Valerie Ziegler gave up a lucrative job as a technology consultant to become a teacher.
"Ms. Ziegler is always challenging us she never gives us an easy way to get through an assignment," student Hubert Gamit said.
"She never uses the typical 'in the book' or 'use the handout,' we always have different references and there is never a dull class day," student Samantha Sherman said.
There are 306,000 teachers in California. To be selected one of five Teachers of the Year is a top honor. It is also the first time a teacher from the San Francisco Unified School District has won this award since the program began in 1972.
"When someone like Valerie wins this award it really represents all Lincoln High School teachers and all San Francisco Unified teachers and really acts as evidence of the outstanding dedication to our young people," Principal Barnaby Payne said.
The five teachers were selected based on their work to close the achievement gap and improve the graduation rate.
"I think there was a lot of emphasis placed on how can we make changes in education that doesn't have to come from funding," Ziegler said.
Ziegler teaches U.S. History and Economics.
She and six teachers at Lincoln also created the Green Academy, giving students the tools and know how to begin a green career.
Her inspiration came from her mom, a former teacher working with deaf students.
To her, teaching offers immediate gratification.
"These are going to a four year college, these are going to a community college and these got scholarships and it is a very measurable I like that and I like that it's fun; how many people in their jobs can come and have fun," Ziegler said.