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San Diego music teacher among county's teachers of the year

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Posted at 5:00 PM, Feb 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-17 22:24:50-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – For educators in the pandemic, the Teacher of the Year award means more now than ever and one San Diego Unified music teacher is feeling that appreciation.

Paula Richardson is one of five teachers given the highest honor by the County Office of Education for the 2020-2021 school year. The Wilson Middle School music teacher has championed the challenge of virtual learning.

Richardson did not let the pandemic silence her sound. Like most teachers, she’s had to adapt and overcome teaching in a virtual world.

“Students record a solo piece, they send it to me and I put it together into one big compilation,” said Richardson. “You just got to keep it fun and light.”

She’s self-proclaimed "Positive Paula" and it’s easy to see why.

“Find a way to get past this and learn from it!” said Richardson. “There’s so many great learning moments, right now, let’s take them, let’s learn.”

She’s finding ways to keep her students engaged even though some of the course content has changed.

“I always preface this and say, ‘I never got to do this until I went to college. And they’re like, ‘Oh, I’m learning college stuff!’” said Richardson. “I get kids every day saying, ‘Thank you, I love your class Mrs. Richardson.”’

To understand the impact she’s had on 13-year-old Alina Nguyen, the proof is on the piano.

“Thank you for being my teacher thank you for being my friend,” said Nguyen.

Although the sounds are seamless, the pandemic hasn’t been Richardson’s only problem. In November, heavy rain flooded her classroom and destroyed 40 of her most expensive woodwind instruments.

But, with every curveball thrown her way she keeps going with patience and grace. Richardson continues making memories out of melodies while teaching students through her songs.

“There are so many positive things that are happening and I love that, I look for that,” said Richardson. “Those things inspire me. So, I’m doing good.”

Richardson says the school’s insurance does not cover the instruments that were ruined. If you would like to make a donation to Wilson Middle School you can contact them directly at 619-362-3400.