WASHINGTON, Sept. 6, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- The mastermind behind one of the largest high school journalism programs in the country, Esther Wojcicki, has produced an impressive list of storytellers, including actor and filmmaker James Franco, The Economist's Gady Epstein, senior editor of MIT Technology Review Rachel Metz, Facebook veteran Nik Ajagu and other notable alumni. Wojcicki spent several years as a professional journalist herself before turning to teaching at Palo Alto High School.
"She's a kid magnet," says Kim Diorio, principal of Palo Alto High School. "People feel really connected to her and supported by her."
Known to her students as "Woj," the revered teacher will be celebrated in September by Honored, a nonprofit organization dedicated to elevating teachers across the nation, for her contributions to education. In addition to providing a cash grant, Honored spotlights recipients by engaging highly respected writers to articulate the powerful stories that make these educators stand out – an effort designed to help achieve the organization's mission.
As part of her recognition from Honored, Woj's story will be immortalized in a profile article by Vanity Fair contributing editor Bethany McLean. McLean joined Vanity Fair in 2008 after serving as a reporter and editor-at-large at Fortune. In her article, McLean writes:
Woj was unafraid to experiment and ahead of her time, and her passion for teaching has made her beloved by her students. At the core of her belief in the importance of journalism is her conviction that learning to write is a critical skill, because, as she says, "Writing clearly helps you think clearly." She adds, "The number one thing people do is communicate," and she ticks off the key lessons, all of them critical to success (and sanity) in the modern world, that you can learn from journalism: Distinguishing fact from fiction. Knowing the source. Getting to the point. Being concise.
Since Woj became a teacher 33 years ago, she has inspired thousands of students and helped guide the early careers of several stellar journalists and writers. Along the way, she also raised three highly accomplished daughters: Susan Wojcicki, chief executive officer of YouTube; Janet Wojcicki, a Fulbright Scholarship-winning doctor; and Anne Wojcicki, chief executive officer of 23andME.
Under Woj's guidance, the Palo Alto High School journalism program has won two Webby Awards and has received recognition from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association, the National Scholastic Press Association and Time magazine. Woj's former students credit this success to her teaching model that is deeply rooted in trust, respect, independence, collaboration and kindness.
For Franco, who returned to Palo Alto High School to teach alongside his former mentor in 2015, Woj is a hero. In a video tribute, Franco recalls how Woj empowers students to take complete ownership of the nine publications they produce.
"We got to come up with the stories, and we did the layout of the paper," Franco said. "There were even cases when [our stories] scooped the professional papers."
Franco says he was deeply impacted by what he calls her "invaluable" instruction style, which he now uses to engage students when teaching classes of his own.
"[Teaching] requires a passion for helping people be the best they can be," Woj says. "I'm extremely humbled to see my former students flourish long after leaving Palo Alto High School, and it fills me with such gratitude to see them share their gifts with a new generation of storytellers."
The full story is available at honored.org/honoree/esther-wojcicki, and the video tribute from James Franco as well as other assets can be found by visiting, https://www.dropbox.com/sh/mlymbd9lacfta3r/AADvUXVzwVJeXHOpXifKAr1Ua?dl=0.
Has a teacher changed your life? Honored wants to share your story and give your teacher some well-deserved recognition! To nominate a teacher, visit honored.org/nominate/.
Honored is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to elevating the status of teaching in the United States. Each month, Honored shines a spotlight on a teacher who has changed the life of a single student. The honoree receives a $5,000 cash award, and Honored recruits a world-class writer to tell their story. Honorees are selected from K-12 teachers of all subjects at public, private and charter schools across the country. Honored's National Advisory Board includes luminaries such as the internationally best-selling author Michael Lewis, DonorsChoose.org founder Charles Best, Teach For America founder Wendy Kopp and FEED cofounder Lauren Bush Lauren.
For more information about Honored, visit honored.org. To nominate a teacher, visit honored.org/nominate/. For regular updates on Honored and our monthly honorees, follow and like us on facebook.com/Honored.org, twitter.com/honored and instagram.com/honored_org.