Students laud award-winning teachers

By: Jon Brines, Special to The Placer Herald
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The measure of a good teacher is often hard to gauge. Breakthroughs in front of the chalkboard are often noticed quietly, in humble satisfaction. But for two Rocklin Unified School District teachers, they now have the Teacher of the Year Award for their district to show for their service to students. Representing high schools, advanced placement chemistry teacher Trina Lee was honored not only for her teaching skills and dedication, but the fiery passion she has developed for science at Rocklin High School. Lee said she is honored and humbled because there are a lot of teachers out there who do an outstanding job. Lee has a master’s in education from UC Davis and a bachelor’s of science in biochemistry and cognitive science from UC San Diego. “It’s not just about her curriculum it’s about connecting with students,” said Rocklin High School Principal Mike Garrison. “She’s always very funny. Keeping you on your toes,” Lee’s student Lassen Jones said. “She is very easy to get along with and easy to talk to. A lot of teachers here, you can’t get a personal connection and actually feel comfortable talking with them.” Lee’s counterpart at the elementary level, Laurie Vaillancourt, was recognized for not only teaching her second grade class at Rocklin Elementary, but also an after school math intervention program and a Saturday school program for English learners. “Mrs. V,” as her students call her, works six days a week but not for the money or the award. “I love what I do. I really love what I do,” Vaillancourt said. Fellow teacher Shamryn Cole said there was a clear reason why she nominated her for Teacher of the Year. “Her ability to get kids engaged, involved and feel good about themselves is something that is remarkable,” Cole said. Asking Vaillancourt’s class what they think of her, they may just erupt in a spontaneous and united “awesome!” “She is good at math and science,” said second-grader Faith Gardner. “She is very nice,” added Nathaniel Weide. “She is also funny,” said Peytin Janda. Vaillancourt said greeting your pupils at the beginning of the day is really important. “If you start on a positive note, it trickles down to every student at your door,” she said. Her attitude has rubbed off on one of her own. Ten-year-old Nick Vaillancourt, now in fifth grade, tutors other children. “I’m pretty proud of her. She has been teaching for a long time and this is what she deserves. She is a really good teacher,” Nick Vaillancourt said. Laurie Vaillancourt, a former psychology major, turned her attention to teaching at Stanislaus State University but uses philosophy to help her pupils. “If I have high expectations, it’s amazing how far they will go. It is amazing how far they come every year,” she said. Laurie Vaillancourt said her true reward comes years later when her former pupils find their way back to her classroom. “I will have former students pop in here all the way up through high school or who graduated. If I see that they are still excited that I made a difference, that is what chokes me up,” she said. “If I touched that child’s life in a positive way, and they remember things I taught them, then I can’t ask for more than that.”