Opinion: Finding Meaning

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Crystal Apples for Teacher Appreciation Week

Back in 1953, Eleanor Roosevelt convinced Congress to create a National Teacher Day, now held the first Tuesday in May. The celebration grew into National Teacher Appreciation Week. Eleven years ago, Laguna’s Juliette Chesley organized an award for exceptional teachers called “The Crystal Apple.” The ninth ceremony (during COVID-19 awards were given privately) was held last Sunday. The program can be seen on YouTube under “9th Annual Crystal Apple Awards,” but here are the highlights.
Students from four area high schools (Laguna Beach, Dana Hills, Aliso Niguel, and Laguna Hills) nominated teachers they thought exceptional. From those nominated, two teachers per high school were selected by popular vote. Sunday’s presentation of the crystal apples was held at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Aliso Viejo. Chuck Henry, KNBC-TV news anchor, conducted the program. High school students were invited to wear their school colors and cheer for their teachers. How often does that happen?

It was a Laguna Beach evening. The national anthem was beautifully sung by Laguna Beach High School’s Lily Gabora, a student who happens to be blind. The invocation was given by the irrepressible Rev. Lester Mackenzie of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church. Students Luke Hendrickson and Nicole Brown—she was helped by two other students—introduced their honored teachers.

Luke, a Laguna Beach High School senior and varsity golf team member, presented the Crystal Apple award to Sean Quigley, head coach for the boy’s golf team as well as the girl’s golf team.

“I’m grateful for Sean Quigley, for his love for the sport, and his love for the team. He’s one of the hardest working people I know. I’m happy for you coach and I’m happy you’re my friend.”

Coach Quigley, in response, thanked his wife Valerie Quigley, also a Laguna Beach High teacher, and spoke about the overlooked importance of role models throughout the community, beginning with parents, church leaders, teachers and coaches.

Laguna Beach High School teacher Sean Quigley receives the Crystal Apple Award from student Luke Hendrickson. Photo courtesy of Melissa Thomson.

Nicole joined the introduction of Rachel de Leon who teaches Medical Core. De Leon “truly has a gift for teaching. Her ability to engage with students is phenomenal… not only is she able to manage our bursts of curiosity but she does it with ease and excitement,” Nicole said. Others noted how “she shows such genuine love and care for each and every one of us… the classroom we all love to go in isn’t just a classroom but a family” and “she puts others before herself and relates with students on a personal level.” De Leon responded, “one of the things that makes a difference in education is to bring something about [health care] into the classroom… the students know how to take vital signs quickly, how to start an IV… and that trickles down to a patient one day… saving someone’s life.”

Rachel de Leon, medical core teacher at Laguna Beach High School, is honored by students with the Crystal Apple Award. Photo courtesy of Melissa Thomson

It was great to honor our exceptional teachers for their service to students.

They make the world better. There’s meaning in that.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach”. Email: [email protected]

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