Introducing the 2023 Teacher of the Year


Photo by Cathy Li

Cathy Li, Opinion editor and Copy Editor-in-Chief

What do Silly String, inflatable basketballs and heartwarming moments have in common? They were all part of the celebration for the 2023 Walnut High School Teacher of the Year: Joe Khouzam.

Hundreds of students, along with Khouzam’s family and Walnut faculty, lined up outside of his classroom Thursday, Feb. 23 to surprise him with the honor. As both the health teacher and boys basketball head coach, Khouzam’s contribution to Walnut was described as “exceptional” by principal Dr. Ryan Maine. 

“It was overwhelming. I loved all the kids being out here; it was a really good feeling,” Khouzam said. “I’ve had a lot of great students. They’re all grown and have families now, so it’s cool to [see that] and still have relationships with them.”

Khouzam was chosen as Teacher of the Year after a lengthy selection process, consisting of two rounds of voting by Walnut staff and a panel of instructional deans, union members, technology coaches and former Teachers of the Year. They commended Khouzam’s dedication to his students, both in and out of the classroom.

“Mr. Khouzam provides such a service to both his class and basketball players. He gives students [high] levels of attention and encouragement, but he’s also flexible to support them,” read one anonymous recommendation voting for Khouzam as Teacher of the Year. 

“Joe is the best teacher I’ve ever watched. His lessons are passionate, creative, organized and impactful. If you combine it with the incredible job he does as a coach [and] the dynamic effect he has on his players and students alike, I cannot see how he has not been named Teacher of the Year yet,” read another. 

Khouzam has been a teacher for 23 years, 11 of which he spent at Walnut High School. In 2023, he led the boys basketball team to its best season in school history, winning two out of three tournaments and setting records that had remained unbroken for decades.

“[Teacher of the Year] is a big honor because we have so many great teachers at this school, so just to be considered one of the best is a big compliment for me,” Khouzam said. “It was a welcoming feeling.”