VIDEO: OC’s top educators honored at 2017 Orange County Teachers of the Year awards dinner

Teacher of the Year Finalists with Mickey and Minnie MouseSixty-three superstar educators from Orange County school districts and community colleges were honored Tuesday evening during a special dinner celebration at the Disneyland Hotel.

The 2017 Orange County Teachers of the Year event was coordinated by OCDE with SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union as the premier sponsor, and it once again featured all the glitz and glam of a Hollywood awards ceremony. With the show bookended by some outstanding student performances, each of the honorees briefly took center stage and received a cash award courtesy of the Dr. James Hines Foundation, which has long served as the legacy sponsor. 

Actor and director William Allen Young and PBS SoCal Producer Maria Hall-Brown reprised their roles as emcees for this event, which included videos produced by OCDE’s Media Services team for each of the five Orange County Teachers of the Year finalists. For those who couldn’t make it, we thought we’d share those here.

We’ll start with Steven M. Bautista of Santa Ana College in the Rancho Santiago Community College District. Bautista has been a professor and counselor for 20 years.

Next up is Matthew Bidwell, who has taught at South Junior High School in the Anaheim Union High School District for 13 years.

Kristine Clarke teaches AP chemistry, biotechnology and forensics at Dana Hills High School in the Capistrano Unified School District.

Courtney Smith, who has spent 17 years in the classroom, is a kindergarten teacher at Tustin Memorial Academy in the Tustin Unified School District. 

And finally, Raquel Solorzano-Duenas teaches U.S. history at Western High School in the Anaheim Union High School District.

All five Orange County Teachers of the Year finalists were revealed back in May during surprise visits to their classrooms, and the OCDE Newsroom tagged along for the ride and posted this story. Tuesday’s dinner presented an opportunity to celebrate the honor with friends, family, coworkers and colleagues from across the county.

“Each year, the Orange County Department of Education and its community partners proudly honor those educators who go above and beyond to nurture, inspire and equip future generations,” said Orange County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Al Mijares. “Though many shy away from recognition, these exceptional leaders are responsible for elevating the teaching profession, and their contributions go far beyond imparting knowledge. Our best teachers connect with students, allow them to take intellectual risks and share innovative instructional strategies with other educators. As such, they expand their expertise to all classrooms and exemplify the theme of this year’s event — One Voice.”

All 63 educators received a table for 10 paid for by SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union, along with prize packages from SchoolsFirst and the Disneyland Resort. The Dr. James Hines Foundation, established 24 years ago by Bill and Sue Gross in honor of a literature professor at Saddleback College, contributed more than $150,000 in cash awards for this year’s nominees. The Grosses have now contributed more than $3 million to the Orange County Teachers of the Year program since 1992.