Teachers of the Year Profiles

Vanguard University Alumni Impact their Communities

Bonnie Brigman

Bonnie Brigman

Second Grade, Whittier Elementary, Costa Mesa, California

Ms. Brigman was selected Teacher of the Year by Kaiser Elementary School in Costa Mesa in 1999. She has taught K-8 grade for the last 32 years in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District. She is currently a second grade teacher at Whittier Elementary in Costa Mesa, focusing on literacy across the curriculum. She has been a master teacher, a Teacher on Special Assignment, a curriculum leader, as well as an adjunct professor at Vanguard University. She has also been nominated for Disney Teacher of the Year, as well as Teacher of the Year for Newport Mesa Unified School District and Orange County. Mrs. Brigman received both her BA and MA from Vanguard University.

Personal Quote:

From teacher to staff developer to professor, Vanguard University’s nurture and influence has helped shaped my life far beyond my expectations. My professors became my mentors, took personal interests in me, and followed up on me long after I left their classroom. Today these men and women are my heroes.”

Keith Brigman

Adaptive Physical Education, Mitchell School, Santa Ana, California.

Mr. Brigman was selected Teacher of the Year twice by Kenneth Mitchell School in 1988 and in 2002. He has been teaching for 30 years. During this time, his phenomenal work coaching Special Olympics for children with disabilities has won him various recognitions: in 1986 he was awarded the John West Memorial Award as California’s Special Olympics Coach of the Year; his Special Olympic Team received the Gold Medal at the USA National Volleyball Team in Denver, Colorado. The Mighty Ducks honored his achievements by awarding him the Community Hero Award.

Personal Quote:

I have always appreciated the education and training I received at Vanguard. The skills and knowledge of my instructors set the foundation for me to be a passionate teacher, and to make a difference with children with special needs.

Linda Galloway

Sixth Grade Teacher, Kaiser Elementary, Costa Mesa, California.

Ms. Galloway was selected Teacher of the Year for Kaiser Elementary School in 2002. She has been teaching for 15 years. During this time she has been grade level chair, Beckman Science Institute mentor trainer, Hands-On-Science trainer, outdoor science camp committee chair, and a mentor teacher to beginning teachers. Ms. Galloway received her MA training at Vanguard.

Personal Quote:

I am proud to say that I was part of the first MA cohort of Vanguard’s graduate MA program. In this unique experience I learned about action research and how to critically and systematically do in-depth research to study student’s work in the classroom. Vanguard provided the nurturing and personalized environment to help me become an educational classroom leader.

Lee Ann Griffin

Sixth Grade Teacher, Mariners Elementary, Newport Beach, California.

Ms. Griffin was selected Teacher of the Year for Mariners in 2005. She has been teaching for six years. During this time, Ms. Griffin has trained over 100 teachers in New Teacher Orientations, has worked to enhance mathematics curriculum, has been a Beckman Science Teacher Trainer, and has completed GATE training. Ms. Griffin has also been busy as a GATE site coordinator, Yearbook Coordinator and coordinator of extra-curricular activities for sixth graders. She received both her BA and MA at Vanguard.

Personal Quote:

Vanguard is unique in that it offers personalized cohort structures for the adult learner. The instructors are gifted, and the support staff are truly committed. The personal, quality, and caring attention I received as an undergraduate and graduate student not only brought me to the realization of so many of my personal goals, but also created within me the challenge to provide a similar model for my students in my classroom. My experience at VU was so positive that I am a big promoter of Vanguard.

Rachel Gruwell

English GATE Teacher, Villa Intermediate, Santa Ana, California.

Ms. Gruwell was nominated Teacher of the Year twice by Spurgeon Intermediate in 2004 and 2005. She has been teaching only four years, and thus this recognition by peers is very significant. During her time at Spurgeon, Ms. Gruwell has been busy in curriculum training and GATE certification. She played a critical role in redesigning the Language Arts curriculum for grades 6-8, training teachers in the use of performance tasks to enhance school-wide assessment of learning in the classroom. Ms. Gruwell is passionate about using technology across the curriculum. To this end she has received additional training to teach other teachers how to integrate technology into their lessons. She received both her BA and MA at Vanguard University.

Personal Quote:

We all know that the best learning takes place within a relational context. At Vanguard my professors were my mentors molding me and preparing me to become a life-long learner. It’s a place where everyone is somebody, and where everyone is expected to make a difference in this world. I learned to think critically and articulate my thoughts so as to make a difference. I am a Vanguard product.

Caran Holland

6-8th Grade Music Teacher, Spurgeon Intermediate, Santa Ana, California.

Ms. Holland was selected Teacher of the Year by Spurgeon Intermediate in 2004. She has been teaching choir and music for over ten years. During this time, Ms. Holland has single-handedly transformed the Music Program at Spurgeon, currently boasting a thriving program with over 300 students. Her students consistently win 1st and 2nd place Awards in District and inter-district competitions, and engage in public performance. She also works to integrate other content subject into the arts. She received her BA and Post Graduate Credentialing training at Vanguard.

