For the second time in three years, a social studies teacher from the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District has been awarded a White House Teaching Ambassador Fellowship and will spend a year-long sabbatical working with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s senior staff.
Marciano Gutierrez, 29, is one of five – and the only Californian – selected for the honor out of 625 teachers nationwide who applied. An additional half-dozen teachers will be part-time ambassadors while in their home districts.
Barry Groves, superintendent of the Bay Area high school district, called Gutierrez a “fabulous teacher” and a “thoughtful passionate advocate for teacher quality, especially when it comes to serving traditionally under-served students.” Gutierrez would be in his seventh year at Alta Vista High School, a 160-student continuation high school serving primarily low-income Latino students who have struggled in a comprehensive high school in a wealthy district. These students are like Gutierrez’s neighbors in Fresno, where he escaped the trap, he says, of low expectations when he was assigned to a magnet school across town. The first in his family to attend college, Gutierrez graduated summa cum laude from Cal State University, Fresno, and received a full scholarship to Stanford, where he earned a master’s in Education. He now mentors students in the Stanford program.
Gutierrez started work this week in Washington, where he will work directly with Brad Jupp, Duncan’s senior program advisor on teacher initiatives. Gutierrez will focus on teacher retention and recruitment issues, particularly how to attract good teachers to high-needs schools like Alta Vista. He says he’ll also be looking at innovative ways to evaluate teachers. On that issue, it may take the diplomatic skills of a teacher ambassador to bridge relations between the Obama administration and the California Republic. Duncan made statewide teacher evaluation reforms, using standardized tests to measure student progress, a prerequisite for states to seek a waiver from the No Child Left Behind law. Gov. Jerry Brown opposed that provision as an illegal mandate, and there’s been little traction in most districts to change California’s current ineffectual evaluation process.
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