Department of Defense Education Activity

2023 Teacher of the Year

Dr. Kaiser Cara, 2023 TOYDr. Cara Kaiser
Pacific South District
2023 Teacher of the Year
Lester Middle School, Okinawa, Japan

English Language Arts Teacher

Dr. Cara Kaiser is an erudite educator who strongly advocates cooperative learning and focuses on building relationships with students, parents, colleagues, and community members. She teaches English Language Arts with DoDEA at Lester Middle School, Okinawa, Japan. With 25 years of teaching experience, she has taught reading, learning strategies, Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID), and Music. Dr. Kaiser also holds various leadership roles, including membership on the DoDEA Pacific South internal review team, technology team, school leadership team, school advisory committee, and site literacy team. She is currently the chair of her school’s continuous school improvement (CSI) team and department chair for the seventh grade at her school.

Dr. Kaiser encourages students to use a growth mindset as an approach to learning and see each attempt as an opportunity to take risks, experiment, and persevere. She uses hands-on, inquiry-based learning that involves students in various activities connecting content-rich knowledge to real-world examples. Dr. Kaiser’s philosophy of allowing students to “F.A.I.L. Harder” is evident in the classroom as students are provided multiple opportunities to demonstrate mastery of concepts and are encouraged to ask questions, investigate, and face learning hurdles head-on. Through positive relationships, students are engaged, and the learning communities are vital to her ability to facilitate learning for her students.

Dr. Kaiser holds a Doctorate in Leadership in Educational Administration from Capella University, a Master of Education in Technology in Education from Lesley University, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from Linfield College.

DoDEA Americas

Jennifer LubbaMs. Jennifer Lubba
Americas Mid-Atlantic District 
2023 District Teacher of the Year
Gordon Elementary School, Fort Bragg, NC
Kindergarten Teacher

Jennifer Lubba is a native of Buffalo, New York, she completed her undergraduate degree at Buffalo State College in Urban and Regional Planning with a geography minor and a focus on environmental studies. While at Buffalo State she was selected for the National Exchange Program where she completed one semester of environmental and geography studies at Texas State University. Following her exchange, she completed a summer internship working for ManTech International Corporation; a company that delivers comprehensive environmental and sustainable planning services to federal/civilian costumers. Prior to graduating with a bachelors, Jennifer engaged in Buffalo Planning and Developing intern opportunities that included planning additional parking in the downtown area, planning and implementing pocket parks in urban areas of Buffalo, and revitalizing historic sites in and around the City of Buffalo.

Shortly after the completion of her bachelor’s degree, Jennifer was accepted into the MIITC (Master's Including Initial Teaching Certification) Program at Buffalo State College. Her military connected life caused her to move from New York and complete her student teaching at Colonel Johnston Elementary School, Fort Huachuca, Arizona where she was then hired as a full-time kindergarten teacher, acquired multiple leadership roles, and was nominated for Cochise County Project of the year. Jennifer was hired for a full-time kindergarten teaching position at Gordon Elementary School, Mid-Atlantic District where she was recently recognized for her teaching practices, collaborative relationships, and leadership qualities. She also held the math/STEM SSST, CSI chair, and focused collaboration facilitator positions at Gordon Elementary School.

alvarez imageDr. Laura Alvarez
Americas Southeast District
2023 District Teacher of the Year
Fort Knox High School, Kentucky
Language Arts and Drama Teacher

“Dr. Laura Alvarez is a secondary teacher who models excellence in instruction. She engages students in authentic and meaningful tasks that challenge them to grow and excel at high levels of rigor. Each time I visit her classroom, I observe students articulating their learning goals, engaging in classroom discourse to build on their understanding, and respectfully acknowledging differences in thoughts and opinions,” said Christy Huddleston, the Department of Defense Education Activity Southeast District superintendent. “Not only is she a teacher of excellence in the classroom, but she also is a teacher leader who was recognized for her class making significant gains on the DoDEA College and Career Ready Summative assessment last year during the pandemic. Although her classroom switched to remote learning on several occasions last year, her dedication to students never wavered, and their academic progress soared. She is dedicated, compassionate, intentional and encourages each student to reach their greatest potential.”

Alvarez is a veteran educator with 18 years in education. Alvarez passionately believes in making strong bonds with students to establish trust, ensuring high-quality 21st-century learning.

She has been a teacher at Ft. Knox Middle High School since 2017. During her tenure, she is held numerous positions, such as senior class sponsor, student activities director, English department chair, site literacy leader, and Professional Learning Community Facilitation committee chair. She also is a member of the Continuous School Improvement committee. Prior to joining DoDEA in Kentucky, she worked at DoDEA’s Antilles High School in Puerto Rico as a special education technician, long-term substitute, and varsity cheerleading coach.

