The Magnificent Seven: TEP Alumni Named LAUSD Teachers of the Year

Graduates from Center X’s signature teacher education program and two other Bruins recognized by Superintendent King as “exceptional educators.”

Seven alumni of the Teacher Education Program (TEP) at Center X have been named LAUSD Teachers of the Year. Israel Bautista, Monique Brusca, Maria Debuque, Natalie Elliott, Shannon Garrison, Gabriela Spilman, and Anthony Yom were recognized at a luncheon and awards ceremony on August 11 at the University of Southern California. Two Bruins who earned their bachelor’s degrees at UCLA, Bootsie Battle- Holt (’97, B.A., History) and Gabriela Mancilla- Angulo (’99, B.S.), were also honored as Teachers of the Year. In addition, Brusca, Elliott, and Garrison are currently semi-finalists for L.A. County Teachers of the Year.

“We want to congratulate our seven UCLA Teacher Education Program graduates who were honored as LAUSD Teachers of the Year,” said Jo Ann Isken, interim program director, TEP. “We are proud that they all continue to be models of excellence in teaching in urban schools while continuing their steadfast commitment to equity and social justice.”

LAUSD Superintendent Michelle King, a former science teacher, congratulated the teachers and called them “exceptional educators.”

“Every day, these teachers are hard at work in their classrooms, inspiring our kids to learn and realize their full potential,” King said in a press release.

Many of the Teachers of the Year were nominated by parents and students. Spilman, a fourth grade dual-language English-Spanish teacher at Aldama Elementary School in Highland Park, has been teaching for 12 years. She was “pretty shocked” when she received an email from the school district telling her that she had been nominated by two of her students’ parents.

“It was pretty exciting – we teachers aren’t used to being recognized,” said Spilman. “It feels good to know that people appreciate our work.”

“Several of my students nominated me,” said Mancilla- Angulo, who has taught mathematics at South East Senior High School in South Gate for 16 years. “When they heard the news over the loudspeaker, they were so excited; they started to come down out of their classrooms to congratulate me.”

Brusca, who has been teaching music at Christopher Columbus Middle School in Canoga Park for 22 years, said that when her principal gave her the letter of her award, “I just broke down, it was very emotional.”

Garrison has taught the fourth and fifth grades at Solano Avenue Elementary School for 19 years and said that, “Being acknowledged feels great, but it’s all about the kids.”

“I had several [kids] who went online and nominated me,” she said. “Three of my fourth grade girls wrote one of my letters of recommendation, so they were convinced that they were the sole reason that I won the award. They were just so excited the day they announced it in the classroom. Hearing that a fourth-grader is proud of you is a pretty neat feeling.”

Elliott has been teaching the fifth grade at 92nd Street Elementary School for ten years. She said that the award is “a dream come true.”

“Most importantly, it’s great to be able to shine a light on the community of Watts where I teach and to show that there are so many positive things going on there,” she said. The kids are learning, thriving, and reaching their full potential.”

Battle- Holt’s recent milestones include traveling as one of three teachers to the International Summit on the Teaching Profession with U.S. Secretary of Education John King and meeting with President Obama to discuss assessment and accountability during the creation of the Every Student Succeeds Act. She said that representing LAUSD as a Teacher of the Year is an honor “above and beyond.”

“Because we have such a large district and we serve such a diverse community of students, it’s really special to represent LAUSD,” said Battle- Holt, who teaches mathematics at Marina Del Rey Middle School and Performing Arts Magnet.

The teachers credited UCLA’s TEP program with providing them the tools to teach a great diversity of students throughout Los Angeles. Debuque has been a second grade teacher at Vena Avenue Elementary School in Pacoima for 20 years. A member of the second-ever TEP cohort, she said that the Teacher of the Year award gives her inspiration in her work.

“Sometimes you get involved in the day-to-day without seeing the big picture, which is that not everybody has the same access to quality education,” Debuque said. “It inspired me to not think only of my classroom but of the bigger community and what I learned at UCLA about social justice for the betterment of everybody.”

Yom, who has taught mathematics at Abraham Lincoln High School in Lincoln Heights for 11 years, said that his students “have been my inspiration since day one,” and that he was proud to represent TEP as a LAUSD Teacher of the Year.

“I feel honored and it definitely feels good to be recognized,” said Yom. “However, this recognition belongs to my school, colleagues, students, and UCLA’s TEP and Principal Leadership Institute. These are the people and programs that have shaped who I am.”

Bautista has taught U.S. history at El Sereno Middle School in East Los Angeles for ten years. He said that TEP gave him “the foundation to be a humanizing teacher.

“It is a great honor and a humbling experience to be nominated and recognized as an outstanding teacher, but it also reminds me of the many amazing mentors and students who have helped me become the teacher and person I am today,” Bautista said.  “My professors and my cohort challenged me to think and plan differently. I grew up in Boyle Heights and I know personally the positive and negative impact teachers can have [and] am inspired by my own experiences.

“I am also glad to represent the El Sereno community. I know the great potential in [our students], once they are given the right care, love, and belief,” he said.


Above: Nine UCLA alumni – seven from UCLA Education’s Teacher Education Program, were honored last week as LAUSD Teachers of the Year. L-R: Anthony Yom, Monique Brusca, Gabriela Spilman, Natalie Elliott, Maria Debuque, Shannon Garrison, Bootsie Battle-Holt, Gabriela Mancilla-Angulo, and Israel Bautista.