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Meet the 2019 Rotary Teachers of Excellence

Five PUSD 'Teachers Of Excellence' Named By Rotary Club Of Pasadena

Five Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) teachers are the recipients of the 2019 Teachers of Excellence Award presented annually by the Rotary Club of Pasadena to educators who excel in their profession. The 2019 Teachers of Excellence were honored at a luncheon on May 22, 2019.

The 2019 honorees are Veronica Alcantar of Jackson Dual Language/STEM, Patricia Fontenot-Hughes of Washington STEAM Magnet, Cynthia Macias of McKinley School, Elizabeth Najera-Bustillos of Blair School, and Amber Plummer of Eliot Arts Magnet.

“I am pleased to partner with the Rotary Club of Pasadena for the annual Teachers of Excellence to recognize exceptional teachers who demonstrate exemplary professionalism and go the extra mile for the students of the Pasadena Unified School District,” said Superintendent Brian McDonald. “Congratulations to the 2019 Teachers of Excellence!”

The Teachers of Excellence is a collaborative program of the Rotary Club of Pasadena and PUSD. The Rotary Club invites all schools to nominate teachers for this honor and a selection committee composed of principals, UTP, parents, previous winners, and Rotarians reviews the entries.  The five teachers are awarded $1,500, and $500 is presented to each recipient’s school. PUSD’s Teacher of the Year is selected from the five Teachers of Excellence.

The Teachers of Excellence awards program fosters excellence in teaching in the Pasadena Unified School District. It demonstrates the Pasadena Rotary’s commitment to public schools and to exceptional teachers who deserve special recognition.

The 2019 Teachers of Excellence are:

Veronica Alcantar Veronica Alcantar, Jackson Elementary School, a Dual Language/STEM Magnet  

Veronica Alcantar’s career as an educator started long before she could attend college. She began playing the teacher role as an elementary student, inspired by teachers who shared their enthusiasm, their creativity, and their love for teaching. Veronica pursued her teaching degree at Humboldt State University where she developed an appreciation for diversity. She then received a BCLAD (Bilingual, Cross-Cultural, Language and Academic Development) authorization to meet the needs of English learners as part of a cohort in Long Beach Unified where she learned that success in the classroom was not solely dependent on one’s own actions, but rather a collaboration between co-teachers, other grade levels, and parents.  Alcantar is now at Jackson Magnet STEM Dual Language Academy and says it is more than a school - it is a community, a home away from home. Jackson has embraced Veronica’s teaching style; it encourages and supports her efforts in being the best advocate for her students. Alcantar feels truly honored to work alongside peers who are incredible role models. Veronica Alcantar teaches to increase the knowledge of how the world works and also in hopes of inspiring courage, empathy, and positive change in her students.

Patricia Fontenot-Hughes, Washington Middle School, a STEAM & Multilingual Magnet

Patricia Fontenot Hughes Patricia Fontenot-Hughes is the ninth of 15 children. She was born and raised in a small village in Louisiana and grew up during the segregation and integration period in our society. Her work history includes picking cotton and potatoes, seamstress in a sewing factory, receptionist, basketball referee, and educator. She graduated from Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree and a multiple subject teaching credential. Patricia also earned her Master’s degree in teaching from National University. Following graduation from USC, she began her career as an educator in the Pasadena Unified School District where she has been teaching for 22 years. Throughout her career, she has encouraged and supported students to realize their potential and inspired them to become their best selves. After 19 years of service at Longfellow Elementary, she wanted a challenge at another level. She then transferred to Washington STEAM Multilingual Academy where she continues to inspire her students to pursue their dreams. Aside from her career, she enjoys exercising, watching movies and sports, and spending time with her family. Patricia is a proud mother of a daughter who followed her legacy and graduated from USC. She is a also a supportive wife and an engaging grandmother.

Cynthia Macias, McKinley K-8 School of the Arts

Cynthia Macias Cynthia Macias has been a teacher for 13 years, all with the Pasadena Unified School District. Her career began at Washington Elementary and she has taught first grade at McKinley for the past two years. Prior to working at McKinley, Cynthia taught as a Coordinated Early Intervention Specialist (CEIS) teacher for seven years at Madison, Jefferson, and Jackson Elementary, providing differentiated small group instruction in Math and Language Arts to struggling Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd graders. Growing up in foster care was the driving force that led Cynthia to pursue a career in teaching. Cynthia is known for teaching through songs and recalls a fellow colleague giving her her most cherished compliment, “You are like Mary Poppins!” She is most passionate about collaborating with colleagues and teaching her students social/emotional skills. In an effort to honor the teachers who have mentored and guided her along her teaching journey, Cynthia mentors new PUSD teachers through the Pasadena Teachers Induction Program, formally known as BTSA. “I LOVE being able to share teacher tidbits and help them build their toolkit.” She also has a four-year-old son Marcus who is her pride and joy.

Elizabeth Najera-Bustillos, Blair High School, an International Baccalaureate School

Elizabeth Najera Bustillos Elizabeth Najera-Bustillos’ career as a teacher began 18 years ago in Northern California after she received her Master’s Degree from UC Santa Cruz. As a biliteracy teacher, she worked in collaboration with a group of bilingual teachers and the New Teacher Center’s English Learners Institute to create and write curriculum for a program where students studied in both English and Spanish. When Elizabeth moved to Pasadena in 2005, she began working as an English Language Development teacher at Pasadena High School and eventually became the Language Resource Teacher. In 2016, she was offered a position as a Spanish Dual Language Immersion Teacher at Blair Middle School. Although it was extremely difficult for her to leave her English Language Learners at PHS, she could not let go of an opportunity that allowed her to teach in a bilingual, bicultural setting. Today, Najera-Bustillos considers herself extremely fortunate because she teaches both English Language Development as well as Spanish Language Arts and is once again part of a community that values biliteracy. Besides her love for teaching, Elizabeth enjoys traveling with her husband and son. Over the years they have traveled extensively throughout Mexico, Spain, Morocco, and Turkey.

Amber Plummer, Charles W. Eliot Middle School, an Arts Magnet Academy

Amber Plummer Amber Plummer is a Physical Education (PE) and Dance teacher at Eliot Arts Magnet Academy. She uses a rigorous standards-based curriculum centered around physical development as well as a project-based dance program focused on contemporary social issues and advocacy for change through elements of dance and movement. A native of Los Angeles, she has taught at Eliot for 23 years. Amber has a Bachelor’s of Fine Art from California State University at Long Beach and a Master’s Degree in Educational Foundation from California State University at Los Angeles. In addition to teaching, Amber Plummer is a professional muralist who focuses on community centers and schools. Of her 32 murals in Los Angeles County and abroad, spanning from 30 to 30,000 square feet, 14 are located at PUSD schools. Alongside a supportive administration and productive and creative colleagues, Ms. Plummer is committed to affecting positive and dynamic change in her community, school, and classroom through physical education, dance, and art.



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