(Photos by Alex Wilson, KVTA News)
The Ventura County Teacher of the Year is Jan-Erik Sand from Isbell Middle School in Santa Paula.
Officials say Sand is a former Marine who was deployed overseas in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and now teaches engineering courses that focus on giving students hands-on experience that inspire innovation.
Ventura County education officials surprised Sand and his students with the award Wednesday morning in his classroom.
Sand's colleagues say he has a unique combination of subject knowlege and teaching style that make him a standout in the classroom.
They say one of his priorities is to encourage girls to pursue engineering careers at a time in their educational experience when they tend to loose interest in STEM courses.
School officials say that Sand has spredheaded several intiatives to help reverse that trend.
One of Sand's most rewarding experiences came when a student who had been born with a deformed hand asked if he could use the classrooms 3D printer to make a new hand.
Sand spent six weeks working with the student to design and create a fully functional prosthetic hand that the student now regularly wears to school.
Sand has also taught middle school math, science, history and English.
He is now eligible to be considered for the 2020 California Teacher of the Year Award.