By Emilie St. John
COMPTON — The state recently bestowed the designation of teacher of the year to five educators in Los Angeles County, including one from the Compton Unified School District.
Dominguez High School teacher Catherine Borek, an AP English and drama teacher credited with reviving the drama program at Dominguez High, was named Compton Unified School District’s Teacher of the Year last May and one of the county’s teachers of the year in September.
“Pre-pandemic, a student said to me, ‘you taught my mom,’” Borek said. “Since then, this has happened over and over. Sometimes it’s ‘you taught my uncle,’ ‘ you taught my auntie,’ ‘you taught my dad.’”
One thing that is clear, she has demonstrated a 26-year commitment to her Dominguez family. Borek has been with the district since 1996 beginning under the Teach for America program.
In 1999, she reestablished the long-defunct drama program at Dominguez. In drama, Borek saw the creative potential in her students.
Along with Karen Greene, she produced the play “Our Town” that year. The award-winning film “Our Town” documents the trials and tribulations — and the students’ success — in producing the play.
“To be distinguished as Teacher of the Year is no minor designation in our district,” school board member Micah Ali said. “It says that you have made an impact in the lives of both students and your colleagues. It means that you have contributed significantly toward our district elevating and opening doors to opportunities for our students.”
Every year the state selects educators who are ambassadors for the profession and serve as representatives of the state for the calendar year. State Superintendent Tony Thurmond began his career as a social services worker, and said he is pleased to recognize the five outstanding teachers who have had a tremendous impact in their schools, on students, and in communities, and have gone above and beyond during a challenging time in education and in our lives.
“These five educators receive the prestigious honor of 2023 California Teachers of the Year for their extraordinary talents and efforts to teach young people in California during historically challenging circumstances,” said Thurmond. “Using their exceptional skills, creativity, and experience, they continue to create positive learning environments and make meaningful contributions to the academic and social–emotional needs of their students.”
Borek and her students have completed the Los Angeles Marathon, collaborated with LA Opera to perform mini-operas, made it to the Poetry Out Loud regionals, starred in a Keurig commercial, published a play with Pen in the Community, and started a rugby club.
Emilie St. John is a freelance journalist covering the areas of Carson, Compton, Inglewood and Willowbrook. Send tips to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.