Del Mar Hills Academy’s Andrea Sleet named Del Mar district Teacher of the Year


By Karen Billing

The Del Mar Union School District (DMUSD) has named Del Mar Hills Academy fourth grade teacher Andrea Sleet the district’s outstanding Teacher of the Year.

Sleet found out she was the Del Mar Hills Teacher of the Year at a schoolwide assembly March 26, surprised by her husband and father in attendance. She was again surprised later in the week to be called into the lunchroom for a special announcement and found superintendent Jim Peabody there to tell everyone she had earned the district honor, as well.

“I’m so touched that teachers would honor me and nominate me for Teacher of the Year,” Sleet said. “Teaching is my passion…giving me a special honor for something I love so much is amazing.”

She will now go on to represent the district at the county-wide Salute to Teachers honors event.

Sleet said she knew her entire life that she wanted to be a teacher, starting out playing school with her siblings. This year marks the San Diego native’s 16th year in education and she has been at the DMUSD and Del Mar Hills Academy for her entire career.

“This is my home and my second family,” Sleet said of the cozy, close-knit Hills campus where she said the teachers are all friends and parents are extremely involved and supportive.

Fellow fourth-grade teacher Tori Hemerick has been Sleet’s team partner for the last 12 years.

“We’ve created a lot of curriculum together and we feel a lot of ownership of this grade level,” said Sleet. “It’s our little baby.”

The Encinitas resident is a mother of three and is lucky to have had all of her boys (Dustin, Derek and Trevor) come through the Hills. Her son Trevor is currently in second grade.

“It’s actually pretty fun,” said Trevor of having mom on campus.

In fourth grade, Sleet most enjoys the little lightbulbs going off in her students’ heads when they make connections. This year is heavy on writing, and reading comprehension, and for the first time this year the students are integrating laptops into their learning.

Fourth grade also happens to be a big year for social studies. Students are learning about the Native Americans, the explorer period and the California missions.

“It’s very exciting for them to see how our history influences where we live,” Sleet said, noting the historic El Camino Real that linked the missions is right in their backyard, and that the hometown baseball team’s name, the Padres, and the Spanish architecture they see are all nods to the area’s past.

She most enjoys that the kids really work together as a team to support each other. She’ll often have them talk a problem out with a partner before they answer which can be a confidence builder. As a result of working together, her students are quick to ask for help from each other and praise a job well done.

“When I have a student in my class, I want them to believe in themselves and know that I believe in them,” said Sleet.

She wants them to set goals, whatever they may be, work hard to achieve them and then set a new one.

“I want them to know that they’re going to make mistakes and that’s OK. It’s OK to make mistakes as long as we learn from them,” Sleet said.

That’s a lesson, Sleet said, that they can take with them to fifth grade and beyond.