LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Marko Gutierrez

Position: English / AVID Teacher
School: San Ysidro High School
School District: Sweetwater Union High School District
City, State: San Diego, CA

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Marko Gutierrez was nominated by his colleague, Andrea Giordano-Rink.

"When meeting someone, there is never a halo on top of their head letting you know they have the potential to change your life, but some people could legitimately have this symbol. Marko Gutierrez is one of those teachers," said Giordano-Rink. "In the ten years I've worked with him, I have seen him influence our staff and students in positive, life-changing ways."

As the essays, reports, presentations and responsibilities of being the AVID coordinator for a National Demonstration school pile up, Mr. Gutierrez still finds time to answer colleagues' questions about effective AVID strategies. His students can count on calm, affirming answers to their questions or concerns, and there is never a flustered, upset, stressed look or response. Instead, he focuses on the positive and pushes that out to all who come in contact with him during and after school.

As if being a stellar teacher wasn't enough, Mr. Gutierrez also spends time educating his students' parents about universities and going to college after his school day is over. He has changed countless lives because of his willingness to give so unselfishly of his time and talents. The female students whose parents would not even think of allowing them to leave home for college have left and been successful. The young people who took a huge risk and stepped into AP Language to prepare for post-secondary education are successful, and the seniors who Mr. Gutierrez has walked through college applications when they thought they were hopeless get accepted and soar.

The most important thing Mr. Gutierrez has done for San Ysidro, however, is to influence teachers to be more positive, proactive and forgiving. He is constantly sharing research-based activities and ideas to help his colleagues improve their craft.

"He has single-handedly changed my teaching, and in doing so, he has positively affected thousands of students," said Giordano-Rink. "I am a very focused, plan-based person in my personal and professional life. This was coming across as harsh for my students, and I was stuck in a rut where I did not know how to fix the problems I was creating. Marko saved me and taught me with his generosity and kindness. He always challenged my negative perceptions and was willing to discuss them with me without judgment. For these reasons, he is a LifeChanger in our community."