LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Alan Gersten

Position: e-Business Academy Project Director
School: Century High School
School District: Santa Ana Unified School District
City, State: Santa Ana, CA

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Alan Gersten was nominated by a former student, Roberto De Jesus.

The e-Business Academy was established at Century High School over 20 years ago, and Mr. Gersten has been its Program Director since 2008. Students can be part of the program as early as their sophomore year. They learn essential skills that they would learn in the business industry. Designing a business, company logo, website, and catalog are just a few examples that students get to do in their first year. At the end of the year, students will choose their top business ideas that the cohort will move forward with and continue to develop.

After the business has been chosen, each student is allowed to interview for the executive level jobs. All students play a vital role in running the company as a whole, and those who aren't in the executive-level positions are still part of a department. The classroom setting operates as an office setting in which students obtain “virtual checks” and learn how to manage their finances. Each student has a virtual bank account which teaches them daily life responsibilities, such as paying bills.

"'You've got to look at things from the viewpoint of driving a car. When you’re driving, you don’t just look at the pavement, and you look beyond that.' Those were the words of advice that Mr. Gersten gave me upon evaluating a financial report when I was the Chief Financial Officer for our virtual company, Pandemonium," said De Jesus. "Until this day, I still reflect on Mr. Gersten's advice and apply it in my daily life, which has influenced where I am in life as of today. Today, I'm an individual who looks beyond what's in front of me, sometimes literally, and analyzes each option before making a decision that will impact my future. Thus, looking beyond has made a beneficial difference in my life, and I owe it to Mr. Gersten's words of wisdom."

More importantly, Mr. Gersten’s ability to create a positive school atmosphere has been extraordinary. He influences students throughout his mentorship, thereby creating future leaders of tomorrow.

"He has a desire to help students gain important life skills, and he gives his students professional experiences," said Gary Zeri, a former student. "Students get an opportunity before many of their peers to sit in an office board room and discuss a marketing strategy, risk management, and hiring processes."

Mr. Gersten creates a positive atmosphere at Century by unifying students in each of their cohorts. He prepares students with the tools needed to become valued professionals by teaching them how to prepare for life after high school. From creating resumes, to sharpening interviewing skills, to teaching the skills required to succeed in obtaining a career, Mr. Gersten makes Century’s atmosphere shine. He’s also a teacher for the Career Technical (CTE) program, in which he teaches students technical skills and provides hands-on experiences. Students have the opportunity to obtain a technical certificate by being part of a CTE Career Pathway.

Without a doubt, Mr. Gersten's leadership role at Century continues to impact students' lives significantly. Century is the only school site in the entire school district to offer the e-Business Academy program. Yet, Mr. Gersten's impact is abundant, especially for first-generation college students. Indeed, through his leadership roles, Mr. Gersten has affected countless Centurions along the journey.  

Mr. Gersten's record of excellence has been extraordinary at the professional level. The Academy has received numerous awards and recognitions, especially in their Virtual Trade Fairs. Each year, the program attends local, state, national, and international competitions in places like New York and Washington D.C. Although there are a variety of businesses that compete in each category, Century’s e-Business Academy always succeeds by achieving recognitions across the board. Mr. Gersten also coordinates Senior Awards for the top seniors in the program. His excellence record extends beyond what he's required to do, and he always goes above and beyond impacting students' lives.

Furthermore, Mr. Gersten oversees more than students’ educational journeys. He has impacted students’ lives by producing a nurturing atmosphere. Century/e-Business Academy Alumni Stephanie Rivera shared her story on how Mr. Gersten has helped her through his mentorship. Because of his guidance, Stephanie was able to attend a four-year university.

“As a low-income, Mexican immigrant student in a single-parent household, attending school was just a requirement," said Rivera. "I had little motivation or aspirations at that time. His guidance and the e-Business Academy intrinsically motivated me to go to school and aspire for more. He was the first mentor who genuinely believed in my potential and always made me feel confident about other students' capabilities. He instilled in me the importance of leadership, as well as the power to influence others and create positive change. I took unimaginable risks and volunteered for leadership positions in high school to guide my professional development. Most importantly, when I became an orphan during my junior year and experienced immense adversity, Mr. Gersten was the most prominent advocate for my wellbeing. He collaborated with other educators to support me, ensure I graduated, and reach my dream to attend a university. Thanks to his mentorship, I am a first-generation graduate student. Mr. Gersten is innovative and supportive, and he always provides his students with a sense of belonging and aspiration for something bigger than themselves. It is for his investment in each student, unique ability to inspire many, and humble nature that he is the most deserving educator of this recognition.”