Personal Quote:

The undergraduate and graduate teaching credential program at VU instilled in me the knowledge and skills needed to be professionally at the top. I was held to a high standard. My success is now reflected in everything I do in the classroom and in the community at large.

Debra Muniz

Sixth Grade GATE Teacher, Kaiser Elementary, Costa Mesa, California.

Ms. Muniz was selected Teacher of the Year for Kaiser Elementary in 2005. She has taught for eight years. She was also nominated for District Teacher of the Year (2005), and was also nominated for Disney Teacher of the Year (2004). Ms. Muniz has received several accolades for her curricular emphasis on diversity, receiving the Distinguished Educator Award (2002) by the Orange County Human Relations Commission for creating a Comprehensive Tolerance Training program for sixth graders. Her sixth grade class was also nominated for the People’s Choice Award in 2002 for implementing Diversity and Acceptance strategies to enhance “Building Bridges” across ethnic and racial groups. She received both her BA and MA at Vanguard University.

Personal Quote:

Vanguard’s graduate education research program (the MA) inspired me to ask critical questions about instruction and assessment for student learning. The journey of becoming a teacher-researcher was the catalyst for my passion to use formative assessment to inform my classroom instruction. As a result of my training I became a consultant to many school principals. Having received both my BA and MA at VU allows me to proudly say I am a proud Vanguard Alumni.

Janet Phillips

Fourth Grade Teacher,
Mariners Elementary, NewportBeach, California

Ms. Phillips was selected Teacher of the Year for Mariners in 2001. She has taught for five years. During this time Ms. Phillips received several grants from the Newport Schools Foundation to expand her curricular resources. She has served as Yearbook Advisor, School Site Council member, faculty representative, and English Language Coordinator. She is also adjunct professor in the teaching credential program at Vanguard University. Ms. Phillips received her MA training at Vanguard University.

Personal Quote:

Vanguard has been instrumental in preparing me to be the teacher I am today. The skills I use daily and model for student teachers in my classroom I learned in the credential program (such as curriculum and assessment). In the MA program I built on those skills by learning the process of action research and becoming a teacher-researcher. I learned to design curriculum integrating theory with practice. I also learned to analyze educational issues to enhance learning. I am very proud of my ongoing affiliation with VUSC and to call it my alma mater.

Brad Rankin

7-8 Grade Mathematics Teacher, Villa Intermediate, Santa Ana, California

Mr. Rankin was nominated for GATE Mathematics Teacher of Orange County in 1999. He has taught for nine years. During this time he has focused on working with the community through after-school tutorial centers, and in training teachers for Saturday Math Academy. He is committed to making a difference. To this end, he spent one year in Moldova via the Peace Corps, and learned to speak Romanian fluently. He also taught in Istanbul for two years, where he developed and implemented a mathematics curriculum. His MA research focused on parent/teacher communication in urban settings, and was particularly meaningful given his desire to bridge the community with the school. He received both his BA and MA at Vanguard University.

Personal Quote:

Vanguard gave me an enriching and personal education that is very hard to come by in the business of education. I would venture to say that my experience in the Graduate Education Program was as challenging as any of the top graduate programs in the United States.

Kathy Smith

Third Grade Teacher, Eastbluff Elementary, Newport Beach, California.

Ms. Smith was selected Teacher of the Year by Eastbluff Elementary in 2004. She has taught for 16 years. She has been lead teacher in curriculum, and grade level chair; she has mentored new teachers, been master teacher to student teachers; has been mathematics curriculum specialist, district math trainer and presenter. She has also been union representative and administrative designee. She is also very connected to the community through her advisory involvement in Teen Challenge and Royal Family Kids Camp.

Personal Quote:

Vanguard holds a special place in my heart because it not only nurtured in me a love for learning but it was there that I met so many wonderful life-long friends.

Tamira Wilson

Special Education, Spurgeon Intermediate, Santa Ana, California

Tamira was elected Teacher of the Year for Spurgeon Intermediate in Santa Ana Unified School District in 1999. During her 29 years of teaching, Ms. Wilson has done it all: she has served as Chair of the Special Education Department for 7 years, has mentored new teachers, trained veteran teachers in legislative updates relevant to special education, and has been instrumental in the District Special Education Leadership Team. Her MA research model of student self advocacy in a Workability Program was replicated across the district for implementation.

Personal Quote:

My graduate experience at Vanguard University enabled me to develop a Special Education Self-Advocacy Program that has empowered my students with learning disabilities to personally participate in their own individualized educational plan. This has been a very rewarding experience for me as a professional, and it all began with my training in the graduate program. I am especially grateful to the MA professor who challenged me to move from my personal comfort zone and excel in my field of Special Education.