2018 OUTSTANDING TEACHER OF AMERICA
AP Calculus Teacher
Pacifica High School
Randy grew up in Rialto, California and attended Westmont College, a small Christian, Liberal Arts College located in Santa Barbara, California where he majored in Religious Studies. During his senior year in college, Randy took an Urban Studies class and was assigned to tutor “at risk kids” in math at Post Street Academy in San Francisco. During his time there, he discovered some very important and enlightening things about himself. First, he realized he enjoyed working with disenfranchised students - the ones no one else believed in. Second, he was good at it. While theses students were sometimes difficult to reach, they were the ones who most needed to have someone in their corner who believed in their capabilities and who did not dismiss them because of the color of their skin or the clothes they wore or how they cut their hair.
While these students challenged Randy, by Using “light humor,” was able to develop close relationships with his students. They came to believe he truly cared for them and that they could trust him. What followed was that they began to learn and to believe they were better students than they believed. Randy realized he was able to explain math concepts clearly and was surprised by how great it felt for him to see their faces when they finally understood and mastered a new concept. With each new success, the students were ready to try again. With this realization, Randy decided he wanted to become a teacher.
After graduating from Westmont College, Randy enrolled at CSU Los Angeles to get his Math teaching credential. Because his undergraduate degree was not in math, Randy could only apply to the credentialing program if he took and passed the National Teacher Mathematics Exam - which he did. While in his credential program, Randy was offered a job at Monrovia High School, got an emergency teaching credential and taught there for 7 years.
Randy applied for a job in Ventura County and took a job Santa Paula High where he taught for one year, before moving on to Channel Islands High School. Randy taught math and coached Tennis there for 14 years. In 2002, Pacifica High School, in Oxnard, California opened and Randy was selected by the principal to teach math and coach tennis and has remained there ever since. Randy earned his Masters Degree in Computer Education, from the University of LaVerne, which has allowed him to spend a few years teaching part time at the local Community College.
Randy has been teaching for 38 years and still loves what he does. For Randy, teaching never gets boring and every day he is excited to see what the day will bring. Randy loves watching the progression of his students growth from the first day of the school year through the last day of class in May. For him, it is truly exhilarating and humbling to observe and be part their growth and development. With each new school year, Randy thinks long and hard about the tremendous amount of responsibility that sits on his shoulders and how ominous it is to be given so much responsibility. For Randy, it is the sense of ominous responsibility that guides him as he plans and teaches each new group of students. Being trusted to educate, motivate and inspire the young minds of students is humbling. It is not something Randy takes for granted. Consequently, he sees his first responsibility is to find the best way possible to get to know each new group of students, learn about their interests, assess their current math skill levels and figure out how he is going to meet the needs of each one of them.
Being a “seasoned veteran,” Randy is still a bit “old school” in how he approaches his teaching. His basic philosophy has not changed since he began teaching. He believes that math is fun and his goal is to be the one who translates mathematics into a language students can understand and to demonstrate to them how their lives are intertwined with math concepts and laws.
Randy believes every student has the ability to learn, but not always at the same rate. He wants his students to leave his classes knowing they have learned something new every day. Randy is most concerned with the progress his students make rather than how much material he covers. Realizing some students will always move faster than others, he has to have more challenging work for them so they are not bored. Likewise, he recognizes that, regardless of when a student passes an important milestone, he/she is still learning the subject matter and moving toward where he wants them to go. Even though it might be at a slower pace, students still experience success and are building confidence and a belief in their skills.
While he believes everyone can learn, he also believes students need to be challenged to feel they have actually earned a grade and learned new material. Randy will find ways for students to find success. For those who struggle, he is on campus before school, at lunch and, when he is not coaching, after school. He uses the more advanced students in a class to work with others in groups or even to find a student struggling more than they are and help that student. He knows that students will learn almost as much teaching others as they do when he is doing the teaching At the very least, it reinforces and solidifies their knowledge of what they have already been taught.
To Randy, teaching does not seem like work. He treasures every instance when he sees a student’s face light up with understanding, with laughter, with joy and friendship for one another. And, for him, that happens several times a day.