Position: First Grade Teacher
School: SOAR Charter Academy
School District: San Bernardino City Unified School District
City, State: San Bernardino, California
About the Nominee: Gina Ortega was nominated by her school's HR director, Tammi Fort. SOAR Charter Academy has been in operation since 2008. Right from the beginning, Ms. Ortega was a part of the SOAR family. She began as a parent, an aide and a substitute teacher. Eventually, she found a permanent spot with SOAR as a 4th grade teacher. As a new teacher, she was eager and enthusiastic. Walking into her classroom was an amazing sight; one could find a motivated teacher, motivated students and a whole lot of learning going on! The next year, a first grade position opened up. Ms Ortega filled the position and has truly been a shining star ever since. As an educator, Ms. Ortega believes that her role does not begin or end in the classroom. She gives an extraordinary amount of her personal time to ensure that her students understand the necessary academic information and provides the extra resources her students need to be successful. Ms. Ortega not only incorporates high levels of content and strategies into her classroom, but she is so engaging with her personality and maintains the utmost respect for every individual and unique student. The level of energy in her classroom can only be described as "WOW." In recent years, Ms. Ortega has implemented 'flexible seating' in her classroom, providing an environment that is conducive to open collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking. Ms. Ortega never stops learning herself; she is always one of the first to volunteer to go to workshops and conferences. She soaks up knowledge and information, practices its uses, adapts it and implements it in her classroom. SOAR has begun its first year of implementing The Leader in Me program, and Ms. Ortega has already instilled leadership language throughout her classroom and beyond. She has transformed her teacher-centered room into one that clearly instills leadership and independence among her students. Ms. Ortega is confident that her "firsties" will grow to become well-rounded, outstanding, educated citizens with a future in making positive change!