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Congratulations, DMUSD 2019 Site Teachers of the Year! Congratulations, DMUSD 2019 District Teacher of the Year!



DMUSD 2019 Site Teachers of the Year!

Ashley Falls School – Melissa Davis

Carmel Del Mar School – Crystal Ellena

Del Mar Heights School – Louwana Spetter

Del Mar Hills Academy – Rachel Matteson

Ocean Air School – Katie Sullivan

Sage Canyon School – Linda Newquist

Sycamore Ridge School – Cat Gilbert

Torrey Hills School – Courtney Ridings



DMUSD 2019 District Teacher of the Year!

Melissa Davis

melissa davis




Ashley Falls School - Melissa Davis

DMUSD 2019 District Teacher of the Year


Melissa Davis is extremely deserving of this honor for many reasons, particularly for her abilities as a reflective and innovative teacher, her commitment to her students and families, and her support for teachers across our District.

Melissa has embraced a culture of thinking in her classroom. She is constantly reflecting upon her current practice, looking for ways to ensure learning is meaningful and engaging, and she creates an environment where students feel safe and free to take risks in their learning.  This year, Melissa is teaching a 2/3 combo and is providing a model example of the incredible teaching and learning opportunities that can happen when you teach a combo.  Her students are thinkers and drive the instruction!

In the past two years, Melissa’s classroom has quickly become an example of how District Design 2022 comes alive in a classroom.  She not only is focused on academic growth, which she does through formative assessment, innovative lesson design, and meaningful implementation of curriculum, but she also connects standards to real world learning.  This year, during the election, she used design thinking for students to deepen their understanding of civic literacy. 

Mrs. Davis’ students are excited to come to school every day! She greets every student every morning with a handshake! She encourages them each to explore their strengths and build upon them in everything they do. She is always willing to help any student and family.  Melissa meets with families frequently as requested or when it is important to check in with parents to keep them an active part of their child’s education.  She opens her classroom up for parents to come in and be able to see in real time what their children are learning.

Melissa is not just committed to students and their families at Ashley Falls, but she is also committed to our district and supporting all teachers across the district.  She is an active member on the DMCTA Negotiations team, always willing to attend district meetings, is excited to be a part of committees, and is open to any way she can support her colleagues.

Mrs. Davis is extremely deserving of this honor. We are thrilled for her to represent Ashley Falls School this year and she would be an incredible representative for our DMUSD Teacher of the Year!


Crystal Ellena

DMUSD 2019 Carmel Del Mar School Site Teacher of the Year


Crystal Ellena has been teaching at CDM for the past three years. Prior to joining the CDM team, Crystal had been teaching at schools in California and Texas. Working with Crystal at CDM has been an amazing experience. Crystal is a caring, dedicated teacher. She started by teaching two years of fourth grade, and this year was assigned to a 4/5 combo class. Crystal's knowledge of the standards and best teaching practices has helped her to handle this challenge. She is able to work with multiple teachers and grade levels to meet the needs of all her students. The flexibility and creativity that she has shown in dealing with a complicated schedule demonstrates what an amazing teacher she is. Despite being busy teaching a combo class, Crystal has volunteered to co-chair the student council at CDM. This involves many extra hours to make sure that our student council is productive and fun. Everyone who works with Crystal appreciates her positive, caring attitude


 Louwana Spetter

DMUSD 2019 Del Mar Heights School Site Teacher of the Year


Louwana Spetter always goes well beyond what is asked of her. She cares so deeply about each and every student. Each morning before school, she is working with and helping students who are struggling. Besides her devotion to the students, she also supports her team very well. She has been incredibly helpful and goes out of her way to make sure everything is going well. She always has a positive attitude and is well deserving of the Teacher of the Year. Her dedication to the students, both while in school and outside of school is unmatched an she truly is an excellent representative of this school.


