Connie L. Lurie College of Education Launches Fourth Annual Celebration of Teaching Awards for Aspiring Educators

Alberto Camacho with his mother Irma.

Alberto Camacho and his mother Irma attended the 2019 Celebration of Teaching event, where he was recognized for his teaching promise. Photo: Bob Bain.

Alberto Camacho, ’20 English, ’21 Teaching Credential, can remember the names of all of the influential teachers in his life — from his preschool teacher, “Mr. E,” to his Chicana and Chicano Studies professor Marcos Pizzaro, associate dean of the Connie L. Lurie College of Education. 

He recalls Mr. E teaching him “e for effort” almost as clearly as he remembers Pizarro honoring him at the spring 2019 Celebration of Teaching event, where Camacho was recognized for his teaching potential and awarded a $1,000 scholarship. 

“My teachers had an impact; they genuinely wanted the best for their kids, and that’s what I want to do in the classroom,” said Camacho, who is completing his student teaching at Silver Creek High School in San José this spring. 

“I want the best for my kids, their families and their communities. It is thanks to my teachers that I feel this way — they planted the seed.”

The Lurie College of Education Student Success Center was first inspired to start the Celebration of Teaching event in 2017, when the college joined the CSU EduCorps initiative, a CSU-wide program dedicated to increasing outreach and recruitment for teacher preparation programs. Janene Perez, the center’s director of recruitment, student success and alumni engagement, said they first learned of a similar initiative at Sacramento State and drew on that model at SJSU in 2018.

“We wanted to reach students who might not have considered teaching as a career but had a deep commitment to their communities and exhibited qualities that were impactful in a teaching and learning setting,” said Perez.

The inaugural Celebration of Teaching event initially focused on recruiting from within SJSU but has expanded well beyond the university and into the community. 

“Recognizing that the consideration of career fields often begins much earlier, we’ve grown the initiative over the past few years to include outreach to community colleges, high schools and middle schools,” said Heather Lattimer, dean of the Lurie College. 

“Our outreach is intentionally designed to strengthen the diversity of our educator workforce, a critical equity issue that has a direct impact on student success in K12 and post-secondary education.”

Since then, 151 students have been recognized at the Celebration of Teaching. Of them, 16 have redeemed their scholarships and enrolled in one of the Lurie College’s credential programs. 

By recognizing students who show the potential to become transformative educators, Lattimer and Perez hope that the encouragement and financial incentive will inspire young people to consider careers in teaching. The initiative aims to increase outreach and recruitment efforts to students who perhaps wouldn’t have seen themselves becoming educators previously based on their interests or identities.

“So many of us share insecurities around academics: feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, and thoughts of, how could I possibly become a teacher if I’m not a top student?” said Perez. “When a trusted teacher, professor or supervisor nominates a student, that is something that not only boosts confidence but also sparks interest. 

“We hope that the nomination validates who the student is holistically, recognizing their diversity of experiences, resilience and cultural assets — all critical pieces of their whole being that they bring to the table and are at the heart of transformative education.”

To learn more about this year’s Celebration of Teaching nominees, visit sjsu.edu/education/community/celebration-of-teaching.