Lonnie Gilmore, the principal at Ft. Knox Middle High School describes Alvarez as, “An excellent leader with a ‘can do’ attitude. She is the type of teacher that looks at a problem and approaches it as what needs to be done, how can I get it done, and here are a few examples of what we can do to fix it.” Gilmore values the experience she brings to the classroom. “Alvarez possesses the qualities and attributes of a seasoned educator. She assesses students on a regular basis and uses the data from those assessments to improve teaching and learning in the classroom. She has a practice in place where she uses grouping strategies and tier one activities to provide interventions as needed. This not only allows a framework for her to assess students, but it also builds the capacity for students to strengthen skills such as collaboration, communication and critical thinking — all of which are 21st century skills,” he said.

Prior to coming to DoDEA, Alvarez was a kindergarten through eighth grade math specialist and a kindergarten, first and third grade teacher in Florida public schools.

Alvarez earned her bachelor’s degree in child development and family sciences from Florida State University, a master’s in educational leadership from Stetson University and her doctorate in educational and organizational leadership from University of Florida.

Josh Adams, the Department of Defense Education Activity Kentucky community superintendent, also recognized Alvarez for her school-based contributions. “Dr. Alvarez is a dedicated and determined member of the FKMHS team. She provides great instruction to her students and also supports the school in various roles. We are so proud to have her represent us as our teacher of the year!”

DoDEA Europe

Europe East_DelaneyMs. Oona Delaney
Europe East District
2023 District Teacher of the Year
Zukeran Elementary School, Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan
K-5 Instructional Coach

“We are so proud of Oona and her selection as the Europe East District Teacher of the Year. Oona is a wonderful teacher who builds positive, enduring relationships with her students. She is dedicated to their success and works tirelessly on their behalf. It’s teachers like Oona who have made DODEA such a special school system for the past 75 years!” Mr. Sanchez said. Mr. Bassett, her supervisor, and principal at Landstuhl ES said, “Ms. Delaney is enthusiastic, child-centered, collegial, and very much a team player that always has what is best for kids at the forefront of her coaching/teaching philosophy.”

Ms. Delaney served as an Instructional Coach at Landstuhl Elementary School. Oona believes when teachers decide together on the vision and strategies to reach students, they become invested in the change they create within.

Ms. Delaney has helped to create an environment of professional trust that promotes innovation and collaboration with shared ownership for student achievement. As a lifelong learner, Ms. Delaney says she “seeks to continually improve my practice through coursework and collaboration with school and district colleagues.” Whether she is designing professional development or modeling a classroom lesson, Ms. Delaney prioritizes voice and choice, creating a community of learners that feel engaged, challenged, and heard.

Ms. Delaney holds master’s degrees in both Anthropology and Education. She worked as an Instructional Coach for grades K-5 at Landstuhl Elementary School and has taught for 14 years in Department of Defense Educational Activity (DoDEA) schools.

She is a 2021 District TOY nominee and helped prepare the winning application for the 2020 National Blue Ribbon awarded to Landstuhl Elementary School.

Timothy Ramey, Europe South District TOY

Mr. Timothy Ramey
Europe South District
2023 District Teacher of the Year
Vicenza Middle School, Italy
6th Grade Math/Science Teacher

“Mr. Ramey is an amazing math and science teacher. He has shown the critical ability to make these complex subjects come to life for his students in unique and creative ways. He is highly deserving of this recognition,” said Dr. Arrington.

Mr. Ramey teaches sixth grade math and science at Vicenza Middle School. Mr. Ramey believes in the importance of teaching the content standards but is also focused on bringing math alive through interactive and engaging lessons. He is passionate about finding opportunities to support military connected students and the unique challenges they face. He believes in the power that schools have in shaping the minds and hearts of future generations and takes that responsibility as a personal mission.

“In order for information to be securely held by students, lessons must be presented and implemented in creative and memorable ways,” Ramey says. “Creative and memorable lessons are possibly even more important when it comes to math education as this approach serves to create lasting impressions and promote lifelong learning.”

Ramey earned his Master of Arts in mathematics education from Western Governors University and his Bachelor of Arts in elementary education with a middle school math and science endorsement from Central Washington University. He also earned a Bachelor of Science in business management with an emphasis on finance from Brigham Young University - Idaho.

Mr. Ramey was invited to co-present at the National Council of Teacher of Mathematics conference, is a previous nominee for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and was selected for the competitive honor of attending the Space Academy for Educators Program at the United States Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. He is proud to be a part of a great education system and of being a teacher leader not only in his school but also his district.

Jennifer Mench

Ms. Jennifer Mench
Europe West District
2023 District Teacher of the Year
Spangdahlem Middle School, Germany
6th-8th Science/AVID Teacher

Jennifer Mench teaches 6th grade Integrated Science and AVID Elective (7 – 8th grade) at Spangdahlem Middle School (SpMS) in the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) Europe West District. In 2020, Ms. Mench earned her Master of Education from George Mason University, majoring in Curriculum and Instruction. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Geography in 1993 from Radford University, majoring in Cartography and Planning. Ms. Mench teaches Next Generation Science Standards, wherein she engages students in discussions, models activities and labs, and teaches the importance of reasoning. In 2021, Ms. Mench began teaching the AVID Elective and was selected to be AVID Coordinator.