Rachel Matteson

DMUSD 2019 Del Mar Hills Academy Site Teacher of the Year



Rachel Matteson is dedicated to creating a rigorous yet calm, nurturing and positive classroom environment for every single one of her second graders. Her students thrive academically, socially and behaviorally, in part, because of the personal connections they’ve developed with their teacher who instills great passion and inspiration for learning.  Rachel is an exceptionally high-performing educator who designs each lesson with clear and measurable objectives, demonstrates a sense of purpose for everything she does, has a positive attitude, expects her students to succeed and emanates warmth and a sense of humor.  

Rachel has a profound understanding of her students’ needs and works tirelessly to ensure she creates meaningful learning opportunities by engaging her students in learning that pushes them to think critically and apply their knowledge in authentic ways.  Her students actively participate in deep and focused learning with great success and sophistication.  Rachel’s thoughtful design and delivery of lessons enables each of her students to move along their individual continuums of learning.  Rachel provides immediate/specific feedback to students; she is not afraid to take risks to implement new ideas, she is extraordinarily reflective of the teaching and learning that takes place in her classroom, and she radiates a contagious energy and a love for the work she does every single day.  Rachel has been nothing but value-added to the strength of Del Mar Hills Academy’s staff since the moment she walked on our campus, and we are so grateful to have this brilliant, compassionate, resourceful educator in our district. 

Rachel’s leadership at our site, as well as at the district-level, continues to be unparalleled, and its impact immeasurable.  Her influence can be felt far beyond the four walls of her classroom. Rachel has served as our one of our district’s CGI lead instructors for the past six school years.  In this role, Rachel provides support and professional learning opportunities to teachers across our district (and others) in the area of cognitively guided math instruction. She has developed and presented professional learning in many areas of mathematics, including but not limited to: Student Engagement, Multiplication/Division (and the link to Place Value Understanding), Small Group Instruction, Invented Algorithm, and Young Children’s Mathematics.  Rachel also facilitates Embedded CGI Days and Grade Level Coaching with primary teachers across our district. Rachel’s work in coaching teachers and building their capacity around this student-centered approach to teaching math continues to promote her own understanding of this pedagogy and its impact/implications on children’s conceptual understanding of mathematics over time.  

Rachel is well respected by her colleagues.  She is a consummate professional who is kind, compassionate and has a sense of calm about her that radiates to all of us who are lucky enough to work beside her in educating our SurfRiders.  Rachel’s desire to do what’s best for all children is a perfect fit for our school community and our district at large.  She is poised, articulate, continually considers and values others’ perspectives and is always willing to lend a hand when needed.   She is a genuine team player and our school is thrilled to recommend Mrs. Rachel Matteson as the 2020 Del Mar Hills Academy Teacher of the Year!


Katie Sullivan

DMUSD 2019 Ocean Air School Site Teacher of the Year


Katie Sullivan is an exceptional teacher who always goes above and beyond in every aspect of her job. She is dedicated to making learning fun and accessible to all of her students. She researches and creates lessons that are aligned to grade level standards, while also taking into account the individual needs of all students in her charge. She is highly reflective on her teaching practices and continuously refines her instruction in order to become the best teacher possible for her students.

Katie is a teacher who is always willing to volunteer and serve on numerous committees to benefit our school and district. At Ocean Air, Katie has served as a teacher representative on our School Site Council and Principal’s Council. She has been a member of the District Language Arts and Math Committees, shaping instruction across DMUSD. She was instrumental in researching and creating Proficiency Level Descriptions in both language arts and math which were foundational to district teachers’ understanding of students’ learning progressions. This summer she helped rewrite all of the first grade math performance tasks and rubrics.

She is an amazing teacher and colleague. Her door is open to everyone and she is always willing to share ideas, resources, lessons and her expertise with everyone. She is truly a team player and is always ready to collaborate with anyone who needs guidance or simply wants to talk about our craft. She is an integral part of Ocean Air’s first grade team and our school.

