It was a moment of pride for Nigerians and the African diaspora on Friday September 29, 2017 at the Hilton Hotel & Towers Universal City when a Nigerian, Ms. Juliet Okonwo was conferred with the prestigious honor of the “Teacher of the Year” Award by the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Office of Education.
Ms. Juliet Okonkwo was born and raised in Nigeria, West African. She graduated from Ihioma Girl’s High School with High Honors. Ms. Juliet is inspired by her mother, Mrs. Rose Agbaka, who was a teacher for 35 years, principal for 10 years and later became the Director of Education for Orlu Local Government School District which is the equivalent to a Superintendent of a County! Ms. Juliet remembers her mother telling her to “reach for the sky” and “whatever you do – do it well”. Her mother’s strong belief in education flowed easily into Ms. Juliet, her second daughter of seven! Miss. Juliet is also inspired by her husband and children Mr. Ike Okonkwo whom together they blessed and raising five beautiful Children: Jennifer, Nnamdi, Anisha, Jerry, and Marverick, four whom are in the University, and one in Middle School.
Ms. Juliet began her career with Los Angeles County Office of Education as a para educator. In 1996 Ms. Juliet graduated from California State University, Dominguez Hills with a bachelor degree in sociology and quickly started her master’s degree in the same field. Upon finishing the course work and working on her theses, she began working in Special Education with students eligible for services with Emotional Disturbance; she then taught students with Autism for the next 7 years.
Finally, Ms. Juliet found her true calling and began working with students who are the most impacted by disabilities. She states “all students can learn; it is my job to make sure I give them the information in a way that they can access”. This is evidenced by Ms. Juliet’s classroom where she combines music, art, movement, hands on activities, videos and real world objects to convey meaning and inspire learning.
Ms. Juliet has recently embraced the N2Y Unique Learning Program which has augmented her classroom curriculum. “I will take any student and I promise, we can make progress”. While this progress may seem small to traditional educators… staff, colleagues, administrators and parents report “seeing a difference”. This can be something as small as helping a student learn to communicate his/her preferences with a motion or eye gaze, but for many of her students and families, this makes a huge impact.
This year, Ms. Juliet worn the Teacher of The Year for SWISP division of special education 2017. After a serious competition with other divisions in the LA County, she worn the Teacher of the year for the entire LA County Office of Education 2017. She will continue to pursue this race in becoming Teacher of The Year for the entire California.
Ms. Juliet enjoys working with her current class of Moderate to Severe Multiple Disabled students in the Southwest SELPA and is continuing her education to earn a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration. You can find her most days in her classroom moving faster than the speed of light engaging all students; just be careful if you drop in during Zumba or Karoke time because she will make you participate!
Click on link below for a full online photo album of the ceremony…