Ali Heermance Wins Teacher of the Year Award
Avery, CA – The Vallecito Teachers Association (VTA) is pleased to announce the 2023 Vallecito Union School District (VUSD) Teacher of the Year: sixth-grade teacher Ali Heermance. Avery Middle School (AMS) Principal Scott Nicotero, who works with Heermance, described her as an exemplary educator who lifts up students and colleagues with her positive energy.
This award is presented to the teacher who most embodies VUSD’s values of innovation, equity, high standards, responsibility, and collaboration. VUSD Superintendent Tom Hoskins said the district is lucky to have a teacher as talented, experienced, and dedicated as Heermance.
“Ali has been involved with our district at pretty much every level, including as a parent, teacher, and board member,” Hoskins said. “That type of commitment is remarkable, and it makes her the perfect fit for our school district and what we’re trying to achieve.”
Heermance joined AMS in 2016 after resigning her seat on the VUSD Board of Education to pursue her passion for teaching. More than anything, Heermance says she enjoys being in the classroom, interacting with students, and encouraging kids to develop an authentic love of learning. Heermance began her teaching career at AMS, then did a short stint teaching fifth grade at Albert Michelson Elementary from 2018 to 2019, before returning to AMS, where she currently teaches sixth-grade math and science.
“When Ali stepped down from her position on the board to join us here at AMS, we couldn’t have been more excited,” Nicotero said. “Her can-do attitude and creativity in the classroom are an enormous asset to our community. We all appreciate and admire Ali’s joy for instruction and her ability to create meaningful, engaging lessons that allow her to connect with students. We’re hoping Ali makes AMS her forever home.”
Teaching is just one of many ways Heermance has made a positive impact on VUSD. In addition to her work in the classroom and her time serving on the school board, Heermance has been actively involved with the district as a parent. Both of her children attended VUSD schools before moving on to Bret Harte Union High School, where they currently attend. And last year, Heermance served as the co-president of the Vallecito Teachers Association, an elected position voted on by her peers. She is also known to support students through extracurricular activities, including coaching the track team, preparing students for math bowl competitions, and helping out at the science fair.
Heermance’s colleagues applaud the positive environment in her classroom, and the way she makes learning accessible to every student.
“Ali brings the perfect combination of rigor, fun, and competition,” Nicotero said. “Her teaching style is inclusive, and she uses creative methods that involve lots of hands-on activities. There is never a dull moment in her classroom and students love being around her.”
Lindsey Titus, a fellow sixth-grade teacher at AMS who joined the faculty in 2021, said that Heermance has served as a mentor for her and has been quick to do the same for other teachers. “She is a rock for so many of us at AMS,” Titus said. “Before I became a teacher, Ali invited me into her class to watch lessons and guest teach, so I could practice and meet credential requirements. We all admire her vibrant teaching style and contagious energy. Ali is an incredible force on our team.”
Tobie Doyle, also a sixth-grade teacher at AMS, agreed, describing Heermance as a doer who is always making progress in support of students, teachers, and administrators. “Ali is so deserving of this honor,” she said. “I’m lucky to call her my teaching partner.”
Whether Heermance is in the classroom, on the track, or at the science fair, she has made her presence felt at AMS—and throughout the district—as a beloved educator who takes the time to connect with every student lucky enough to be in her classroom. During VUSD’s public school board meeting in February, Nicotero and Heermance’s colleagues had the opportunity to recognize her.
“Everybody knows Ali as a dedicated team player who brings 100 percent each day, no matter what,” Nicotero said. “She’s someone we’ve all come to rely on, and she never lets us down.”