Above, Joe Martinez is flanked by Maria Nichols, a director for Local District Northeast, and Dr. Frances Gipson the chief academic officer, at the Distinguished Educators Awards Dinner at Cal State Los Angeles.
Joe Martinez, a pioneer in L.A. Unified’s affiliated charter movement, and Veronica Vega, a former California Teacher of the Year, were honored Friday as Distinguished Educators by the Charter College of Education at California State University, Los Angeles.
The award from the university’s school of education recognizes educators who have demonstrated excellence, a high level of commitment and service to their community.
“The L.A. Unified family congratulates these outstanding educators for their innovation and accomplishments,” said Superintendent Michelle King.
Martinez was at the helm of the high-performing Carpenter Avenue Elementary School when it converted in 2010 to Carpenter Community Charter, the second campus in the District to become an affiliated charter. Three years later, he became the first chairman of the Valley Affiliated Charter Schools, a coalition representing the growing number of conversion charters seeking more freedom to design their own academic programs, schedules and curricula. The District now has 44 affiliated charters, all but one of which converted from a traditional school.
“This is really an honor to be recognized for making a difference,” said Martinez, who started his career in L.A. Unified in 1991, working as a teacher’s assistant at Vanalden Elementary School.
Martinez is in his eighth year at Carpenter, which boasts strong academic performance and community engagement. On this year’s Smarter Balanced Assessments, 80 percent of Carpenter students met or exceeded standards on the English-language exam, and 75 percent hit those marks in math. Parents for Carpenter, the school’s nonprofit fund-raising arm, provides enrichment programs including science, physical education, a media lab and music, dance and arts classes.
Now in her fourth year as an instructional coach at the Dr. Julian Nava Learning Academy, Vega formerly taught fifth grade at Harmony Elementary School. Known for successful and creative teaching in the areas of gifted and talented Education, English-immersion and bilingual education, she was named California Teacher of the year in 2013.
During her 18-year career, Vega said, she has always worked at schools near the South Los Angeles neighborhood where she grew up. She sees the award from the Charter College of Education as recognition that she is giving back to the community.
“I get the feeling of humility and excitement and nervousness,” she said. “With an award comes the responsibility of being the voice of the teachers and students you work with on a daily basis.”
Chief Academic Officer Dr. Frances Gipson noted that both Martinez and Vega have taken a personalized approach to meeting the needs of their campuses.
“What makes these educators so successful is that they look at their work through the lens of their students, their families and their communities,” she said.
Other award recipients were Pasadena School District Superintendent Dr. Brian McDonald, WISH Charter Schools Executive Director Dr. Shawna Draxton; and Dr. Frances Sui, associate professor at the Charter College of Education. The Cal State LA Federal Credit Union received the Community Service Award.