Above, Chief Academic Officer Frances Gipson, left, congratulates Joyce Wang for her recognition as a Distinguished Educator. 

Joyce Wang, a veteran teacher who helped found L.A. Unified’s successful Mandarin immersion program, was honored recently as one of Southern California’s illustrious educators by the Charter College of Education at California State University, Los Angeles.

The Distinguished Educators Award from the university’s school of education recognizes educators who have demonstrated excellence, a high level of commitment and service to their community.

Los Angeles County Superintendent Debra Duardo is flanked by Charter College Dean Cheryl Ney and Dr. Gay Yuen, chair of the Friends of the Charter College of Education.

“Ms. Wang has inspired her colleagues, as well as her students, to explore options that will produce outstanding, biliterate graduates who are fully prepared for college and career,” said Acting Superintendent Vivian Ekchian. “The entire District congratulates Ms. Wang on this well-deserved honor.”

With a father, brother and sister who are teachers, Wang said she was destined to go into the profession. She taught English in her native Thailand before coming to Los Angeles in 1997 and joining L.A. Unified three years later.

A teacher at City Terrace Elementary School, in the shadow of Cal State LA, Wang worked with then-Principal Christopher Ortiz to introduce Mandarin immersion to the kindergarten class in 2007.

“Learning a different language is a great advantage to leverage their future,” Wang said. “Even though the students are still only in elementary school, it is helping them to be college- and career-ready.”

The school’s new Mandarin immersion program was not only the first in the District, but in all of Los Angeles County. Wang said the first few years were very difficult because there were no available resources to teach math, social students and other subjects in Mandarin so she had to create them.

“Now, I am reaping the fruit of my labor,” she said. “My students inspire me. They show me what they need me to teach them. My class is a lab, and they have helped me to become a really effective teacher.”

The eight honorees include Dr. Debra Duardo, who formerly headed the District’s Division of Student Health and Human Services. She is now superintendent of the Los Angeles County Department of Education.

“This is about celebrating our most amazing people – our teachers,” said Dr. Frances Gipson, the District’s chief academic officer and the chair of the annual event.

She also expressed her gratitude to the region’s institutions of higher learning and the District’s civic partners. “They help us learn and teach others to lead together and learn together as a community,” she said.

Click here to watch a KLCS-TV video of the Distinguished Educators Awards gala.