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Alex Kajitani, the Escondido teacher who was recently honored as one of five California Teachers of the Year by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell, has now been selected as the sole California teacher to vie for the National Teacher of the Year. The winner will be selected by a panel convened by the Council of Chief State School Officers, according to O’Connell’s press release.

Kajitani uses music to engage students in mathematics, earning him the nickname “The Rappin’ Mathematician.” O’Connell included a snippet from Kajitani’s application in his press release on the nomination. Kajitani wrote:

No subject, especially the mathematics that I teach, can be truly learned if the students do not see the relevance of the information in their everyday lives. I am constantly looking for ways to ‘meet them where they live.’ On any given day, I am weaving lessons about the math the students are learning with issues important to them, such as advertising, the Internet, and popular music. Never will a student leave my class thinking that they will not use the information we have discussed.

EMILY ALPERT

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