Trabuco Mesa Elementary teacher named a State Teacher of the Year

Mandy Kelly, a sixth-grade teacher from Trabuco Elementary School in Rancho Santa Margarita, was named Friday as one of five 2020 California Teachers of the Year.

Kelly has taught sixth grade at the school in the Saddleback Valley Unified School District since 2016. She originally joined the staff as a kindergarten teacher in 2013 and served as a fourth-grade teacher from 2014 through 2016.

“I am so humbled to be receiving this recognition,” said Kelly, who in May was announced as one of six Orange County Teachers of the Year by OCDE.

county superintendent hugs a teacher of the year
Trabuco Mesa Elementary teacher Mandy Kelly is congratulated by County Superintendent Al Mijares after being announced as a 2020 Orange County Teacher of the Year in May.

“Teaching is my bliss,” she said. “I am lucky enough to have a job that I not only strive to improve at, but truly love. I work with such wonderful teachers both in and out of my school.”

A lifelong learner, Kelly continuously seeks out opportunities for professional development in such areas as technology, engagement and project-based learning. She also leads training sessions and participates in numerous summer committees, helping design curriculum focused on math development, English language arts sequencing, engagement strategies, Next Generation Science Standards and other subjects.

“As teachers, we put our heart and soul into our students,” she said, “and I couldn’t be more honored to represent all the hard working teachers who have impacted me. Teaching is not a solo act and I truly couldn’t do what I do without each of you.”

Kelly has made promoting kindness a key mission in her classroom, which in recent years has turned a kindness campaign into a global movement.

Kelly and her class of “SAKtivists” — the first three letters stand for “Student Acts of Kindness” — issue weekly video challenges that have been accepted by more than 150 classes in dozens of states and a handful of countries.

The other four state Teachers of the Year are Sean Bui, who is a ninth-through-12th-grade English language development and business law teacher at Cupertino High School in Cupertino; Brenda Barreras, a kindergarten teacher at Good Hope Elementary School in Perris; Guy Myers, a high school drama and musical theater teacher at John Burroughs High School in Burbank; and Katya Robinson, a kindergarten-through-third-grade special education teacher at West Sonoma County Consortium School in Sebastopol.

“These five incredible teachers receive this prestigious honor for their focus, drive and determination to teach young people in California,” State Superintendent Tony Thurmond said in a news release.

“They are not only wonderful representatives for our state, but they also make profound differences in the lives of their students and their communities by employing innovative strategies to increase academic success and narrow the achievement gap among a broad range of students.”

students and teacher pose for a photo