Julie Harris Neiger, Credential '76, MA '86

LMU double alumna Julie Harris Neiger was recognized as a top 10 finalist for Teacher of the Year by the San Diego County Office of Education during its annual televised "Salute to Teachers" gala. Julie was also named one of three 2011-2012 Teachers of the Year by Poway Unified School District in San Diego County. In talking about the honor, Julie says, “When you work with people you adore and are honored by your peers – that’s huge! I know the caliber of people I’m working with, so this is very humbling.”

A fourth and fifth grade teacher with 35 years experience, Julie credits the LMU School of Education for its integration of theory and practice and emphasis on social justice. She grew up near LMU in Ladera Heights and wanted to be a teacher for as long as she can remember. She earned her undergraduate LMU degree in theater and a teaching credential, and started her teaching career in Los Angeles area schools.

Julie found the LMU credential program very worthwhile, remarking, “LMU is the best in addressing how to work with diverse student populations. I was taught all aspects of theory and practice, and provided guidance and advice along the way.” Julie says LMU gave her a strong foundation that has prepared for every situation she faces as a teacher, saying, “I really appreciate that I can apply everything I learned in a practical way.”

Julie returned to LMU and earned a Master of Arts degree in Reading to further develop her practice. She later joined the Poway Unified School District and was selected to serve for two years as a Distinguished Teacher in Residence at California State University San Marcos in a collaborative consortium between the university and local school districts, including Poway. Julie taught courses at CSU San Marcos and in exchange for her services to the university, a full-time CSU San Marcos faculty member worked with Poway on special projects, including writing programs to improve literacy and staff development on cultural proficiency.

Looking back on her time at LMU, Julie feels strongly that the SOE’s emphasis on social justice has had a lasting impact on her approach to education, saying, “Social justice allows you to look at equity in education. If there is no equity, then there is no justice. If we believe that all children have the right to learn, are we willing to back that up with action? I know I am.” To that end, Julie calls herself the Chief Dream Officer, saying, “My job is to prepare, inspire and encourage every one of my students to succeed, not just for the ten months they’re with me, but in the world of tomorrow.”

Among her many accomplishments, Julie received the Disney Creativity in Teaching award, was a featured author in Today I Made a Difference, a collection of inspirational stories from some of America’s top educators, and was a featured professional in Making It Work, a short film series that provides a look at the dedication and spirit that influence women in the workplace today.

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