When Dawn Tull talks about her joy of teaching and how she feels about her students, it’s easy to understand why she was selected the South Pasadena Unified School District teacher of the year.
“I love kids,” said Tull, who teaches a combined 4th and 5th grade class at Monterey Hills Elementary School. “I tell people all the time that I have the best job in the world. I can’t wait until the school year starts.”
She still has about a month before the 2017-18 school year begins, but Tull is way ahead of the game, already preparing for students to return in the fall. “My family is saying, ‘Really? Could you go on vacation?’” But she has no plans to get away. “I’ve been sitting at home planning for the new school year,” she said. “I’ve got books and papers all over the place as I get ready.”
Tull, who has been in the teaching profession for 31 years, including 17 at Monterey Hills School, explains her dedication to the profession as not wanting “to do anything halfway. I give it 100 percent. My kids know that I care and it’s important to me. I have high expectations for them.”
College students on spring break who had Tull as a teacher often visit her classroom to say hello and thank her for passing along her classroom knowledge. “I’m always touched,” she said, “They have a week at home and they’re spending part of that time coming by and seeing me. It feels great.”
As the SPUSD teacher of the year, Tull recently completed a mountain of paperwork to potentially earn the same honor in Los Angeles County. “I had to write about 10 pages of essays about myself,” she said with a laugh. “I got letters of recommendation from people. It was a ton of work. If I make that cut, then I go through an interview process.” From there, she could join a group of 16 who would become L.A. County teachers of the year. There’s also a state and national competition. “But I’m not thinking about that,” Tull said, downplaying the idea she could be selected one of the top teachers in the United States. “I doubt it,” said Tull laughing. “In theory, yes, but I doubt it.”
Two of Tull’s former students, Aidan Bar-Cohen and Levi Bar-Cohen, believe they know how she earned the teacher of the year honor in South Pasadena. “Before I had Ms. Tull, I wasn’t a great student,” said Aidan, 13, now going into the 8th grade at South Pasadena Middle School. “I was less than mediocre, but after the two years I had her as my teacher, I became an outstanding student. Being in her class gave me a lot of confidence in my my ability. I’m now at the highest level of academics.” Aidan’s younger brother, Levi, 11, just finished two years of study under Tull and is now headed to sixth grade. “She always cared and helped me,” said Levi, explaining that Tull spent long hours with him so that he could understand math, especially fractions.