On October 16, three Los Angeles County teachers, Casey Cuny, Andrew Lewis, and Hannah Rodriguez, were recognized as one of the five California Teachers of the Year by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond.

A news release from the California Department of Education praised each recipient for their impact on their students and pointed to their work as evidence of the excellence of California’s school system.

“Congratulations to these five remarkable educators, who all display deep commitment and innovation in their work—all while supporting their students through a difficult time,” said Thurmond. “They make profound differences in their students’ lives and provide both inspiration and the practical tools students need to succeed. They are all prime examples of the exceptional work in California schools.”

 Andrew Lewis, who teaches at Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), has been teaching for 17 years and half years and currently teaches vocal music.

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Lewis stated that the award “meant a lot to him” insofar as it drew attention to and recognized students of the arts. Doing so, he noted, was the most rewarding part of his job.

“I think it is important to recognize that a holistic education includes the arts. It is not STEM, but STEAM, which includes the arts as a part of an education for students,” Lewis said. “To me, that’s meaningful.”

LAUSD Board President Jackie Goldberg also recognized the importance of recognizing instruction in the arts, adding that since music education “enriches students’ lives and fosters creativity, discipline, and expression,” she found it to be a “particular joy” to see Lewis recognized.

Lewis’s principal, Jantré Christian, praised him for demonstrating “an ongoing and consistent commitment to his students and families in our community – both inside the classroom and out” and noted the long hours that he often works to “provide students with opportunities to rehearse and participate” in public performances.

Casey Cuny teaches honors English and senior myth and folklore at William S. Hart High School and Valencia High School in the William S. Hart Unified School District.

He has been teaching for 18 years and, in the last year, has been named Valencia High School Teacher of the Year by his peers, District Teacher of the Year by the Hart Governing Board, and honored as one of 16 Los Angeles County Teachers of the Year.

Thurmond was also nominated by Cuny as the California representative for the 2024 National Teacher of the Year competition, the winner to be announced next spring.

Superintendent Mike Kuhlman described Cuny as “a role model for his students, helping them develop deep, creative, and critical thinking skills,” noting that this was the second California National Teacher of the Year from the Hart District in the last four years.

Recognizing how much he learned from his fellow teachers, Cuny pointed to his district’s excellence, stating, “The teachers of our district are the best in the country.”