Tahoe-Truckee Teacher of the Year: Julie Fagnani is eighth finalist | SierraSun.com

Tahoe-Truckee Teacher of the Year: Julie Fagnani is eighth finalist

Katie Fagundes
Special to the Sun
From left, Julie Fagnani, North Tahoe School Teacher of the Year finalist; Michael Gelbman, Sierra Sun/North Lake Tahoe Bonanza publisher; Teresa Rensch, North Tahoe School principal; and Charlie Riley, Truckee Hometown SEARS owner, with Julie’s class.
Courtesy photo |

About the award

Now in its fourth year, the Truckee Hometown-SEARS/Sierra Sun Teacher of the Year program was created in 2011 to recognize the efforts of community teachers across Truckee, North Tahoe and Incline Village.

If you know a teacher who is making a lasting impact on students’ lives who you would like to thank, please nominate them for this year’s Teacher of the Year. Nominations can be emailed to: truckeetahoteacheroftheyear@gmail.com or dropped off at Truckee Hometown SEARS.

North Tahoe School teacher Julie Fagnani has been selected as the eighth Teacher of the Year finalist.

The sixth-grade English Language Arts teacher was recognized for her dedication and enthusiasm in and outside of the classroom.

Nominators cited her ability to foster positive relationships with parents and students.

North Tahoe School Principal Teresa Rensch described Fagnani as teacher who brings the curriculum to life for her students, and one who makes language arts engaging and rigorous.

“My kids are like my family here, I look forward to seeing them each day.”Julie Fagnani

“Ms. Fagnani works hard on behalf of the students,” said Rensch. “She does whatever it takes for all students to find academic success.”

Michael Gelbman, publisher of the Sierra Sun/North Lake Tahoe Bonanza, and Charlie Riley, owner of Truckee Hometown Sears, presented Fagnani with a certificate and award on April 29.

Julie Fagnani grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. As a young child, she remembers spending vacations with her family at their cabin in Tahoe.

Mixed with these early memories, Fagnani says, was a sense that she would end up living in Tahoe.

After attending University of Arizona and San Jose State University, she earned a degree in Recreation and Education.

Later she added to that a multiple subject teaching credential from San Jose State University.

She taught first grade and kindergarten at Challenger School in San Jose, Calif., before moving to Denver in search of a more affordable cost of living.

In Denver, Fagnani taught first grade and worked as a middle school Resource teacher. Fagnani found that her school in Denver was not the right fit for her and began searching for a new position.

She applied for the position at North Tahoe School and flew out to interview. Fagnani was thrilled when she was offered the position.

“It was a big change that happened very fast,” said Fagnani. “I am very happy that I did it though, because I love it!”

Fagnani is now in her second year at North Tahoe School and is very grateful to work with a team of experienced and dedicated educators.

“We have a really solid sixth-grade team,” said Fagnani. “They are great.”

Fagnani especially appreciates the mentorship of her colleague Linda Bendock.

“I don’t think that I could have transitioned from teaching first to sixth grade without her,” said Fagnani. “She is a real down to earth and is phenomenal at coaching me through things.”

This year, Fagnani has enjoyed teaching Persuasive Writing and reading novels with her students.

She taught her students to develop strong arguments and how to debate each side.

Fagnani used her students’ competitive drives to motivate their writing. She makes a point to connect with her students’ interests and meet them where they are at.

“She applies real life situations in her lessons so that the students can understand and relate to what she is teaching,” wrote one parent nominator.

“If we don’t get something we go and tell her and then she helps us on it until we get it,” wrote a student nominator.

Fagnani enjoys working at North Tahoe School and in the Lake Tahoe tight knit community.

She appreciates how close the community is and how willing people are to help those in need.

She has been amazed to see the love that people in the community share with each other.

“When something bad happens, the community pulls together like nothing I have ever seen before,” said Fagnani. “Everyone stops what they are doing to focus on what one family needs, everyone is like one big family.”

Fagnani herself clearly adds to the tight community as noted by parent and student nominators. Students feel her love for them and sense her sincerity.

“Julie goes above and beyond her duties as a classroom teacher,” wrote one parent nominator. “She involves herself in the community and gets to know each of her students’ parents; you can always find some of her current students or previous students in her classroom during recess or before school just to be with her.”

“She also treats us like we’re her family, that’s what I like most about her,” wrote one student. “If we are having a bad day she says do you want to talk about it.”

Away from her family in the Bay Area, Fagnani embraces the community and family that North Tahoe and her students offer her.

“My kids are like my family here, I look forward to seeing them each day — they make me laugh and I am so thankful for their different personalities,” said Fagnani. “We are a family.”