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Teacher of the Year


A component of the California Department of Education (CDE) California School Recognition Program (CSRP), the California Teachers of the Year (CA TOY) Program highlights educational innovation, student learning, and the rewards of teaching. The purpose of the CA TOY Program is to honor the teaching profession and to heighten interest in teaching as a career. The program affords the opportunity to bring attention to teachers who successfully employ strategies to increase academic success and narrow the achievement gap among a range of students. Further, the program attracts public attention to the positive aspects of our educational system. Teacher quality and recruitment as well as retention ranks high on every educational agenda in the state.

In 1972, California began recognizing outstanding teachers to provide an opportunity for fostering educator excellence. Former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson appointed an Educator Excellence Task Force to focus on the Educator Quality element of the Blueprint for Great Schools (released in August 2011) and designed to strengthen California's teacher corps. Information about the Educator Excellence Task Force, and their recommendations on how to strengthen California's teacher and administrative corps, can be found on the CDE Educator Excellence Task Force web page. The CA TOY process is part of the teamwork and collaboration in place to meet those recommendations. The experienced teachers selected as CA TOYs reflect the diversity of our teachers and students.

The program's goals are to:

  • Identify and honor exemplary and highly qualified teachers throughout California within a structure of local, regional, and statewide recognition activities.
  • Make the application process accessible to all teachers in the state.
  • Encourage the participation of teachers in local and county selection processes who reflect the rich diversity of their students.
  • Increase the participation of small or underrepresented counties.
  • Select articulate teachers to serve as CA TOYs who will effectively represent the state's teachers; motivate and inspire other educators; and champion the positive contributions of the teaching profession.
  • Identify one teacher to compete in the National TOY Program.

Information about CA TOY duties and responsibilities can be found on the CDE California TOY Duties web page.

In addition, each year one of the CA TOY Awardees is selected to compete in the National TOY Program. Many of the CA TOY Awardees have ultimately become National TOY recipients or finalists. Information about the National TOY Program can be found on the Council of Chief State School Officers National Teacher of the Year ProgramExternal link opens in new window or tab. website.




The CDE invites county offices of education (COEs), school districts, charter schools, professional organizations, and private schools statewide to participate in the CA TOY Program. To be eligible for the CA TOY Program, candidates must:

  • Be fully credentialed teachers currently employed to teach any pre-kindergarten through grade twelve curriculum to children or adults.
  • Have completed eight years of teaching at the time of the application submitted at the local level.
  • Be employed full-time, or as long-term substitutes in public or private schools. Applicants may be assigned some administrative duties if teaching is the primary responsibility.
  • Have demonstrated leadership and innovation in and outside of the classroom walls that embodies lifelong learning.
  • Have expressed themselves in an engaging and articulate way.
  • Be available to fulfill ambassadorial duties during the year of service and be supported by their employer.
  • Have been named as a finalist in their local or county competition.