At 10 a.m. Friday, Sherri George was about to teach to her I.B. technology class when a surprise visit caught her off guard. George’s family walked into her classroom along with Principal Dana Aguilera of , supervisors and administrative members of the Capistrano Unified School District and key members of the PTA to award her the 2012 CUSD Teacher of the Year award.
George was among three honorees, including Jennifer Woodward of Tesoro High School and Christine Taglieri of .
"I have great students," George said. "I have a great school. I think I am a product of an amazing school district. I think that our job is a calling. I don’t think it’s a job. I think it’s a part of us and it permeates who we are.”
George teaches eighth-grade English and IB tech at Carl Hankey K-8 school and has been a part of the staff since 2009. She had prior experience in education as a fifth grade teacher in 2006 at Chaparral Elementary and taught fifth grade at Ladera Ranch Elementary from 2008 to 2009 before moving to Carl Hankey.
"(George) is an amazing teacher," Aguilera said. "Her goal, her every fiber of her being is to empower students. She uses her teaching as a vehicle to do that."
One of her classroom strengths strengths has been to use the environment to immerse her students into the subject of study. When going through the book My Brother Sam is Dead, about the Revolutionary War, she was mindful that some students in her class did not have a solid background on the war.
To help students understand the context, she transformed the classroom into a tavern that was befitting of the Revolutionary War era and dressed up in colonial clothes. She also guided the students into critical thinking by allowing them to experience the oppression the colonists felt.
She asked Principal Aguilera to come to class like a British imperialist. Aguilera demanded the students wear special tennis shoes to class, which led students to voice their opinions. This allowed the students to connect with the colonists and helped them relate to history more effectively.
When teaching the Reginald Rose classic 12 Angry Men, George made the classroom look like a courtroom and asked students to dress up in suits and ties to recreate a court case. She also expressed her enthusiasm for students who do well in class by doing pushups. For every “A” the student scores, George adds up the scores and does pushups.
"She’s just an incredible teacher and we’re super lucky to have her," Aguilera said. "Her enthusiasm is like a spark."
George’s father, Rip Ribble, noticed her passion for education when she was young.
"I’m extremely proud," Ribble said. "She has been a model student all her life. She was a student body president at Esperanza High School. She was very active in her youth church work."
"She’s everybody’s big sister. She’s a deep lady. She’s very charismatic. She’s pretty much a disciplinarian. She believes in kids taking responsibility for their decisions."
The winners of the award were selected from 57 school sites and programs. District winners will be honored at the annual Teacher of the Year Celebration at Ocean Hills Church in San Juan Capistrano Thursday, May 3.