Undoubtedly, Mr. Gersten’s commitment to a high moral and ethical standard to his students, school, and community excels daily. Educators have basic principles, yet sometimes, it’s more complicated than it sounds. In the classroom setting, Mr. Gersten shows dignity, integrity, and responsibility to each of the students, including those who aren’t in the program. Mr. Gersten has shown tremendous respect to students, faculty, and families each time he gets a chance to collaborate with them. Thereby, Mr. Gersten’s devoted time in being the Program Director has shown that he holds himself to a high moral and ethical standard.

Comments (40)

Teri Jones Posted over a year ago

Alan is one of the best VE teachers I have seen. His willingness and ability to mentor and share with other teachers is unparalleled in the region. He volunteers anytime another school or program needs and is a valued leader well beyond his region. He has a true knack for making learning fun and incredibly meaningful. His lessons and projects on personal finance, team management and Work Based Learning projects have had a great influence on many VE teachers across the nation. To parrot another alum's message here, Alan is very devoted and absolutely holds himself to the highest ethical standards, all while sharing a great time for those lucky enough to be his students and co-workers.

Jonathan Swanson Posted over a year ago

Wow... where to begin? Mr. Gersten has given so much of himself to provide for others. Students in his class have graduated from his program with a skillset that gives them an advantage when approaching the world of business. On top of that, the relationships he has developed through mentoring students are commendable. He goes above and beyond for his students, program, school, and community. He will leave a legacy in Santa Ana. I am honored to have been his colleague.

Nathan Goodrich Posted over a year ago

Everything already stated about Alan is 100% true. Let’s not overlook that Alan doesn’t only impact the lives of his students, though. I have worked under Alan’s leadership in the e-Business Academy since 2010, and not one day has gone by that I haven’t consciously made professional decisions influenced by the work of Alan. I’d be a dramatically different instructor, if I were not working under his leadership all of these years. Alan is one in a million, and every student, parent, and education worker who has worked with him, in some capacity, should consider their experience to be as special as winning the lottery. It’s not everyday we are in the presence of teachers like Alan.

Saul Lopez Posted over a year ago

I just finished reading through some of the comments and I shed some tears of joy. Anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Gersten can see why his so special. However, those who have had the privilege to participate in the e-Business Academy know him as much more than just an instructor. He is a mentor, a leader, a shaper of bright futures, a father figure, and more importantly the closest thing to superman I know. A home is nothing without a solid foundation, and that is what Mr. Gersten and the e-Business Academy provide for its students, a solid foundation. A foundation build on skill, hard work, values, respect, love, and teamwork. I just graduated Chapman University and started my career as a Financial Planner for Modern Woodmen of America. Without exaggeration, I would say that I wouldn't be where I am today without Mr. Gersten and the academy. Because of the everything I learner in the academy I was able to get my first job, I was able to find my passion in business, go on to major in business and now have a career in business. Til this day, my experience in this amazing program is something I talk about in interviews, at work, and with friends. All of which have been possible because of this man, who I will forever be in debt with. I can only hope to honor his legacy by continuing to work hard and make a positive impact in my community.

Monica Zamora Posted over a year ago

I am instructional assistant for Special Education. I was assigned to his class. I have the opportunity to see how Mrs Gerstern teach his students to use critical thinking skills to resolve all students' assignments and learned professional manners. EXCELLENT professor!

