Oakland Unified School District Announces 2021 Teachers of the Year: Jessica Jung, Chantel Parnell, Whitney Dwyer
Oakland – During the remarkably challenging 2020-21 school year, thousands of educators across Oakland have done outstanding work supporting students. Now, the District is recognizing three of them as 2021 OUSD Teachers of the Year. The three teachers, one each at the elementary, middle and high school levels, will have the opportunity to enter for consideration as 2021 Alameda County Teachers of the Year. As Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell announced at Wednesday night’s Board of Education meeting, the OUSD Teachers of the Year are Jessica Jung at Bridges Academy, Chantel Parnell at Bret Harte Middle School and Whitney Dwyer at MetWest High School.
Jessica Jung, 3rd Grade Teacher at Bridges Academy. During this unprecedented school year, Ms. Jung has supported her students and their families physically and emotionally. She has utilized the virtual environment in ways that deepened students’ social/emotional competencies, creating regular spaces for students to share how they were doing, including open discussions about death, grief, and loss, allowing students to bring their full selves into the classroom. Within weeks after the pandemic hit, and with her full support, Bridges Academy created a GoFundMe page, equitably collecting and distributing funds and providing immediate financial relief for families who wouldn’t qualify for government support. Ms. Jung engaged multiple stakeholders and wrote a school transformation three-year plan that earned her school a $160,000 grant, providing a clear road map for how Bridges would best serve its students. Colleagues say Ms. Jung is her students’ biggest cheerleader; always praising and encouraging her young scholars and that she consistently views her teaching practice through a social justice lens, developing thought-provoking lessons to engage students in discussions around race, activism, and empowerment.
Ms. Jung has served Oakland Unified in multiple roles beyond her classroom. She has been a participating member of the Literacy Leadership Team, Faculty Council, and School Site Council. She serves on the Equity and Culture Team, and has been an English Language Development (ELD) Teacher Leader and Coach. She has consistently served the District in multiple ways. For example, she served on the Mathematics Common Core Curriculum Production Team, Oakland Learning Lab Network Design Team, and she is a Guided Language Acquisition Design Trainer. Ms. Jung has led professional development for teachers on specific high leverage ELD strategies to engage English Language Learners, so it’s no surprise that she is also Commissioner on the Library Advisory Commission for the City of Oakland / Oakland Public Library.
Chantel Parnell, 6th-8th Grade Computer Science Teacher at Bret Harte Middle School. Having created a classroom environment where the role of teacher and learner are interchangeable, Ms. Parnell (shown with soccer star, David Beckham at a Salesforce student event) has cultivated a space where students are not only taking creative risks but are making their thinking more visible through the problem-solving process and multiple rounds of feedback and reflection. One of the things she is justifiably most proud of is when her students presented at the first-ever Future Trailblazer Challenge, hosted by Salesforce.org, where they faced off with students from other schools in a “Shark Tank” style competition. Her students prototyped a solution to a selected United Nations (UN) sustainable development goal and used coding curriculum and a 3-D printer to build a solution that addressed their specific topic, school shootings. She says watching her students in front of a large audience confidently sharing what they had been working on with so much passion was incredibly satisfying. Ms. Parnell has worked hard to address the overwhelmingly-male makeup of the field of Computer Science by teaching the only all girls Computer Science class in the District. She is determined to make sure the girls in her classes and across OUSD feel like they belong in STEM classes and can succeed at high levels. Colleagues say Ms. Parnell’s way of challenging and inspiring students at the same time is one of her great strengths.
Ms. Parnell serves her school community and the District in several roles. She is a member of the Instructor Led Training (ILT) and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) Teams. She’s also a Math Teacher Leader and a Computer Science Teacher Leader. During the pandemic, she produced slides and videos as a Teacher Leader to support other Computer Science Teachers across the District. Ms. Parnell is also a Mills Teacher Scholar, Computer Science Teacher Leader and Scholar as well as a Fellow in the Agency by Design Teacher Fellowship.
Whitney Dwyer, 10th Grade Social Science/Humanities Teacher at MetWest High School.
As an educator, Ms. Dwyer helps give her students the tools necessary to work toward liberation on internal, interpersonal, and institutional levels. Ms. Dwyer prepares her students to understand the historical context for contemporary problems that affect them, and to evaluate the root causes of the harms that affect them and the greater community. Her goal is for students to learn strategies for change, and how to facilitate the specific change toward which they are striving. Her aspiration is that her students love and respect one another through active community building, sharing with one another, and learning about their shared struggles. Colleagues say Ms. Dwyer is a magnet for young people and that she embodies a unique combination of love and rigor for all of her students. Whether working intentionally providing meaningful learning opportunities for political and social engagement, producing MetWest Live, organizing teach-ins about climate justice, or speaking passionately in front of the entire school about the Black Lives Matter movement, colleagues say her impact extends beyond her own cohorts of students, that it is felt deeply within the entire school community. Because of her influence, students have returned to speak to the student body, participate in events, and some have returned to MetWest as staff, crediting Ms. Dwyer for many of their successes during and after high school.
During her time on staff, Ms. Dwyer has supported the High School Expansion Team, served as a Teacher Leader Mentor and support of first-year teachers, a Curriculum Developer for Ethnic Studies, and she serves on the District’s Measure N commission and was a Founding Advisor for the Ericka Huggins Campus at MetWest.
“The world that our students must navigate is filled with challenges, and it gives me great satisfaction and confidence knowing that people like Ms. Jung, Ms. Parnell and Ms. Dwyer are in the classroom helping prepare these young minds to conquer the challenges they face,” said Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell. “Knowing how deeply invested they have been in not only their students’ education, but also in helping them and their families get through the pandemic, I am proud to lift up these educators as outstanding representatives of the greatness of Oakland teachers. I send my sincerest congratulations to all of them.”
Because of the extraordinary nature of the past year which caused the cancellation of the 2020 Alameda County Teacher of the Year competition, the 2020 OUSD Teachers of the Year, Phoebe Diamond from Chabot Elementary and Ji-Yun “Jane” Kim from Fremont High School, will also have the opportunity to enter and possibly become 2021 Alameda County Teachers of the Year.
About the Oakland Unified School District
In California’s most diverse city, Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) is dedicated to creating a learning environment where “Every Student Thrives!” More than half of our students speak a non-English language at home. And each of our 81 schools is staffed with talented individuals uniting around a common set of values: Students First, Equity, Excellence, Integrity, Cultural Responsiveness and Joy. We are committed to preparing all students for college, career and community success.
To learn more about OUSD’s Full Service Community District focused on academic achievement while serving the whole child in safe schools, please visit OUSD.org and follow us @OUSDnews.
Post based on press release from OUSD to Zennie62Media, Inc.
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