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North County schools flex innovation muscles at CFF awards

Above: Carlsbad Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Ben Churchill, right, won the Innovative Superintendent of the Year Award during the 16th annual Classroom of the Future Foundation awards ceremony on May 22 at SeaWorld. Photo by Steve Puterski 

REGION — From Escondido to Carlsbad, Oceanside to Del Mar, administrators, teachers and students cleaned up during the 16th annual Classroom of the Future Foundation’s Innovation in Education Awards.

On May 22 at SeaWorld, 14 took home awards and scholarships for their parts in innovating the classroom.

Kicking off the ceremonies were also a pair of Vista students, Odalis Ramirez of Vista High School and Ileanna Hawkins of Rancho Minerva Middle School, who co-emceed the event with NBC 7’s Arite Ojeda and Drew Schlosberg, advertising relations director for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Carlsbad Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Ben Churchill won the Innovative Superintendent Award; Megan Arias, Carlsbad Unified’s director of secondary programs won the College and Career Pathways Award; and Carlsbad High School English teacher Marisa Thompson was named the San Diego CUE Educator of the Year.

“While I’m honored to be recognized, it’s really not about me,” Churchill said. “It’s about the people I work with, the students we serve and it’s about a system working to do great things for the next generation.”

Kim Morton, principal at T.H.E (Temple Heights Elementary) Leadership Academy won the Innovative Principal Award and Kelli Mocny of the Oceanside Unified School District, was tapped as the SD CUE Innovative TOSA of the Year.

Kim Morton won the Innovative Principal Award at the 16th Classroom of the Future Foundation awards ceremony. Photo by Steve Puterski

“It was such a team process,” Morton said. “It’s not my award, it’s a community award. We’ve been working hard to build a common vision and common focuses on what our students to be and what we want them to be when they leave school.”

As for the programs in North County, Rancho Minerva won the Achieve Award for its global and nationally recognized Video Production and Digital Storytelling program.

The Del Mar Union School District won the Innovate Award for its District Design 2022 and the Escondido Union School District was an honorable mention for the Inspire Award for its Protecting our Watershed: Inquiry to Action program.

Morton said her award stems from four years of hammering out how the academy and students should approach learning. She said the school built a culture of success with parents, students and the community through personalized and project-based learning.

In addition, the approach focused on encouraging the students to be self-advocates and self-starters taking responsibility for their academic success.

“Students do a lot of creating, researching and presenting to their peers in the community,” Morton said. “We also have a huge emphasis on social-emotional success.”

Scholarship winners include Ricardo Perez of Mission Hills High School (San Marcos); Angel Zayas-Vargas of Sage Creek High School (Carlsbad); Jenna Bonker of Escondido and Rancho Bernardo High School (Poway); Jillian Abasta of Oceanside High School; and Spencer Venegas Garcia of San Pasqual High School (Escondido).