Mark Bush Posted over a year ago

Where to start... I've worked with Alan Gersten for, I believe, about 25 years. I've never known a more creative teacher who puts in countless hours trying to figure out how to make his classes more engaging and fun. Enriching his classes from the world of online gaming was definitely one of the most creative things I've seen him do. Through accomplishing tasks and "leveling up," his students bought in to the learning experience. And as others have mentioned, his learning went way beyond the class curriculum, which, by the way, Alan improved or rewrote almost every year. He taught them so many things that they could apply to their lives whether or not they ended up working in the business world. He taught them about the value of money and how to manage it. He taught them about the costs of living in Southern California and the costs of college or university. He taught them that there will always be challenges in life and that it's OK to ask for help. He taught them about perseverance and the importance of completing group tasks. Personally, Alan has been a friend and valued colleague. He listened when he needed to. He gave advice if warranted (though, to our continued amusement, I often disregarded, to my detriment). He gladly accepted being our decade-long department chairperson because nobody else wanted to take it on (because we knew we couldn't live up to his example). We'd jokingly say "I won" when one of us would leave earlier than the other (even though it was well beyond normal working hours). We both knew we worked long hours and knew, as well, that that wasn't always a good thing when there were others at home who also deserved our time and commitment. But Alan, apparently, found the perfect balance between home life and work life. I can't think of a person who is more deserving of this award than Alan Gersten. He has positively impacted thousands of lives during his teaching career. Century students and staff will certainly miss his presence for many years after his retirement.

Helen Gundy Posted over a year ago

Congratulations and thank you Mr. Gersten for being a great teacher, well deserved. Helen

Noemi Ruiz Posted over a year ago

I did not take Mr.Gersten myself but a number of my classmates did. They all bragged about Mr. Gersten and his positive impact especially in the E-Business Academy. When I served as a mentee, more recently, the good commentary recurred among my mentees who often cited Mr. Gersten as a favorite. All in all, I believe that if more teachers were like Mr.Gersten, Santa Ana Unified School District would be a better place.

Kimberly Posted over a year ago

Congratulations on your nomination this year! You helped me and a lot of students for the real world. Thanks to you and the academy you opened eyes for many students who have not experience the real world and gave us a glimpse of what to expect. My only wish is that more students could join the academy and experience a life changing experience with you, the staff, and fellow classmates.

Christian Cushing-murray Posted over a year ago

Working with Alan Gersten these last 20 years for me is probably what it's like to be a teammate of Lebron James or Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. As a colleague, he makes you up your game by setting the example, by offering the support, and by putting you in a position where you can succeed. I've been fortunate enough to be part of the e-Business Academy under Alan's directorship, and I feel I've become a better teacher and colleague because of it, and teaching has been a more rewarding experience because of it. I'd feel lucky--and successful--if I've had even a tenth of the impact I've seen him have on the students around him.

Jennifer Yaeger-Arroyo Posted over a year ago

Mr. Gersten is one of the most passionate, hardworking, and caring people that I know. He inspires his students to dream bigger and his colleagues to give more. He has had such an impact on so many lives and truly deserves this recognition.

Ernesto Figueroa Posted over a year ago

I am always in awe of the work Mr. Gersten does with and for our students. His students always look excited and appear happy to be in his class. He has excellent classroom management and he builds incredible relationships with his students. If you ever walk into his class you can feel the positive energy. Students are on task, working away, and you will always see Mr Gersten helping the different groups out. Mr Gersten has led our Centurions to many championships and recognitions. He organizes hands-on field trips for our students and they always come back with all kinds of trophies and recognitions. We are lucky to have such a kind, caring human being on our campus. He not only helps our students, but he also volunteers to help staff with any technology professional development. Our school motto is Commitment, Honor, and Success and Mr Gersten embodies them all in his daily activities!

Karina Gonzalez Posted over a year ago

A very well deserved award for an amazing educator. Even today 7 years after being a participant of the program I continue to to reap its benefits by applying the knowledge and mentorship provided by Mr.Gersten. I will never forget whenever I would make a mistake or was having a hardship he would always tell me, “Don’t worry it’s all part of the learning process.” Thank you Mr. Gersten !

Nancy Angulo Posted over a year ago

Congrats Mr. Gersten!! You will always be my favorite teacher! Miss you! Thanks for being there for your students take care!

Grecia Peñaloza Posted over a year ago

Congratulations Mr. Gersten. Miss you tons. Thank you for being an amazing teacher.

Gary Zeri Posted over a year ago

It was wonderful to be a part of your program, and the experience was very practical and relevant to the real world. I referenced my experience in your class during an interview with First American and it helped me to earn a position with the company. Thank you so much for all that you do and congratulations!!

