Yearly roundup: 10 of our top stories for 2018

Now that it’s the end of the year, we wanted to revisit some of our highest read and most notable stories our OCDE Newsroom staff produced in 2018.

These stories highlight academic achievement, the spirit of giving and kindness, and even some cool things that happened across our Orange County public schools.

Here are ten of our favorites for 2018:

  • In January 86 OC students were selected by their high schools for their efforts to strengthen their communities, think creatively, conserve nature and live healthier as part of the Disneyland Resort’s “Dreamers & Doers” awardsThe community service program was created by the resort with the goal of encouraging and spotlighting high schoolers who give back to their communities through volunteering and other work.
  • Students on computers participating in online gamingThe inaugural Orange County High School Esports League launched in January. We visited the team from El Dorado High in Placentia to see the students in action. The competition took place inside a computer lab on campus. The battlefield was the virtual reality world of the massively popular online game League of Legends, filled with elves, orcs and other mythical creatures. This first season included 38 teams from across OC.
  • Two students battled in the final round of the Orange County Spelling Bee championship in April. When Genevie Nguyen of Irvine Intermediate School in the Garden Grove Unified School District spelled a word flawlessly, eighth-grader ​Winston Zuo of Fairmont Private Schools‘ Historic Anaheim Campus would match it, and this went on for quite a while. Finally, after Genevie missed a single letter in the latter round, Winston correctly spelled “teff” in round 29, clinching his second straight championship.
  • OCDE announced in April this year’s top classified school employees for OC. Six county finalists were selected from among 64 nominees based on their work performance, leadership, commitment and involvement with their schools and communities. Each is now eligible to compete for state-level honors.
  • California distinguished schools logoIn April, 43 Orange County public schools were named as 2018 California Distinguished Schools, the state’s top honor for campuses.The prize goes to schools with the highest overall achievement scores in academic and non-academic indicators, or those with high concentrations of low-income students and English learners that significantly improved or maintained high scores.
  • May 1 was a big day for six unexpecting OC educators. Throughout the day, the 2019 Orange County Teachers of the Year were revealed during surprise visits to their respective campuses. Once again, the good news traveled by way of a big yellow school bus hauling camera crews, reporters, sponsors and a handful of OCDE representatives, including Orange County Superintendent Dr. Al Mijares.
  • Teacher receives award from county superintendentIt began with a simple classroom assignment: Perform one random act of kindness every day for a month, and write it down.But by the end of December 2016, the sixth-graders in Mandy Kelly’s class at Trabuco Mesa Elementary School weren’t ready to quit kindness. So they kept it going the next month. And the month after that. And the month after that. In October we chronicled how the students continued their campaign of kindness.
  • State education officials released in December the 2018 California School Dashboard, an online tool designed to help parents, educators and the community see how schools and districts are educating and supporting students.The latest version of the state’s accountability system continues the practice of bundling together visual indicators showing performance and progress using the most current data available, including test scores and graduation rates.
  • In December, we introduced you to Dilan Oezkan, an energetic and charismatic high school senior with a 4.4 GPA who dreams of acting on Broadway or the silver screen one day. He’s also been homeless for most of his life, moving with his family from motel to motel, and on a couple occasions, having nowhere to sleep but a park bench. Dilan, a senior at Saddleback High in Santa Ana, has worked to overcome severe poverty and other obstacles most students his age haven’t had to face.
  • Kobe Bryant sits in chair chatting with studentKobe Bryant, one of the greatest basketball players to ever grace the hardwood made a surprise appearance at the Oxford Preparatory Academy’s South Orange County campus in Mission Viejo in December, eliciting a cacophony of cheers and screams as he strode across the blacktop during an assembly. Bryant had come to learn how fourth-grade teacher Andrew Ntzouras was incorporating “The Punies,” a scripted podcast created by Bryant’s own Granity Studios, into his curriculum.