Ten years ago, ASCD created the Outstanding Young Educator Award (OYEA) program to recognize creative and committed teachers and administrators under the age of 40 who are making a difference in children's lives. Since 2002, the OYEA program has combed through thousands of applications to identify young educators who embody a whole child approach to education and are leaders in the classroom as well as in their communities.
This year's winners, Matt McClure, superintendent of Cross County Schools in Cherry Valley, Ark., and Liliana Aguas, a 2nd grade dual-language immersion teacher at Leconte Elementary School in Berkeley, Calif., continue the proud OYEA tradition.
McClure has tackled the challenges of a rural school district and instituted an effective school turnaround program focused on the whole child. Under his leadership, all the schools in McClure's district improved from School Improvement Status to Successful Schools with not only an academic focus, but also daily physical fitness classes, homework help, student tutoring, and enrichment activities that make learning fun and keep students engaged.
McClure also opened Arkansas's first New Tech school, which is part of a statewide pilot STEM program, and oversaw the opening of a medical facility on a school campus built to serve both students and community members. The Arkansas Department of Education has recognized McClure's district as a Coordinated School Health District, and each weekend schools send home backpacks full of healthy foods to families in need. The district also offers an after-school program with cooking classes so the students can prepare and serve healthy snacks.
Aguas is committed to educating the whole child by promoting a genuine sense of community where students learn cooperatively and are intellectually challenged through differentiated instruction. Her students participate in activities that promote self-discovery, such as creative writing, reader's theater, and multicultural literature exploration. Aguas also creates a classroom environment that promotes student discovery of surrounding culture, bilingualism, and social justice—as well as a natural environment featuring a native plant garden and a tadpole and caterpillar habitat. Recently, Aguas held an international fair for her students and parents with poster presentations and a potluck, featuring dishes and music from the different countries the students researched. Parent partnerships are a focus of Aguas' teaching; for example, she hosts "cafecitos," or coffee time, with her Spanish-speaking parents.
Nominate a Young Educator
ASCD is currently accepting nominations for next year's award. This year, candidates may also self-nominate. A panel of diverse education professionals selects the OYEA winners from a large pool of candidates. Each winner receives a $10,000 cash award and an ASCD Institutional membership for his or her school.
To learn more about the nominations process, go to www.ascd.org/oyea.