OCEANSIDE — Middle school teacher Christina DeSanto was recently named California League of Middle Schools Educator of the Year for San Diego and Imperial Counties.“When I think of Christina DeSanto, the first words that come to mind are dedicated, enthusiastic, energetic, someone who thinks outside the box,” Eileen Frazier, principal of Cesar Chavez Middle School, said. “But most importantly, someone who loves her students and what she does.”
Frazier said DeSanto did “whatever it took” to motivate students she taught in English language development and student body leadership.
“She knows how to bond with the students and once she has built that relationship with them, students do wonderful and amazing things for her,” Frazier said.
Learning experiences DeSanto created for students included bringing in rock bands, motivational speakers and acrobats to drive lessons home.
DeSanto also oversaw the after school Opportunity Program to help students raise grade points averages that fell below 2.0. She led instructional aides and AVID college tutors to work with students to reach their academic goals.
“She guides them in becoming independent and self-sufficient learners by building a plan to check their own progress as well as their GPA,” Frazier said. “They know that she cares about them, but that she also expects a lot from them.”
“I believe that Ms. DeSanto is a true leader,” Frazier added. “While working here she was a true asset not only to our students but also our staff. Because of her love for our students she always goes above and beyond the call of duty to do whatever it takes to ensure the success of our students.”
This year DeSanto works as a school-based resource teacher to guide teachers and associate director of student activities at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School.
“She’s an amazing person,” Principal Ron Pirayoff of Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School said. “The kids are very motivated to be in her class.”
Her goals for this year include increasing parent involvement. DeSanto said middle school is a critical time for parents to become more involved due to increased peer pressure and more decisions students need to make.
“Some parents think school is 100 percent of what happens, but we all have roles, the kids, parents and school,” DeSanto said.
Since the school year started DeSanto has organized a schoolwide book club that brought 250 parents and students to the kick-off assembly, which featured a pilot, skydiver and flight instructor.
The reward for book club readers who met reading goals was a trip to the San Diego Air and Space Museum, which DeSanto wrote a grant to fund.
In spring DeSanto plans to hold another reading club with the reward of attending a Padre game.
“I don’t do anything halfway,” DeSanto said. “I’m big all the time.”
Her bravado reflects her original career interest to become a sports broadcaster.
DeSanto attended a teachers college with the goal of journalism in mind.
“I fell into teaching accidentally,” DeSanto said. “I had a key opportunity at the right place and right time.”
DeSanto credits her teaching success to working with principals who believed in her and allowed her to incorporate out-of-the-box strategies to engage students.
When asked about the rewards of teaching DeSanto shared her passion for education and love for her students.
“The best reward is when I see they get it,” DeSanto said. “It is a visual. I can see the light bulb go on when a student says ‘I got it.’”