Adrian Beltran Posted over a year ago

Congrats Mr. Gersten!!! Well deserve. As a former student of yours I am sure that there was no better candidate. I’m proud to have been your student. I have learn so much in those 3 years. It has prepare me and I want to thank you. ClassOf2006

Anayeli Sanchez Posted over a year ago

Congratulations Mr.Gersten, it is some amazing news. You definitely deserve this award and more for being an awesome, caring, and helpful teacher to us all. Wish you the best !

Noeli Martinez Posted over a year ago

Congratulations Mr. Gersten! Thank you so much you deserve this award and much more! An amazing teacher who inspired my career as a business major. I will never forget the motivation you have given us. Such an amazing teacher who loves teaching all of his students.

Melissa Becerra Posted over a year ago

Congratulations Mr. Gersten! More schools need people like you, you give an opportunity to so many kids to look at life ahead of us in a different perspective so that we can choose the correct path and make something of ourselves. Because of the skills I developed in this program I now have an amazing position at Wells Fargo in Arizona. Thank you for ALL you do!

Sandra Gutierrez Posted over a year ago

I have had the opportunity to be both Mr. Gersten’s student and employee. Under his leadership, I have excelled academically and professionally due to the strong work ethic and perseverance he instilled in me. Mr. Gersten embraces the learn-by-doing philosophy and is devoted to helpings others realize their full potential. He goes above and beyond to provide students, alumni, and staff the support they need to succeed. He creates a safe and nurturing environment pivotal for growth and development. Mr. Gersten is an outside the box thinker with a creative mind who keeps his students engaged with his unique curriculum and team-oriented activities. He prepares students for life just as much as he does for higher education. I am grateful to have such a positive role model in my life and will cherish every lesson he provided. Mr. Gersten is truly a lifechanger!

Andrea Moreno Posted over a year ago

Congratulations Mr. Gersten You definitely earned this I am beyond happy for you. Thank you for all your time,dedication and support.Thank you for always going above and beyond taking students under your wing and guiding them, you have made a difference in many of our lives.

Luz Garcia Posted over a year ago

Congratulations Mr.G, I can’t say I’m surprised because you really do deserve it !! You were willing to go the extra mile for your students to succeed and for that I admire you. You made E-business a great program & to me that really meant everything. I would ask you so many questions everyday and you never got frustrated, I mean in the contrary you liked answering and helping me out. You are the heart and soul of E-business and you made it a great environment. To say the less you ROCK MR.G! once again congrats

Karla Fernanda E. Franco Posted over a year ago

I migrated to the United States in the middle of 8th grade, without any knowledge of this country, nor the language. As a freshman at Century Highschool I was placed in ESL courses through which I met Mr. Lee, my algebra I teacher at the time who saw potential in me and introduced me to Mr. Gersten and the e-Business Academy. As an undocumented student, I knew that much of my future after high school would be of uncertainty. I thank Mr. Gersten who aware of my situation believed in the eagerness and bright future that I had ahead of me. His encouragement along with the uplifting spirits of all academy teachers who were there to guide and support me despite all the obstacles I faced due to my citizenship status, was a support I had nowhere else. I graduated in 2017 with a 4.1 GPA, received acceptances to universities across the U.S, and was provided with a variety of scholarships, one of them being from the fundraising held every year by the Academies, orchestrated by Mr. Gersten. I am currently a Senior at the University of Los Angeles, California, UCLA, graduating this June with a double Major in International Development Studies, Sociology and a Minor in Spanish. I believe my academic journey and growth as an individual was highly impacted by the moral and academic support, and acceptance I received from Mr. Gersten. I am certain that without his influence in my life as a high schooler, I would have not grown to have the faith and confidence I do today.

Angelica Pulido Posted over a year ago

Congratulations Mr. Gersten!!! This award is well deserved and you deserve so much more for everything that you do. You have inspired so many of your students, including myself. Thank you for being an amazing teacher and a wonderful person who believes in us and help us find our potential. You taught me so much about life, business, and education and I carry these skills with me always.

Jessica Manntai Posted over a year ago

Working with Mr. Gersten has been one of the most rewarding parts of my career. I have loved watching every interactions between him and his students. He is truly a caring mentor and advocate for everyone of his students. He puts his whole heart into everything he does. He deserves this praise and so much more!

Guadalupe Flores Posted over a year ago

Mr. Gersten is one the most devoted teachers you’ll ever encounter. His commitment and encouragement to his students is one of a kind. As one of his past students, he cared for each and one of his students. He always looked for ways to help us success and improve our work. Congratulations Mr. Gersten !

