Algebra teacher among LAUSD teachers of the year

Zachary Weiss, an eighth-grade algebra teacher at Luther Burbank Learning Complex, last week was named a 2011-2012 LAUSD Teacher of the Year, along with 13 other district teachers at the elementary through high school level.

Weiss, 35, who heads the math department at the Highland Park middle school, began teaching 11 years ago, after working as a story editor with Robert Redford and Arnold Kopelson. The North Hollywood resident said he left the entertainment industry to pursue a more meaningful career.

“I wanted to do something where I felt like I had an impact,” he said.

Weiss, who grew up in Long Island, New York, said his career switch was inspired by his parents, who taught math for more than 40 years.

“I had some incredible people influence me, and I always wanted to give back,” he said.

Arturo Valdez, Luther Burbank’s principal, nominated Weiss for the award. He said that the school’s eighth-grade California Standardized Testing algebra 1 scores have shown dramatic improvement — rising from 277.2 in 2004 to 316.1 in 2010 (district average for last year was 305.7) — which he attributes to Weiss’ teaching.

“The students like to be there,” Valdez said of Weiss’ classroom. “He gives the most homework, but he also gets it back.”

As an LAUSD Teacher of the Year, Weiss will be entered into the 2011-2012 Los Angeles County Teachers of the Year competition, which is decided in September.

“I felt really honored. That’s really the word that I can say,” Weiss said, adding, “I have to say it’s more of a reflection on my students than me.”