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A Poway teacher won $25,000 from the Milken Family Foundation today, a rare award that was presented by state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell. Only four California teachers will receive such awards this year, and up to 80 teachers will get them nationwide.
Third grade teacher Marissa Ochoa of Valley Elementary School was granted the award, which was recommended without her knowledge by a state panel appointed by the California Department of Education. She had no idea that she was even being considered for the award until this morning, when representatives of the Milken Foundation arrived at her school.
A Milken Foundation press release praised Ochoa for her use of hands-on learning experiences such as dissecting squids, simulating the Underground Railroad, and creating a DVD about students’ ancestors. The majority of her students score advanced on state tests. She has also been involved in a Latino Family Literacy Program that encourages parents to read books with their children in Spanish, and recently contributed a chapter to a reading textbook.
This is not her first honor: Ochoa was honored as the Poway Unified teacher of the year in 2007. She will receive her $25,000 check during an April conference, and can use it however she wants. Past recipients have used the money to start a college fund for their children, to advance their own degrees, or even to put a down payment on a house, said Jana Rausch, a spokeswoman for the Milken Foundation.