Conner awarded exemplary educator of California

Janet Conner, I.B. English teacher and Extended Essay coordinator, was awarded on Jan. 28 with the Exemplary I.B. Educator Award by the California Association of World Schools (CAWS) for her representation and dedication to the program. Specifically, CAWS states that the award “is offered in recognition of an outstanding educator at your school who has made your school and program great.”

“According to Mrs. Doğançay, who nominated me because she’s the I.B. coordinator, it’s somebody who embodies the I.B. pedagogy,” Conner said. “I think (I transfer) what I’ve learned about the program of I.B…to all of my classes because the program encourages critical thinking and diversity more than rote answers or ‘let’s all think the same.’”

When Deborah Doğançay, I.B. coordinator and Conner’s nominator, began thinking of who to nominate for the award in December of last year, all teachers seemed like good candidates, but Conner stood out for her dedication and teaching history.

“I thought Ms. Conner really stood out because she embodies IB…and everywhere she goes, whether she’s talking to students or parents or administrators, she’s always expressing her passion for I.B.,” Doğançay said. “Even though we have over 20 amazing educators and I think all of our IB educators are deserving of awards, when it came down to the fact that we could submit only one application, I felt she was the appropriate choice because of her diversity and number of years of committing to the program.”

Before she began to teach at Newbury Park High School, Conner had worked as a teacher in Canada at a small school where it was required to teach multiple subjects. Her experience in various fields besides English helped her prepare for the I.B. program’s well-rounded curriculum.

The application window for the award opened on Dec. 5 of last year and closed this year on Jan. 8. I.B. schools across California each nominated one educator, and in the end a reviewing committee offered three awards, one per level of the I.B. program. Conner represents the high school level, known as the Diploma Programme.

“(According to the reviewing committee), the applicant pool was very fierce,” Doğançay said. “People who teach I.B. tend to have a lot of work, a lot of grading, so if we’re gonna do it, you believe in it and you’re passionate about it and that’s why you’re willing to put in a lot of time to do it. They read her application and thought that she just stood out.”

Conner will receive a plaque and $1,000 at the CAWS Annual Spring Conference at Sacramento on Feb. 29 in conjunction with her award. CAWS will cover award winners’ travel and registration costs.

English department chair Christine Hodson, a fellow 12th grade I.B. English teacher and friend of Conner, was invited by Conner to start working in the I.B. program as well as moving on to become the department chair. Hodson described the job of an I.B. English teacher as one in which “you have to be an active inquirer and learner with the students,” and assist students in working to disseminate information to the rest of the class. According to Hodson working as an I.B. teacher requires the teacher to put themselves in the position of the students and work with them closely.

“We were so excited for her to be recognized as the I.B. Educator of the Year in California,” Hodson said. “Her competition was diverse, it was steep, and it was fierce. She is such a deserving recipient of it.”

“I hope I continue to offer my students a real academic subject,” Conner said of her I.B. teaching, “because I think it’s pretty exciting to allow for a tremendous amount of diversity for reactions.