Genesis Velez Posted over a year ago

Congratulations Mr.Gersten! You honestly deserve to be the life changer of the century not the year! If it weren’t for you I would’ve probably given up in my education and career. Thanks to you believing in me that I could do it I’ve been able to face many challenges and I’ve achieved to be in a place where I am set for the rest of my life. I don’t think I would’ve achieved what I have now without you! Your truly a life changer! Thank you for everything you do!

Daisy Gama Posted over a year ago

Congratulations Mr. Gersten. As a former e-business student, I could definitely say this program made a huge impact in my life. It was an eye opener for my career. You truly deserve this award, and thank you for all you do for the students. Thank you for your dedication to the students and our community.

Jackie Garcia Posted over a year ago

Congrats Mr. Gersten you deserve this award. You inspired me to become an educator and to continue with my education after high school. Thank you for believing in me and making me see that I could be anyone I wanted to be. Thank you for everything you did for me and for your other students. We appreciate you.

Cristina Flores Posted over a year ago

Congratulations Mr. Gersten! I am so thankful and proud to have been part of the e-business academy. Thank you so much for your hard work and dedication. I will never forget my ebusiness class of 2009! Asphalt Assault! <3

Lenny Penny Posted over a year ago

Atta boy! All of us from PowerCloud are both proud and happy for you! High School reunion and party for you when Covid is over! I’ll make the soup and make sure to leave out the bat!??

Melanie Carranza Posted over a year ago

I am an alumni for 2019 and can gladly say Mr. Gersten was such an important person in my high school experience. He was always there from sophomore year to my last day of high school. I appreciate all the hardwork he puts into the academy, for he dedicates his time and gives it his all. He will always be a teacher that I hold true to my heart because he allowed not only me but all his students to think creatively and allowed himself to not only be an educator but became a person I will always remember. He believes in all his students and for that I truly appreciate him. Congratulations on being a nominee Gersten! You definitely deserve this more than anyone! Thank you for always believing in all of your students and miss you!

Alex Castro Posted over a year ago

Congratulations Gersten! You 1000% deserve this award not only for the hardwork and dedication you've invested in the program, but the amount of time and knowledge you've invested in us! You really changed a lot of people's life and how they see the world and business after highschool! Thank you for the opportunity to travel and learn about something I've never thought I would learn, you really impact my life! You have my respect and honestly HOPE YOU WIN THIS AWARD. God bless brother!

Jackie Garcia Posted over a year ago

Congrats Mr. Gersten you deserve this award. You inspired me to become an educator and to continue with my education after high school. Thank you for believing in me and making me see that I could be anyone I wanted to be. Thank you for everything you did for me and for your other students. We appreciate you.

Adrianna Noyola Posted over a year ago

Congratulations Mr.Gersten. You definitely deserve this award.As a student of yours I could definitely say That you had a huge impact on my life and my career. You’re one of My first teachers that believed in me. I’m so thankful for everything that you did for me and other students. I admire your hard work and dedication for your work.

Cecilia Bautista Posted over a year ago

Mr. Gersten it's and extraordinary teacher and always there for the students, parents. I have a pleasure to know him and he is the best to be a Life changer of the year ?

Adrianna Noyola Posted over a year ago

Congratulations Mr.Gersten. You definitely deserve this award.As a student of yours I could definitely say That you had a huge impact on my life and my career. You’re one of My first teachers that believed in me. I’m so thankful for everything that you did for me and other students. I admire your hard work and dedication for your work.

Maritza Olivarez Posted over a year ago

Mr. Gersten is truly a gem! He inspires students by devoting his time and support. There is no week that he always stays after his work hours always there for students. His support throughout the high school years and beyond make him the best leader to look up to. Keep up the GOOD work with out youth! Thank you for all you do!

Marta Sanchez Posted over a year ago

I have had the opportunity of working with Allan for over 15 years. He is always devoted to supporting the staff by volunteering office hours to support staff with new demands due to online learning. He also has always supported winter basket project by cordinating for the ebus academy to adopt a family. He has also set up scholarship opportunities to better support every graduating class. Mr Gersten plans to retire this year. His legacy will live on. He will be misssed