Meet Orange County's 2025 Teachers of the Year

Six teachers from across Orange County were recently surprised to learn they are the O.C. Dept. of Education's 2025 Teachers of the Year.

Meet Orange County's 2025 Teachers of the Year
Six educators across Orange County were surprised with 2025 Teacher of the Year awards from the Orange County Department of Education on May 2, 2024.

The six 2025 Orange County Teachers of the Year have been announced and they received the news in a surprising fashion.

On May 2, a team including representatives from the Orange County Department of Education, SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union, and the Orange County Teachers of the Year Award Foundation, hopped aboard a school bus. The group stopped at six campuses across O.C., bringing awards to the latest honorees in a program celebrating the region’s best educators. 

Each winning teacher received an apple-shaped trophy and a $25,000 check from the Orange County Teachers of the Year Award Foundation established by the William, Jeff and Jennifer Gross Family Foundation. The winners were first named Teachers of the Year for their respective school or college district. According to the OCDE, the educators then went through a review process that included multiple interviews.

Each teacher was caught off guard in the best way. Read on to learn about how they reacted to the news and some of the reasons why these educators are being recognized.

Rosanna Harshman - Huntington Beach High School 

Rosanna Harshman, center holding red apple-shaped trophy, was surprised with her 2025 Teacher of the Year award right before school started on May 2. Photo by Jeannette Andruss.

The first winner to be notified on May 2 was Rosanna Harshman, an English and environmental literature teacher at Huntington Beach High School in the Huntington Beach Union High School District

The anticipation built up as dozens of people, including the high school’s band and cheerleading squad, assembled outside Harshman’s classroom, just as the school day was about to get underway. 

Once the band started playing, supporters, joined by school and district officials holding a banner bearing Harshman’s name, entered her classroom. 

OCDE Deputy Superintendent Ramon Miramontes, Ed.D., delivered the news and Harshman’s apple-shaped trophy and her eyes filled with tears. 

“This is huge for me,” Harshman said in a brief interview after receiving her award. “I love coming to work every day,”

Harshman has been at HBHS for 13 years. During that time she created her Environmental Literature class and curriculum which was approved by the state of California. The lessons extend beyond the campus to beach cleanups and other environmental projects. Harshman said through these projects, her students realize that they have a voice and can solve problems.

“The kids get to feel empowered,” she said. “They get to see that their work exists outside the classroom.” 

Her husband, Dan Harshman, was part of the surprise. He said it was tough keeping the news a secret from his wife and praised his partner for her dedication to her profession. “I think she has such a profound impact on students,” he said. “They love her.” 

One way she impacts her students is by involving them in the design of her classroom. It’s something she said a memorable teacher did when she was in high school and she decided to carry on the tradition. “If I’m the only one curating the space, it’s just mine,” Harshman said. “I want it to be our space.” 

Keisha Cosand - Golden West College 

Golden West College English professor Keisha Cosand is surprised with her 2025 Teacher of the Year award from OCDE's Dr. Miramontes. Photo by Jeannette Andruss.

 Golden West College English professor Keisha Cosand was the next honoree surprised with her apple-shaped award and big check. Cosand was teaching around a dozen students in class when the prize patrol arrived, which included her husband and daughter, and officials from GWC and the Coast Community College District. 

Cosand’s mouth dropped open and her eyes grew wide as the group entered the room. “That was the biggest surprise ever,” Cosand said, a smile across her face, after receiving her award.

Cosand has been teaching at GWC for 25 years. “I think the community college mission is to give people a chance that they might not have had. We can give them that foundation and that boost to succeed,” Cosand said. 

She’s known for innovating her lessons to meet the needs of her students. “I’m always trying to make it better,” Cosand said. She explained that she uses the scientific method in her approach to creating her English and creative writing lessons, testing ideas out to see what works best for her students. “My goal for them is critical thinking. I want them to think for themselves.” 

I asked a student in Cosand’s class if she was surprised by the award. “No,” she replied. “She’s a great teacher.” 

