Tustin Unified School District Announces 3 “Teachers Of The Year”: Emily Neddersen (Myford Elementary), Lisa Fuggitti (Pioneer Middle), And Darin Hallstrom (Beckman High School)

A group of Tustin Unified officials were in stealth mode Wednesday as they converged on three school campuses to surprise three Teachers of the Year with news of their honors.

Tears, shock, applause and even marching bands greeted the announcements as students and colleagues alike sang the praises of the educators who were selected.

emilyneddersenmyford1Emily Neddersen, Myford Elementary School

Neddersen has been teaching for 11 years, and has spent the last 10 years teaching kindergarten in Tustin Unified Schools. What sets Neddersen apart is her obvious zeal for teaching, which she described in her Teacher of the Year application.

“As a child, I taught anything and everything that would stay still long enough – my siblings, my pets, my dolls, anything,” Neddersen wrote. “I could not understand why school wasn’t everyone’s favorite place to be.”

Neddersen mentors rookie teachers and strives to connect with each of her students.

“Each year I start with 33 little bodies, each unique with their own interests, talents and abilities,” she said. “It is my job to identify their strengths and areas of need, and inspire them to learn.”

lisafuggittipioneerLisa Fuggitti, Pioneer Middle School

Fuggitti is a 26-year teaching veteran who began her career in Maryland, and started teaching in Tustin schools in 2004. She teaches home economics at Pioneer Middle School, where Fuggitti morphed the culinary arts curriculum into one supported by nutrition education. Student interest surged and enrollment doubled, and Fuggitti designed an advanced foods and nutrition course.

The educator challenged her students to host a dinner theater night, cooking a healthful three-course meal for 175 guests. Fuggitti says her passion is fueled in part by the severe growth of childhood and teen obesity. The teacher established “Tasty Tuesdays” on campus, and guest chefs provide the student body with nutritious samples of healthy foods.

“My joy comes from watching 35 students work in groups, each student having individual responsibilities, and experiencing success,” Fuggitti said.

darinhallstrombeckmanDarin Hallstrom, Beckman High School

An English teacher to freshmen and juniors, Hallstrom has taught at Tustin Unified schools for the entirety of his 18-year career. Hallstrom is active in new teacher training and teaches a graduate-level course at UC Irvine on English teaching methods. He was also selected as the Tustin Unified Teacher of the Year in 1998.

Hallstrom says his desire to teach came from his own less-than-ideal educational experiences, and empathy for his students is what drives him each day.

“I try so hard never to forget what it’s like to be 11 years old: overwhelmed by new experiences, new curriculum, oversized eighth-graders, and life in general,” he wrote. “I try to provide an environment where they can read and think and talk and listen freely, where they can stretch and grow and mature and, ultimately, learn.”

Hallstrom believes successful teaching boils down to one simple factor: mutual respect.

“I am not afraid to give that respect first,” he said, trusting that my students will see it, expect it, and hopefully give it to someone else in their lives.”