California Teacher of the Year

Recognized for her leadership and innovation during a challenging educational climate, HSU School of Education instructor and HSU alumna Nora Wynne was named a 2021 California Teacher of the Year. This is the first time a Humboldt County educator has been recognized with the honor since 1996.

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Each year, five exceptional educators are awarded with California’s prestigious Teacher of the Year award. Recognized for her leadership and innovation during a challenging educational climate, HSU School of Education instructor and HSU alumna Nora Wynne was named a 2021 California Teacher of the Year. This is the first time a Humboldt County educator has been recognized with the honor since 1996.

Wynne’s own education started in sunny Paso Robles, California. She moved north for college, earning a degree in Biology from Humboldt State in 1994. At the time, HSU was one of the top schools recruiting volunteers for the Peace Corps. Wynne signed up and headed to Guatemala: the experience opened her eyes to the power of education and inspired her lifelong career in bi-lingual education.

“I saw how education could liberate people from dire poverty,” says Wynne, who is also Humboldt County’s 2020 Teacher of the Year. She has taught Spanish at Arcata area schools since 1999 and serves as the Immersion Coordinator for Spanish language education in the McKinleyville Union School District (MUSD).

“Nora is a talented and committed educator who has helped to shape hundreds of lives,” says MUSD Superintendent Heidi Moore-Guynup. “She works tirelessly to lift up students regardless of their life circumstances.”

Beyond her Spanish classroom at McKinleyville Middle School, where Wynne has taught since 2011, Wynne has been an instructor in HSU’s Secondary Education credential program since 2000. Always a “perpetual learner,” according to Moore-Guynup, Wynne earned a Master’s of Education from HSU in 2008. As a teacher of teachers, Wynne brings a global lens to her curriculum with a focus on educating students about racism and homophobia in the classroom.

“Wynne is an expert in equity, inclusivity, and anti-racist teaching practices, which serve as the foundation for our teacher credential programs,” explains Libbi Miller, HSU’s School of Education department chair. “She models how to value the experience and knowledge that students bring to the classroom, while also advocating for their needs.”
Knowing that teachers across Humboldt County are committed to social justice for their students, Wynne was honored to receive the county-wide Teacher of the Year recognition last May. The designation moved Wynne into a large pool of candidates for the 2021 statewide contest. After a lengthy application process this summer, Wynne was notified by Tony Thurmond, California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, that she had been named one of California’s five Teachers of the Year this October.

“It makes me feel seen and know that my work is appreciated, which is all we can ask for,” says Wynne.

Wynne believes that her day-to-day work at McKinleyville Middle School is inspired by her role in HSU’s Secondary Education program. “It’s foundational to my teaching soul,” says Wynne. With multicultural issues at the hub of the program, Wynne explains that she and her colleagues put the barriers facing California students—race, class, language, and socioeconomic status—at the heart of their curriculum.

“The Secondary Education program at HSU has a strong foundation in equity in the classroom,” says Wynne. “All my colleagues there believe it’s our job to remove barriers so that every student has equal opportunity in their education.” Wynne describes her approach as equity in action, a philosophy which is constantly reinvigorated by the pedagogy of HSU’s School of Education.

“It helps me to put theory into practice with every student,” says Wynne.

About The California Teachers of the Year Program
The California Teachers of the Year program was established in 1952 to honor outstanding teachers and inspire new teachers to enter the profession. For more information on the award, please visit the California Teachers of the Year website. To learn more about the teacher credential programs at Humboldt State, visit the School of Education at education.humboldt.edu.