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teachers of the year, grant recipients

Of the 23 educators selected by the Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers (NMFT) as Newport-Mesa Unified School District (NMUSD) Teachers of the Year, three will represent the district in the Orange County Teacher of the Year competition: Lindsay Messner, kindergarten teacher at Newport Heights Elementary; Kristine Cross, English Language Arts (ELA) teacher at Ensign Intermediate School; and Scott Tarnow, Special Programs department chair at Newport Harbor High School.

NMUSD teachers of the year were celebrated during the Newport-Mesa Schools Foundation’s (NMSF) annual awards dinner, during which it was revealed that 2023 Teacher of the Year awardee Jennifer Yennie of Corona del Mar Middle/High School was among the top 15 finalists for Orange County Teacher of the Year.

Every employee in the district is welcome to nominate teachers for recognition. All nominees are invited to complete a written application, which is reviewed by a committee that includes Teacher of the Year recipients from the prior year, NMFT officers, and NMFT retired representatives. The Teacher of the Year finalists complete a second in-depth application, are observed in their classrooms, and are interviewed off-site by the committee. 

The following NMUSD Teachers of the Year move on to consideration for Orange County Teacher of the Year recognition by the Orange County Department of Education:  

Kristine Cross, Ensign Intermediate School

Kristine Cross

Cross has been with the district for 20 years and teaches ELA (honors and standard level), English Language Development (ELD), and reading intervention at the seventh-grade level. In her application for the award, Cross said, “I strive to cultivate a warm environment where students feel safe, comfortable, and included, so that a demanding curriculum of genuine curiosity, imagination, and growth are possible.”

Lindsay Messner, Newport Heights Elementary School

Lindsay Messner

A National Board-certified teacher with a master of arts in teaching, Messner is an 18-year veteran with NMUSD who teaches kindergarten at Newport Heights. “Every day I get to wake up, go to school, and help grow tiny humans into lifelong learners who are kind, brave, responsible, hardworking, and determined. . . . Teaching is the hardest job that I ever loved,” she said.

Scott Tarnow, Newport Harbor High School

Scott Tarnow

Tarnow is on Newport Harbor’s Faculty Leadership Team, serves as the special education department chair, and has been the boys’ and girls’ golf coach for all 24 years he’s been with the district. “My dedication is to provide students with age-appropriate learning activities designed to fulfill their potential for emotional, intellectual, and social growth. My goal is to enable students to develop skills to function successfully in their adult lives,” he said.

Also recognized at the foundation’s annual awards dinner were the districtwide Teachers of the Year:

Each Teacher of the Year was presented with an engraved award plaque and certificate. Seven of those teachers were also honored as Grants to Teachers recipients by NMSF. The Grants to Teachers Program offers all certificated NMUSD staff the opportunity to apply for individual, grade-level, and department grants to enrich their students’ educational experience. Funding for these grants is supplied by corporate and business sponsors, organizations, and members of the community at large. To learn more about the NMSF and how to support the Grants to Teachers programs, visit the foundation website.