Ms. Florence Avognon, the LACOE reading intensive teacher at Phoenix House Academy of Los Angeles and recent recipient of the California Department of Education’s 2012 Teacher of the Year award, was on her way to yet another meeting – except this time, the meeting wasn’t to discuss the students she’s so passionate about. As teachers and staff waited in the Amerman-wing classroom, the excitement became tangible. With the shades drawn, the cake and balloons were hidden from easy view. So were the high-profile guests, a local news camera, and the intimate gathering of thrilled Phoenix House coworkers with a few moments to spare.
When Ms. Avognon finally arrived, she walked through the door to standing applause.
Florence Avognon, a high-school English and History teacher with almost two decades of experience, radiates both contentment and passion. The joy she takes from her work is palpable, and spreads to everyone she comes in contact with. Upon meeting her, it’s easy to understand why she was selected as one of five teachers from the entire State of California for the 2012 Teacher of the Year award: everything she does is for the children. Her modesty is remarkable, as she consistently redirects attention back to the children she works with.
The California Masonic Foundation surprised Ms. Avognon with their own award in addition to the recognition from the state. Saul Alvarado, a trustee of the California Masonic Foundation, formally presented Ms. Avognon with the Mason’s own framed Certificate commemorating her achievement. On behalf of the Foundation, he also presented her with an embroidered canvas book bag and a financial award in appreciation of her contributions to the development of youth. The California Masonic Foundation, established in California more than 150 years ago, and whose roots stretch back to the early 18th century, believes that individuals who strive to improve themselves can also improve their community and the world at large. Their members work to make a profound difference in the lives of members and in California communities.
As the second guest, the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) awarded Ms. Avognon their Certificate for 2012 Teacher of the Year and a token gift for the dedication she shows in helping her students grow the boundaries of their own minds. Mr. Norberto Perez, Principal of the Division of Student Programs with Barry J. Nidorf High School, presented their certificate on behalf of the County. Finally, Phoenix Houses of California, Inc., presented Florence Avognon with a framed Certificate of Appreciation and financial award as a gesture of appreciation for her contributions to the youth we serve, and for her embodiment of the true spirit of Phoenix House.
After the presentations, staff and guests shared a slice of Ms. Avognon’s favorite cake before slipping out of the classroom and back to the life-changing work they do. Tremendously gracious and appreciative of the recognition, Ms. Avognon still brought it back to the reason they were all there: “It’s about the children. This is all about the children.”