Cochrum named Teacher of the Year

May 21, 2010 — by Anoop Galivanche

Science teacher Lisa Cochrum spent a lot of time with animals in her three-week trip.

When science teacher Lisa Cochrum received a call from principal Jeff Anderson at her home one night recently, she was alarmed. “Usually I only receive calls from Mr. Anderson at my home when something bad happens,” Cochrum said. “I pulled up a chair and prepared myself for the worst news.”

The news she got was anything but bad: She had been named Teacher of the Year for 2010-2011 in the Los Gatos-Saratoga Union High School district.

“When he said I was named Teacher of the Year, I was totally surprised,” she said.

Cochrum’s students, however, were not. Her teaching approach and sense of humor been delighting students since she first started teaching in the district in 1993. Students love Cochrum for her fun as much as they do her lessons on biology. Oftentimes, the distinction between the two elements is blurry.

“I wasn’t sure whether I’d like biology or not, but Ms. Cochrum’s class has definitely made me interested in it,” said freshman Rohil Taggarsi.

The award, however, is a different sort of recognition of Cochrum’s abilities as a teacher— as it is fellow teachers, not students, who decide the award winner.

“This award means a lot to me because it is really as if my respected colleagues are giving me the nod,” she said.

This year, the award also includes a write-up of the teacher’s contributions. “That really touched me,” said Cochrum. The write-up is extensive in any sense of the word, with Cochrum having a laundry list of accomplishments and accolades.

Out of all the activities she is involved in, the endeavor Cochrum takes most pride in is her work with special education students. It is a cause that she is well acquainted with; her grandparents were instrumental in establishing schools for children with special needs in the ’50s and ’60s, and her mother also worked as a special education teacher until recently. Cochrum’s uncle was one of the first students at her grandparents’ special needs school.

“[Teaching special needs children] is something that is close to my heart since my family has been so involved in it over the years,” Cochrum said. Accordingly, she teaches a science course with a special education teacher for students who would otherwise go without science curriculum.

Her attention to students doesn’t end there. Current and former students alike know Cochrum for her accessibility—she’s always willing to answer questions.

“I think the thing that makes Ms. Cochrum so special is that she is somebody that reaches out and connects with a real broad variety of kids,” principle Anderson said. “Every student that has had her will tell you that she’s a really open and giving person.”

In fact, Cochrum has developed an almost cult-like following. Students crowd her room at tutorial and after school just to talk to her.

Junior Cortney Fields, who is one of these students, said about Cochrum, “She’s crazy, but she’s an amazing teacher.”

And that’s why students love her.

Cochrum will be recognized at the May 18 LGSUHSD Board meeting, the District’s Opening Convocation on Aug. 27, and the Santa Clara Office of Education Teacher of the Year Recognition on Sept. 29 at the Heritage Theater in Campbell.

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