By Karen Brainard
A Barnett Elementary School teacher received a huge surprise when she was named a recipient of the Teachers are Heroes award and learned she can take her 32 students on a trip to Legoland in Carlsbad.
Fifth-grade teacher Judy Gunnett is one of 12 teachers in San Diego County to receive the award this school year. The award was given at the school on Nov. 9, with teachers and school district administration officials present.
The Teachers are Heroes program is a partnership created by Asuza Pacific University and Lincoln Financial Media with support from the San Diego County Office of Education.
Nadege Douge, communications assistant for the San Diego County Office of Education, said the purpose of the award is to “honor teachers and the great things they’re doing.”
Kim Torik, marketing director of Lincoln Financial Media, which owns three FM radio stations in San Diego — KSON, 94.9 and 98.1 — explained that disc jockeys on the three stations talk about teachers being heroes. The DJs ask listeners to nominate teachers who are touching the lives of children.
John Burlison, assistant professor and director of the San Diego Regional Center for Asuza Pacific, said they get stacks of nominations per month.
Burlison explained that a parent whose children had been taught by Gunnett wrote a letter nominating her for the award.
“The teacher has a way to be nurturing and loving...She’s there to make them feel special,” Burlison read.
The letter noted that Gunnett goes beyond her job duties and helps students with special needs, assists with talent shows and relives history by being hands-on instead of only using a textbook.
“She is an emerging leader with the kids,” Burlison also read.
Gunnett explained later that she has a type of service club called emerging leaders that is involved in community service projects.
In accepting the award, Gunnett credited the Ramona Unified School District.
“We have the best district in the world. This is a wonderful gift,” she said of the award, which came with a package of items for her class, including gift cards.
In early June, Burlison said, the 12 award recipients and their classes will take a trip to Legoland.
“It’s like a big pep rally,” he said.
Gunnett said of the award, “I couldn’t believe it. I’m still in shock.”
When asked how her students will react to the news of a Legoland trip, she responded, “Oh my gosh, they’re going to be so excited.”