ESCONDIDO — Two Escondido teachers were named among San Diego County’s best teachers this year and will go on to compete for statewide honors.
Courtney Coffin, a special education teacher at Orange Glen High School, and Wendy Threatt, a fourth-grade teacher at Felicita Elementary, were two of five finalists named the San Diego County Teachers of the Year by the San Diego County Office of Education.
The other three finalists include Poway, El Cajon and Chula Vista teachers.
One hundred and ninety-six teachers have been named San Diego County Teacher of the Year since 1974. Of those, 23 were named California Teacher of the Year, and three went on to be named National Teacher of the Year.
Coffin, recognized earlier this year as the Escondido Union High School District’s top educator, specializes in teaching moderate to severe special education.
“By selecting me, I feel like the district is saying this population of students is truly valued and that it’s important to provide them with a high-quality teacher and recognize them as part of the campus culture,” Coffin previously told The Coast News.
Despite the challenges of teaching students with the highest support needs on campus, Coffin has been up for the task since she was just a young high school student.
“I always knew I wanted to work with people with disabilities,” Coffin said. “There were no other options.”
Coffin moved to Southern California over a decade ago for her husband to pursue a master’s degree and immediately began looking for a teacher position. During that search, she found Orange Glen High School and has never left.
Coffin developed an innovative curriculum for the Life Skills/Bridge Program, a highly specialized and individualized certificate of completion that prepares students with moderate to significant disabilities to become more independent in school, in their community and at home.
Threatt has been with the Escondido Union School District for 25 years, teaching at Reidy Creek and Lincoln Elementary Schools before moving to Felicita four years ago.
According to SDCOE, Threatt isn’t bound by the walls of her classroom when teaching her students about the world. Her title as a teacher also doesn’t stop her from continuing her education.
“I will always reach beyond the doors of my classroom and curriculum to meet the needs of my students, whether it’s supplies or experiences,” Threatt said. “I always gravitated toward teaching. Simply, I was born to be a teacher… but also a lifelong learner.”
Threatt explained that she liked to pull from various resources to teach her curriculum.
“I add lots of more layers of information and experience to what I teach,” she told The Coast News.
Threatt has taken a professional development course through National Geographic that challenges educators regarding teaching science, climate change and other topics.
On one occasion, her extra courses led to her connecting her students with an explorer via Zoom who found bones while on an excursion in Central America.
Felicita Elementary School Principal Marty Hranek praised Threatt in his recommendation letter, noting that she “has gained an outstanding reputation in the school and district for pursuing collaborative efforts that move district and state systems forward.”
“She has inspired teachers and administrators around the school district to expand the ‘Girls on the Run’ program, impacting the lives of hundreds of students,” Hranek added.
Threatt also praised the principal for cultivating Felicita’s “success-based and solutions-based thinking” culture.
“Felicita is a really special place,” Threatt said. “We have a community that really needs access to every educational opportunity available, which was true before Covid and now after. They need more resources and educational opportunities, and what I love about Felicita is that every staff member knows that and sees that and steps up to do that.”
Threatt is thrilled about receiving the San Diego County Teacher of the Year award, which she called a “once in a career opportunity.” Like Coffin, Threatt also views the award as a statement on behalf of her school community.
“I see this as an opportunity for me to elevate Felicita, which doesn’t get a lot of attention and focus, and a way to shine a spotlight on the fantastic work being done here while calling attention to the resources we need to educate students even better than before,” she said.
Coffin and Threatt now have a shot at the California Teacher of the Year title, which will be announced in October.