Daryl Bilandzija, an Odyssey's Charter middle school teacher, was surprised Friday morning with a check for $10,000 after winning "America's Most Innovative Teacher" in a contest sponsored by GOOD Magazine.
Bilandzija has been teaching language arts for 10 years in Los Angeles and San Francisco, joining Odyssey three years ago. In those three years, his students have expanded the edible learning gardens, planted fruit orchards, performed Shakespeare plays for the school community, and improved state test scores, according to a press release from the school.
He joined nine other teachers who were . The contest was based on the votes of readers for the magazine - more about the contest is listed on GOOD's website.
The $10,000 grant will go towards building an open-air stage for the school according to Carlos Saldana, the school's director of community relations.
Bilandzija is currently directing the school's production of Alice in Wonderland, he added.
Bilandzija described himself as a hands-on teacher in an interview last month with Altadena Patch about the contest:
"I try to make things as hands-on as I can for the students," he said. "I want to bring the real world into the classroom."
"When you look at the history of education and what people have been doing not just in this country, but all over the world, it's nothing out of the realm of good old-fashioned hands-on learning."
The video at right shows Bilandzija's successful pitch to GOOD from the nomination process.