Katie is a superb example of an ideal teacher and we are pleased to nominate Katie as DMUSD’s Teacher of the year.


 Linda Newquist

DMUSD 2019 Sage Canyon School Site Teacher of the Year


Linda Newquist is an excellent representative for Sage Canyon's Teacher of the Year. Linda has been a leader on campus since the day Sage Canyon opened its doors. Although she has been in the profession for more than 20 years, she constantly strives to better her craft by attending optional professional development such as NGSS. Linda approaches each CLW with a desire to continue to grow as a professional and see how she can help her students grow both academically and socially. She has also been an active member of our principal advisory/leadership committee as well as the social committee for a number of years as well. 

As a colleague, Linda has been there as a role model, mentor, and friend throughout the years. She has offered sage advice with regards to supporting students and problem solving difficult parent situations. She's someone you can count on to step in, step up, and lend a helping hand no matter how full her plate already is. She always has a smile on her face, no matter how trying a day it has been. This year Linda has gone above and beyond to support the students in her classroom. She has embraced flexible seating, integrating technology, and using the Second Step Social Emotional Curriculum across academic areas to help her students to create empathetic learners that embrace diversity and show grit, especially when faced with challenging situations.

When you walk into Linda's classroom, it feels like you are walking into a family home where students are happy and encouraging one another. Linda Newquist makes each and every student feel safe, respected, and most importantly loved. She creates a personal connection with each student which inspires a love of learning within each child despite their ability or background. Linda Newquist is an incredible teacher with a heart of gold and a fantastic candidate for Sage Canyon's highest honor of Teacher of the Year.


Cat Gilbert

DMUSD 2019 Sycamore Ridge School Site Teacher of the Year


Cat Gilbert is an exceptional teacher, well deserving of the Teacher of the Year recognition at Sycamore Ridge School.

It is evident that Cat spends hours planning an art studio environment that promotes student agency, personalization, and independence. Students take carefully crafted ideas and make them their own, giving voice to their individual creativity. Cat’s commitment to innovation, creative and critical thinking and experimentation is an inspiration to all that work with her.

Cats dedication to the students at Sycamore Ridge students goes well beyond the hours that she is with students in the Stallion Art Studio. Cat has engaged students in the Little Italy Art Walk event, Mendo the cow contest, and numerous art events at Del Mar Highlands shopping center.

The Stallion art studio is inclusive and all students’ needs are supported by Cat. Mrs. Gilbert helps students take personal responsibility and ownership of problems and solutions while ensuring that students understand logical consequences and accountability. Cat also spends time after school discussing situations with teachers and parents, using communication and follow-through to create a positive and supportive community for everyone. We are so fortunate to Cat Gilbert as a member of the Sycamore Ridge Family.


Courtney Ridings

DMUSD 2019 Torrey Hills School Site Teacher of the Year


Courtney Ridings is our Education Specialist for fourth – sixth grade. She has been a teacher for 13 years including 10 years in special education and 3 years in general education. Mrs. Ridings became a special education teacher because she wanted to focus on more individualized instruction and meeting the needs of special education students.

Mrs. Ridings attended Illinois State University, San Jose State University, and California Southern University where she has earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education and a Masters in Special Education. She is currently working on another Masters in Psychology. She has Teaching Credentials in Early Childhood, Multiple Subject General Education, and Special Education (Mild to Moderate).

Mrs. Ridings provides a tremendous amount of support for both students and staff on campus. She is a trusted educator who demonstrates integrity and always puts the needs of students first. Ms. Ridings’ expertise about special education and her knowledge about the social-emotional needs of our students makes her an invaluable staff member on our campus. Staff members know they can consult with her about supporting any student on our campus. Her commitment to the students and staff members is truly inspiring. Mrs. Ridings arrives on campus every day with a warm smile and a “can do” attitude. We are so lucky to have Mrs. Ridings as a part of our Torrey Hills Team! Congratulations Mrs. Ridings!