IUSD’s Teachers of the Year
Elementary School Teacher of the Year
Emily Bucago, Transitional Kindergarten Teacher
Emily Bucago has been with IUSD for nearly 14 years. She received the Elementary Teacher of the Year designation for her never-ending enthusiasm and energy. Each day, Westpark Elementary’s youngest students begin their day of wonder as Bucago, who wears a different themed outfit, reminiscent of Mrs. Frizzle of the Magic School Bus series, greets them.
According to Westpark Principal Deanna Rutter, “Mrs. Bucago has created a classroom environment that fosters learning and development through fun and play. Her students never know how intentional every activity is, but Mrs. Bucago does. Her infectious love for teaching and her students inspires us all!”
Her passion for students and education extends beyond her classroom. She champions athletics, coaching the girls’ after-school soccer team and the school running club for any student who wishes to participate. She also serves as a district mentor to other transitional kindergarten teachers, working to align best practices.
Middle School Teacher of the Year
Nelly Tsai, Science Teacher
Lakeside Middle School
Nelly Tsai has worked for IUSD at Lakeside Middle School since 2012 as a science teacher. She has taught 7th and 8th grade science and served as department chair, Green Team advisor, Professional Learning Community facilitator coach, and science mentor.
Tsai has written and reviewed items for the California Science Test, she has reviewed instructional materials for national standards and has been selected to review exemplary science lessons twice a year in various parts of the country.
“Everything Nelly does is for her students, from building a garden to having them investigate the water of Woodbridge Lake,” says Lakeside Principal Gina Cuneo. “Every grant she writes, every state and national committee in which she is involved in is for one reason—to benefit her students. She strives to make them better and more enthusiastic science students. She is a gem!”
High School Teacher of the Year
Archana Jain, Math Teacher
Irvine High School
Archana Jain has been an IUSD teacher for more than 12 years. Prior to joining IUSD, she was an aerospace engineer for a decade. Jain not only uses her experience and impressive background in the classroom but she also has used it to create an engineering pathway for Irvine High School and formed the Irvine Technology and Engineering Center to give students access to rapid prototyping tools and industry software.
Jain has encouraged and inspired young women to get involved in STEM. She is a mentor for the Robotics Club, the Society of Women Engineers, the Engineering Club, Astronomy Club and OC Maker Challenge. She is also working as a mentor for the propulsion team for the Irvine CubeSat program, which is an after school work-based learning program in which students from six Irvine schools have successfully built a Nano-satellite. The first and second year teams for the CubeSat program have been more than 50 percent female from Irvine High School.
Irvine High School Principal Monica Collunga said, “Archana has embraced a growth mindset and intellectual risking taking—utilizing her real-world experience to foster a love of learning and resiliency for her students. She is an inspiration both inside the classroom and out, introducing and engaging students in STEM.”
IUSD also named four Teachers of Promise, first- or second-year instructors who go above and beyond, while demonstrating professional curiosity and an unbridled enthusiasm for teaching.
The 2017-18 Teachers of Promise are:
Jane Huson, social science teacher, University High School
Caroline Moghaddam, 2nd grade teacher, Bonita Canyon Elementary
Lianne Linck, social science teacher, Sierra Vista Middle School
Jeff Holton, 5th grade teacher, Northwood Elementary
Nominations are submitted by IUSD employees, and candidates are then interviewed by a committee that includes teachers, principals and administrators. That panel selects the three teachers of the year based on evidence of a wide range of instructional strategies used effectively; commitment to the teaching profession; and demonstration of Irvine teachers’ values of integrity, empowerment, learning, collaboration and trust.
The honorees will be formally recognized on April 27 at the Excellence in Teaching Awards dinner, which is organized each year by the Exchange Club of Irvine and the Irvine Teachers Association.