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July 24, 2021

Gonzales teacher receives first Amazon Future Engineer Award

Jacob Jun earns $50,000 for educational efforts at Gonzales High School

GONZALES — Jacob Jun, a computer science teacher at Gonzales High School, was asked to attend a Zoom meeting about ed tech on June 5, but the real reason was a surprise announcement that he was one of the first awardees for the first-ever Amazon Future Engineer Award.

“You guys tricked me,” said Jun, as his gathered colleagues congratulated him and the trick set in. “I did not expect that at all.” As he had time for the news to settle, he added, “I didn’t do anything, my kids did all the work.”

Tom Berry, from the Amazon Future Engineer Team, joined the meeting to make the announcement and say the award came with $25,000 for the high school. After a moment for everyone to react, Berry piled on the news.

“We figured $25,000 might not be enough, so is matching with an additional $25,000 in school supplies for your classroom for a total amount of $50,000,” Berry said.

Berry shared what he had heard from Jun’s colleagues to express why he had been chosen.

“You’re getting this award because you’re a teacher who really goes above and beyond to meet your students with the real world implications of computer science or engineering or whatever education you’re pursuing,” Berry said. “You’re exactly the type of educator we seek to recognize and encourage to keep doing what you’ve always done.”

Yolanda Barba, district director of curriculum and instruction, said, “Mr. Jun is definitely a humble teacher, a hard worker, and he is always willing to support and help us whenever we need it.”

“Everyday he has flourished here,” added Julius Purnsley, GHS principal. “The kids love him.”

District Superintendent Yvette Irving said Jun has championed the idea that computer science engineering is a viable option for Gonzales students.

“He is also a member of a team of educators who are all working on putting an ed tech plan in place that helps to increase the options available to our students,” Irving said.

Jun commented less about himself and more about the ongoing effort to get technology education into the city’s schools.

“We’re small, but our kids are brilliant,” Jun said of Gonzales. “We’ve got kids applying to computer science schools.”

“I always see the amazing dedication he puts into the classroom every single day,” said Miguel Malagon, GHS vice principal. “I see the kids in their classes, very engaged and learning computer science and it’s amazing to see the type of work that they’re producing and how they’re representing Gonzales High School when they go out in several competitions.”

Nationwide, Amazon announced it chose seven recipients from across the country, two in the Eastern region, two in the Western region, two in the Central region and one robotics grant teacher.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how we build on this program and how the kids run with it because it’s a huge opportunity for them,” Jun said. “I’m very happy to be part of this.”

Sean Roney
Sean Roney is the reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.


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