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Calipatria teacher among Disney award recipients

October 29, 2001|By KELLY GRANT, Staff Writer

CALIPATRIA — A high school physical education teacher here has been selected as a Disney's American Teacher Awards Honoree for 2001 in part for her desire to expose students to the world beyond Imperial County.

"I like the kids. I like opening up new worlds for them," said Calipatria High School P.E. teacher Sandy George.

"My goal is to plant a seed," George, 59, said.

Committed to the idea that people with healthy, active bodies have healthy, active minds, George thinks physical education is an integral part of any school's curriculum.

George, who was a successful volleyball coach at the high school and also a city recreation supervisor, aims to provide her students with interesting activities they can do for life, ranging from ping pong to archery.

"She's fun. We did a lot of off the wall things," said 2001 Calipatria High graduate Jessica Moreno.

One recent afternoon, George was teaching her students traditional folk dances from Yugoslavia and Denmark.

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"My classroom is just a little window to the world," she said.

"There's a bigger world out there. I want them to know that world," George said.

George began teaching at Calipatria High in 1973 after having lived and studied in places such as San Jose, Los Angeles and North Dakota.

She wants her students to have the same opportunities to explore other places and cultures. If they come back to Calipatria, George said, that's great. Every student deserves to have a choice, she said.

Jessica Moreno said she and her fellow Associated Student Body members last year thought George would be a good nominee because of "her many years of hard work."

"She cares about all the students, not just her favorites like some teachers," Jessica, 17, said.

After the student nomination, George was asked to send in an application complete with essays and letters of recommendation. George almost didn't do it.

"But then I thought, if the students took the time, I can, too," George said.

After sending the finished application, George forgot the contest only to be amazed this fall when she was notified of her selection.

George is one of only 35 teachers selected from the more than 111,000 nominations the Walt Disney Co. received.

George will be flown to Los Angeles with other outstanding teachers from across the country to be honored for their talents, skills and commitment to their profession.

Since 1989, Disney's American Teacher Awards have saluted exemplary teachers in kindergarten through 12th-grade for innovative teaching methods that actively engage students in learning. The focus of Disney's American Teacher Awards is to recognize the teaching profession, showcase creativity in the classroom and honor those who can assist in developing creative teaching strategies in their school districts.

This year, Disney received more than 20,000 teacher applications from more than 111,000 nominations submitted by telephone and email. The 35 honorees, chosen by a national selection committee comprised of distinguished educators, are nominated in one of 10 teaching categories. In November, one finalist will be selected in each category, and the teacher of the year will be chosen by the honorees from among the 10 finalists.

The Walt Disney Co. will award each honoree, including George, $10,000 and their schools will receive $5,000. George said she will probably buy a new car and take the students who nominated her out to dinner.

The 10 category finalists will each receive $5,000. The teacher of the year will receive $25,000 and that teacher's school will receive $10,000.

Staff Writer Kelly Grant can be reached at 337-3441.

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