After an extensive application process, 11 years of hard work paid off for English and PODER teacher Virginia Vasquez in the form of the highest honor a California teacher can get. On Oct 15, she was presented with the “California Teacher of the Year” award.
Vasquez won the district level award in April 2021 and the county in Sept. 2021, which allowed her to become the state’s teacher of the year. She was one out of five recipients, and the first from San Gabriel High School in 29 years.
“It starts at the district level, then county, then state,” Vasquez said. “The application [was] rigorous and required a lot of essay writing, letters of recommendation, and an interview.”
Vasquez, in her years of experience, has strived to prioritize community building in the classroom. Through this, she has built long lasting, personal relationships with each and every student that walked through her classroom doors.
“Mrs. Vasquez had played a big part in reminding me that there are [teachers] who are willing to help us students out,” senior Samantha Martinez said. “They can take time to understand our personal problems and be able to talk about them.”
Over the years, Vasquez’s classroom has become not only a place for learning, but also a community center that has helped students feel at home, even if they are at school.
“My classroom has been a safe space for students,” Vasquez said. “Somewhere they can come in and grab a book, or have lunch.”
Vasquez’s positive influence on the school does not only stop at students, but she has also inspired many teachers around campus.
“I’m incredibly blessed and fortunate enough to call Mrs. Vasquez mi amiga (my friend) ,” said Eliana Deniz, Spanish teacher “I’m always learning from her and “borrowing” strategies she uses in her classes.”
Being the only L.A. County teacher to win the award, students were excited for and proud of Vasquez when the news finally spread around campus that she won.
“San Gabriel High School [has] got it,” senior Andrea Torres said. “It makes me feel proud to have been taught by someone the world acknowledges [as one of the best].”