State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell is honoring a local educator who was named a California Teacher of the Year on Thursday at her school in San Francisco’s Sunset District this afternoon.

Valerie Ziegler, who teaches U.S. history, economics, government and politics to 11th and 12th graders at Abraham Lincoln High School, was one of five winners chosen across the state.

O’Connell’s visit this afternoon is an informal affair, according to Patricia Skelton, an administrator with the California Department of Education. The official winners’ banquet will be held in the Sacramento in January, she said.

“He will visit all the (winners’) schools throughout the year,” Skelton said. “He likes to honor them as Teacher of the Year and meet their communities.”

Ziegler, 34, said she has only been teaching for five years and described the award as “a real honor.”

Skelton said the selections committee picks candidates who are articulate, effective teachers, active in their communities, strong leaders and well versed on educational issues.

Although test scores are reviewed, they don’t play a role in selecting the winners, Skelton said. Each county in California nominates a local teacher of the year, and through written applications, on-site observation and interviews, the state narrows 60 candidates down to five winners.

In a short autobiographical statement by the Department of Education, Ziegler wrote that she was inspired by her mother, a special education teacher who helped her students beyond normal classroom duties for more than 30 years.

Ziegler also wrote she believes students need incentives to do well in school, and she thinks relevancy in curriculum is missing for many students.

The achievement gap could be attributed to this disconnect, she wrote, which is why it’s important to meet with students one-on-one to find out what they want from their educations.

There is no monetary award given to the teachers of the year, but they are used as mentors statewide and invited to speak at business and educational functions, Skelton said.

O’Connell was scheduled to visit Abraham Lincoln High School, located at 2162 24th Ave., at 1 p.m.

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