedication to her students recently earned her one of the state’s top honors for alternative education teachers. State Superintendent Tony Thurmond named her a finalist for the 2019 Juvenile Court, Community, and Alternative Schools Administrators of the California (JCCASAC) Teacher of the Year.
Hume-Nivette, who currently works as a teacher at OCDE’s College and Career Preparatory Academy, was one of eight finalists. Greg Barragan, a teacher in Fresno, was ultimately chosen as the Teacher of the Year.
Every year, each county office of education nominates one court, community, or alternative education school teacher for the honor. All nominees must meet certain criteria including having at least five years of teaching experience, two of which must be in county office alternative education programs.
Over her career, Hume-Nivette has worked with students throughout the county, from Anaheim to San Clemente. She said her favorite moments are the annual graduation ceremonies where students who once thought graduation was out of reach receive their diplomas.