Cosand praised her students and remarked about the immense effort they put into their academics, oftentimes when they are facing challenges in other parts of their lives. “That really inspires me,” she said.

“She treats everybody with respect,” Dave Barrett, a fellow professor and long-time colleague of Cosand’s, said during the event. Barrett nominated Cosand for the award citing her “incredible amount of integrity.” “This is all because of you,” Cosand said as she gave Barrett a hug.

Cosand said she’s not sure what she’ll do with the $25,000 but was entertaining the idea of taking a trip to Paris, France. “We’ll definitely celebrate,” Cosand’s daughter said.

Jordanna Jahn - Irvine Intermediate School

Irvine Intermediate School teacher Jordanna Jahn poses with her students after receiving her 2025 Teacher of the Year award. Photo by Jeannette Andruss.

Jordanna Jahn’s class at Irvine Intermediate School was packed with smiling seventh graders when she was presented with her 2025 Teacher of the Year award. Jahn’s students cheered at the news. One student jokingly asked if she would split the $25,000 with him.

“I’m just grateful,” Jahn said after receiving the award. She also credited the Garden Grove Unified School District. “I work for the best district. They are all about the children.”

Jahn has 27 years of experience in education and said she works hard to “make sure everyone feels seen and heard.” 

In addition to teaching science and AVID, Jahn oversees campus clubs and organizations. That includes coordinating the Scholars in Training program, which supports students facing academic challenges. The name reflects the growth mindset Jahn said she is trying to impart on students. 

“It is uplifting,” Jahn said of the name, noting that the “in training” aspect reminds students they shouldn’t expect to know everything when they first arrive in class, that they will make mistakes and that it's all part of the learning process. “Kids sometimes forget that they are in school to learn,” she said.

After she received her award, kids streamed into her classroom during a passing period. Some applauded loudly from the doorway. Others came inside to offer hugs and handshakes. “I knew you’d win Teacher of the Year,” one student shouted. Many exclaimed, “I love you, Mrs. Jahn.” 

In the middle of an interview, one student asked for a “blessing” from her teacher. Jahn placed her hands on the student’s shoulders and offered words of encouragement about an upcoming test. 

“I don’t even know who started it but it keeps growing,” Jahn said of the “blessings,” which she said began as a bit of a joke. Jahn said there have been times when a dozen students are lined up in her classroom seeking her “blessing” before a test. Whatever the students need, Jahn is there for them.

Cassandra Cabrera - Mendez Fundamental Intermediate School

Cassandra Cabrera, center holding her son Kauai, poses with her family after receiving her 2025 Orange County Teacher of the Year award. Photo by Jeannette Andruss.

Mendez Fundamental Intermediate science and engineering teacher Cassandra Cabrera’s family, including her mother, father, grandparents, aunt, brother, and toddler son, were waiting with anticipation inside the school’s multipurpose room to witness her be surprised with a 2025 Orange County Teacher of the Year award.

“She’s going to be totally shocked,” Cassandra's mother, Lizette Cabrera, said, her grandson bouncing on her lap.

Cassandra arrived and was smiling instantly at the news. She became emotional in front of her loved ones. “That’s why I started to tear up, when I saw my family here,” she said, sharing that she comes from a family of more than a dozen educators, including her mother, who also teaches at Mendez.

Together, the mother/daughter team oversees a robust S.T.E.M. program for their students in the Santa Ana Unified School District. "My mom is the best partner I have. We always work together to ask for grants," said Cassandra, who has worked at Mendez for 11 years and was once a student there. The grants pay for student field trips and other hands-on opportunities, such as a partnership with NASA. 

She said colleagues call her mother and her “the field trip queens” because they are always taking kids on educational adventures. One field trip included a visit to the Orange County Fairgrounds where students toured smart homes. Cassandra said the field trips do more than just expose students to S.T.E.M. concepts. “It also builds community,” she said.

