Richmond High School – 2003 Winner

Lana Husser has been a teacher for 23 years.  For the last 12 years she has taught at her alma mater, Richmond High School.  Her peers describe her as having “unfailing optimism”, a fantastic sense of humor and “absolute commitment to the good of her students.”  But where Ms. Husser really shines is in motivating her students.  When she returned to Richmond High, she realized motivation was a serious problem among the student body.  Many students just didn’t see the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  So Ms. Husser set out to show them it was real.

In 1989, Ms. Husser did extensive research on implementing a “school to career” focus at the school. She brought the results of her research back to the school, presented workshops to the teachers and spearheaded  the writing of Richmond High School’s first California Partnership Grant which funded the first career academy (the Business Academy) to be established at the school.  She then proceeded to write a second California Partnership Grant to fund a Health and Human Services Academy at the school.  Finally, she helped another teacher obtain yet another grant to establish a Science and Technology Academy at the school.

But what she has done with these programs is truly amazing.  At the beginning of the year, she asks her students what they like to do.  Then, the class designs a project to incorporate all of the interests and explore the technology necessary to accomplish the task.  For example, when students were interested in fixing things, photography, and going to the movies, the class project became building a solar car and making a documentary to memorialize the process.

To accomplish these projects, Ms. Husser recruits experts from local businesses to guide the students, introduce them to the business community and, together, accomplish a common goal.  Chevron/Texaco is a good example.  In 1991, she knocked on Chevron’s door and somehow convinced the company to allow her to bring her students there after school to explore careers in engineering.  In the early days, she used her own van for transportation.  Now the program has grown to serve 40 students .  The students are transported in a bus provided by Chevron.  They work in a special lab at Chevron that Chevron volunteers built to accommodate them.  Two years ago, she partnered with Cal State Hayward to accept the class as an official college class and give her students college credit.  That lead to a bilingual teaching partnership and, in her spare time, she got accredited herself so that she could teach a Saturday class that would also provide college credit.

The partnerships now include Chevron/Texaco, Kaiser Permanente, Pixar Studios, UC Berkeley, the University of Idaho, Cal. State Hayward, and Industrial Light and Magic, among others.  These programs accomplish their objective of motivating her fortunate students.  One project, constructing a robot, received a prize at a national competition.  The partnership with Kaiser now provides summer internships for 200 students, job shadows for more than 400, tours and classroom speakers.  Over the past two years, seven of her students were accepted into a robotics program at NASA Ames labs where they each received 12 college credits from Carnegie-Mellon University.  All seven students were offered  full college scholarships.