Ericka Senegar-Mitchell

Ericka Senegar-Mitchell is an innovative, tireless, imaginative, and caring educator who lives and breathes teaching! She is one of those rare individuals you meet in life who has boundless energy, a multitude of talent and a vision for her students that motivates all of the stakeholders in her learning community to get on board and contribute their unique gifts and talents to ensure student success. She truly believes that there is no better way of addressing the reality of illiteracy and poverty than with opportunities created when each student is provided with a quality education and she has dedicated her career to ensuring that all students recognize that their classrooms are the foundations of not only personal but social change. Ericka has a remarkable way of relating to all of her students regardless of their backgrounds or circumstances. Although, she has especially been a positive role model and inspiration to the at-risk, minority, young men and women whose struggles are reminiscent of those she encountered during her youth. She is often overheard sharing with her students how she was able to escape the violence and poverty of the inner city as well as a legacy of familial illiteracy and teen pregnancy due to the work of devoted teachers who encouraged her to overcome her circumstances and to take ownership of her learning. Students enrolled in her biology and biotechnology courses enjoy having an instructor who values student interests and fosters student inquiry while maintaining rigorous standards and addressing both their academic and emotional needs.

Ericka's courage and commitment to addressing some of the most challenging issues in education today is inspiring and impressive. Upon reading a 2007 California Dropout Research Project (CDRP) Report, which cited that more than 20% of California's high school students dropped out before meeting the requirements necessary for a high school diploma, she responded by becoming the founder and director of the Science in the City Outreach Program and The Junipero Serra High School Biotechnology Workforce Initiative. The goal of both programs is to enable students to see a connection between the curriculum taught in a California high school and the skills needed to pursue employment or an advanced degree in the field of science and thus realign student perceptions regarding the value of a high school diploma. Students who have participated in these initiatives have not only had the opportunity to make contact with members of San Diego's life science industry through job shadows and internships and earn college credit through articulation agreements with local community colleges, they are also gaining access to one of the nation's most influential regions for scientific research and discovery. To attract more young women to pursue careers in science, she also created Ladies of Science in the City, a group of thirty young women ranging from sophomores to seniors who develop a bond as “Sisters in Science” as they explore possible futures in science. Ericka also serves as the Teacher of Record and devoted mentor for twelve high school girls from around the county each summer through the BeWiSE Young Women in Cancer Research Saturday Academy held at the University of California, San Diego Medical School.

Ericka's commitment to addressing the trends caused by rising dropout rates and lower college admissions among minority students does not stop with the implementation of these successful and effective programs. As a mentor teacher for TEACH for AMERICA participants and the Troops to Teachers Program, she has worked tirelessly to ensure that our nations teachers reflect the same great diversity exhibited by the students in our nations schools by recruiting a more diverse cadre of high quality teachers. In addition, she supports the retention of new and veteran teachers as the first district appointed AP Biology Mentor Teacher, JSHS Instructional Leadership Team member, and AVID Support Teacher through one-on-one coaching, mentoring, and collaboration with her colleagues within her district and throughout San Diego County. Mrs. Mitchell is the founder and coordinator of the San Diego Unified School District AP Biology Bowl Competition and designer of the website, www.bridgestoliteracy.com. Both serve as vehicles for sharing best practices, displaying student work and knowledge, and providing resources which will enable educators to help all students gain access to the rigorous curriculum and academic intensity that has been associated with the completion of a college degree.

Ericka Senegar-Mitchell has made significant contributions to the teaching profession. She is proactive in seeking grants and other opportunities such as industry partnerships to improve her classroom as well as her science department's equipment and course materials. Her professionalism, enthusiasm, and ability to motivate students is second to none and she has been recognized by her peers for her efforts as the 2010 San Diego Unified School District Teacher of the Year, one of five 2011 San Diego County Teachers of the Year, a 2011 California Teacher of the Year Finalist, recipient of the 2010 AMGEN Award for Science Teaching Excellence and 2011 Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching Finalist.