Ms. Mench’s support of students extends beyond the classroom. She is in her fourth year celebrating student success as Awards Coordinator. Ms. Mench serves as SpMS School News Liaison, updating the community about events, accolades, and day-to-day news related to the school.

As a DoDEA educator, Ms. Mench focuses on teaching students to think like scientists. She encourages all students to ask questions, seek evidence, and question what they think they know. Knowing students are preparing for jobs that do not yet exist, Ms. Mench focuses on teaching her students 21st Century foundational skills.

DoDEA Pacific

Ms. Rachel Strader 2023 Pacific East Teacher of the Year.Ms. Rachel Strader
Pacific East District
2023 District Teacher of the Year
Sullivans Elementary School, Japan
5th Grade Teacher

Ms. Strader has served as a DoDEA teacher for more than 10 years and is currently teaching fifth grade at The Sullivans Elementary School in the Pacific East District. Her DoDEA experience also includes teaching at Murray Elementary and Brittin Elementary schools on Ft. Stewart, Ga. Ms. Strader began her teaching career at Thomas D. Gregg Elementary School in Indianapolis, where she formed the foundation for her teaching practices in reaching all learners through a student-centered classroom filled with hands-on learning.

“There are so many things that I enjoy about teaching, but the highlight of every day is watching students’ progress in a multitude of ways,” Ms. Strader said. “Watching a child’s eyes light up in wonder or hearing the excitement in those little voices while discovering a new concept is the best part of day-to-day teaching. While seeing students as adults live out their dreams and hearing their success stories is the ultimate joy.”

While with DoDEA, Ms. Strader has stepped into a variety of leadership positions including leading Team Lead, Continuous School Improvement team, committees, and conducting professional development regarding 21st Century Teaching and Learning.

“Being named 2023 District Teacher of the Year is a great honor, especially in a military community where standards and expectations are high,” she said. “I teach with a team of educators that hold me to high standards as we collaborate to develop, deliver, and assess exceptional teaching and learning strategies. I am not alone in this title but stand with many that push us forward in doing whatever it takes to reach all students.”

Ms. Strader said working with military-connected students is a special honor.

“Each morning as I walk through the gates of the base surrounded by people in uniform, I am reminded of the special honor of serving those who defend and protect our freedoms,” she said. “While the parents are fighting for us, it is our duty to provide the best possible education to their children. Military-connected students come to us with an array of needs, but more importantly an array of attributes like resilience, culture, flexibility, and support. It is heart-warming to see the level of engagement that deployed parents offer their children and the strength of the parents at home.”

Ms. Strader is a strong believer in being a lifelong learner. Presently, she is pursuing a Doctor of Education degree in Educational Leadership from Liberty University, Virginia and previously graduated from Liberty University with an Education Specialist degree in Curriculum and Instruction. She also holds a Master of Education degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Indiana Wesleyan University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis.

PAC West_Cuaresma Mr. Paul Cuaresma 
Pacific West District
2023 District Teacher of the Year
Guam High School, Guam
9th-12th Grade Physics Teacher

In addition to teaching physics at Guam High School, Mr. Cuaresma also serves as Guam High School’s Science Department Chair, Chemical Hygiene Officer, Junior Science and Humanities (JSHS) sponsor, and Far East Academic Advisor. He has also coached numerous student researchers for Far East STEMinars since 2012 and the JSHS research competition since 2015. In 2020, one of his mentees won the Pacific Regional competition and presented their research nationally.

“The honor of teacher of the year represents the commitment, dedication, and grit that each of my fellow teachers and I go through every day to provide a safe, diverse and positive learning environment for our students,” Mr. Cuaresma said. “To be named the 2023 DoDEA Pacific West teacher of the year is a humble recognition of our efforts."

Mr. Cuaresma believes that all learners deserve equitable access to science learning. He achieves this by focusing on scientific modeling and investigation, providing students broad exposure instead of mastery of concepts.

“I enjoy the challenge of teaching students because it is simply fun,” Mr. Cuaresma said. “Working with students every day to help them develop life skills such as evaluating claims, designing investigations, modeling data, and communicating their arguments and solutions through academic discourse is entertaining. Attending frequent professional learning outside the classroom to improve my craft keeps my heart and mind refreshed, and teaching students keeps me engaged. I thank my students every day for allowing me the chance to practice the art of teaching and set higher goals every year.”

As a DoDEA teacher fulfilling the agency’s mission to educate, engage, and empower military-connected students, Mr. Cuaresma serves and supports service members and their families.

“Our job as teachers to our military-connected students is critical to the mission of the United States Department of Defense,” Mr. Cuaresma said. “Together with the rest of the DODEA educational system, we provide a safe and reliable environment to help the children of our service members maintain a stable environment to keep home life as optimal as possible. Our service members have a critical job to keep our nation safe, and we are committed to providing their children with the best education available anywhere in the world. I am proud to be a humble part of that system as a mentor our students can trust.”

Mr. Cuaresma holds a Master of Science Degree in Educational and Instructional Technologies from National University in California and a Bachelor of Arts in Secondary Science Education from the University of Guam.