Other programs specifically encourage participation among girls. The Femineers Girls in Engineering club and Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day are part of Cassandra’s commitment to increasing the number of female scientists, especially young Latinas, like herself. “We just want to see ourselves represented in the S.T.E.M. fields,” she said.

Cassandra didn’t know what she was going to do with the $25,000, but she shared that she loves Hawaii (her son is named after the Hawaiian island of Kauai) so she might end up taking her own field trip to the beach.

Joseph King - Hope School

Hope School special education teacher Joseph King received his 2025 Teacher of the Year award while the campus hosted a music festival-themed event. Photo by Jeannette Andruss.

A party was going on when the bus pulled up at Hope School in the Anaheim Union High School District to present special education teacher Joseph King with his 2025 Teacher of the Year award. 

Hopechella, a music festival-themed event, filled the campus with effervescent energy. A DJ played music under a tent, students were singing, dancing, and visiting booths offering treats. Dr. Miramontes briefly interrupted the festivities to surprise King with his apple-shaped trophy and check. The students erupted in cheers and applause in response, like King was their very own celebrity. 

“I’m very grateful about the opportunity,” King said in an interview after getting the award. King has been working in the adult transition program at Hope School for more than eight years. “I’m just trying to make the experience the best it can be” for the students, King said. 

To do that, he focuses on connecting with students. He offers lessons to meet the needs of students that might have moderate to severe learning difficulties. For example, a lesson on photosynthesis involved a sensory experience where students held umbrellas while King created the effect of the sun’s heat and light with a blow dryer and flashlight. 

King is also in charge of the Associated Student Body activities program and oversees service projects such as the “Do Good, Give Hope” partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank. 

King said there is a lot of beauty to what he does every day. 

“I’ve always been very purposeful about boosting my students. ...And it boosts my morale,” he said. “There’s a reciprocity to it all that’s beautiful.”

Watching King interact with the students, you can sense that mission. He wore a permanent smile and exuded positivity as he listened intently to each student as they approached him to offer high-fives and hugs. It was easy to see why King was called “the heart and soul of Hope School” by his colleagues.

Kathryn Mayfield - Arbolita Elementary School

Kathryn Mayfield poses with her kindergarten class at Arbolita Elementary School alongside O.C. Deputy Supt. Dr. Ramon Miramontes, left, and La Habra City School District Supt. Dr. Mario Carlos, right. Photo by Jeannette Andruss.

The last stop of the day was to honor Kathryn Mayfield, a kindergarten teacher at Arbolita Elementary School in the La Habra City School District.

Mayfield’s eyes got big as the group entered her classroom. Her students were busy building marble runs and, amazingly, they kept working on their creations as Dr. Miramontes announced the honor to Mayfield.

“I believe you are an amazing teacher,” La Habra City School District Superintendent Mario Carlos Ed.D. told Mayfield.

“I’m super humbled by all of this,” she said in an interview, all smiles after receiving her 2025 Teacher of the Year award. “It’s pretty awesome.”

Mayfield has been teaching kindergarten at Arbolita for three years and has 15 years teaching experience overall. She said that her years spent as an education specialist for students with mild to moderate disabilities informs how she tailors lessons to meet the needs of all learners. 

For example she might create a picture schedule for kids needing a visual aid to plan for the day.

“My job is to get them engaged and to love learning,” Mayfield said. Every morning she hosts a check-in with her students where they answer questions about how they are feeling. “It’s my favorite thing that I do with my class.”

Mayfield’s husband and children were there for the surprise and her father traveled from the Bay Area to witness his daughter be honored.

Mayfield said she’s not sure what she will do with the $25,000 but one idea was to put it toward home improvement. “I think we need a new roof,” she said, still grinning.

What’s next?

Orange County’s 2025 Teachers of the Year will be honored in a ceremony in November at the Disneyland Hotel. The TK-12 teachers can also apply to become California’s 2025 Teacher of the Year. The deadline for that is July 18. 

To learn more about the OCDE's Teacher of the Year program, click here.

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