Meet the 2022 Greater Irvine Chamber Distinguished Educators

Published on September 21, 2022


Educators and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) programs from greater Irvine were honored during the Greater Irvine Chamber’s 2022 Distinguished Educators awards event held at the Hilton Irvine on Sept. 15.

“The Greater Irvine Chamber celebrates Irvine’s world-class education as part of what helps the city live up to its promise as a model master-planned community. The quality of education throughout the greater Irvine area helps to sustain economic vitality in the region by ensuring a 21st-century workforce,” said Bryan Starr, president and CEO, Greater Irvine Chamber. “Our world-class schools, colleges, and universities are vital community partners. We commend all of our talented and committed educators and the programs they lead.”


Meet the Honorees:


John W. Kenney, III, Ph.D.

Professor, Chemistry & Chemical Physics; Director, Chemical Physics Laboratory
Concordia University Irvine

Dr. Kenney joined the faculty of Concordia University in Irvine in 2001 as a Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Physics. He is also Director of the Chemical Physics Laboratory at Concordia and Co-Director of the Keck Center for Astronomy at Concordia. Dr. Kenney is a teacher/scholar noted for his contributions to chemical education and to chemistry/chemical physics research with college undergraduates. With his undergraduate research students, he has worked as a visiting research scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Air Force Rocket Propulsion Laboratory at Edwards AFB, and many other research universities including UC Irvine. Dr. Kenney is also a fundraiser, grant proposal writer, and academic program builder (chemistry, physics, and engineering) at Concordia.


Janelle Crain

5th-Grade Teacher, Red Hill Elementary

Janelle Crain always encourages kids to believe, “I can do hard things!” Twenty-two of her 25 years of teaching have been at Red Hill Elementary in Tustin Unified School District, where she led the Student Council for many years, supporting kids as leaders, risk takers, and outreach for the school and community. Six years ago, Janelle’s lifelong dream of starting an after-school Performing Arts program became reality, providing 1st-5th grade children the opportunity to unlock previously unknown talents as all costumes, sound, lighting, concessions, sets, props, tickets, singing, and dancing are student-led and performed. Many of the kids have gone on to pursue acting and have invited her to their shows all around town. Janelle is inspiring kids to be world changers and leaders both in the classroom and out in the world!


Hang Virginia Nguyen

Social Studies Teacher, Portola High School

Virginia Nguyen teaches history at Portola High School and is an Equity, Excellence, Diversity, and Inclusion Irvine district mentor. She is committed to fostering school communities of belonging, encouraging understanding and exploration, and empowering students. In addition to being a classroom teacher, Virginia engages in advocacy work. She dreamt of and helped organize the inaugural Teaching for Justice Conference at UCI, facilitates workshops, writes articles, and does speaking events advocating for equity and justice in education. Virginia is married to Sinh, is a mom to Miles and Sydney, and is the proud daughter of Vietnamese refugees. These identities continue to shape her hopes and aspirations. A teacher of nearly 20 years, she believes educators have the power to change the world.


Tina Murphy

CTE Video Production & Broadcast Journalism Instructor, Portola High School

Tina Murphy is one of SoCal’s most renowned advanced media production teachers. Combining her love for inspiring youth and her passion for capturing life-changing moments, Tina works with emerging filmmakers to develop their talents. As an award-winning CTE Video Production and Broadcast Journalism Instructor for Coastline ROP at Portola High School, Tina is always discovering new methods for connecting her students with viable commercial opportunities. She is a teacher that makes sure to find a way to be involved with projects that give back to the community, often working with the police department and the City of Irvine. For 20 years, Tina has helped shape the minds and creative vision of hundreds of her students and consulted and advised the FilmEd Academy of the Arts program which partners with schools across the county. Her unparalleled approach to contributing to any endeavor tends to ensure its success.


Emily Liu

English Professor, Irvine Valley College

Emily Liu was born and raised in southern California and attended UCLA as a double major in English and psychology. She then worked at the non-profit UCLA Longevity Center, running educational programs to promote life-long learning in older adults. Emily received an M.A. in the Humanities from the University of Chicago, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in English from University of California, Irvine. Before joining the Irvine Valley College English department, she taught composition and literature at UCI, Mt. San Antonio College, Orange Coast College, and Saddleback College. At IVC, Emily serves as Director of the Honors Program and a Writing Course Coordinator, while continuing to teach composition and literature courses. She finds herself inspired every day by her students’ intellectual curiosity, resourcefulness, and perseverance.


Stephanie Reyes-Tuccio, Ph.D.

Assistant Vice Chancellor, Educational Partnerships, University of California, Irvine

Stephanie Reyes-Tuccio serves as UCI’s first Assistant Vice Chancellor, Educational Partnerships. Working with a range of regional stakeholders including K-12 schools, community colleges, and nonprofit and corporate partners, Dr. Reyes-Tuccio leads efforts to support first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented students’ higher education goals. She is an architect of UC Irvine’s unique model of educational excellence and access, earning the university its top place — four years running — on The New York Times College Access Index of U.S. universities doing the most for the American dream and the social mobility of graduates. She also oversees the Center for Educational Partnerships which houses over 15 programs that work with over 14,000 students, nearly 3,000 teachers, and over 3,000 parents annually in more than 500 schools across Southern California.


Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Concordia University Irvine

The Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at Concordia University Irvine is unique. It immerses students in science, technology, and health care. The philosophy and mission of the program view nursing as both an art and a science embracing the development of the individual student through liberal studies and scientific preparation. Students engage in a challenging curriculum that promotes critical thinking, clinical reasoning, and leadership skills. The nursing program utilizes experiential learning through state-of-the-art simulation, hands-on skills laboratory, and over 750 hours of providing care in various healthcare settings. Since its inception, Concordia University Irvine’s nursing program has successfully graduated over 1,000 caring, competent nurses who strive to live lives of service.


Business Administration, Information Systems Management

University of Massachusetts Global

The University of Massachusetts Global provides an array of self-paced degree programs, including a Bachelors in Business Administration, with an emphasis in Information Systems Management. This competency-based program is focused on preparing students for the dynamic challenges faced by businesses and organizations today. The curriculum consists of 13 general education competencies, 34 core business competencies, and nine competencies in the area of information systems management with a focus on networking, programming, project management, and security. Through a combination of knowledge and skills related to business administration and information systems management, students will be prepared to apply critical thinking and innovative solutions toward the betterment of society at a local, national, and global level.



Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Orange Coast

Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Orange Coast is a leader in STEM education with its continuous development of DIY-STEM curriculum. Using the engineering design process of 1.) ask, 2.) imagine, 3.) plan, 4.) create, 5.) experiment, and 6.) improve, kids at the Club experience hands-on, project-based learning, while experiencing STEM concepts, developing 21st-century skills, and sparking a curiosity to learn and discover. Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Orange Coast has several iterations of DIY-STEM, including Space Mission, Air Powered Vehicles, and Jr. Engineers. Having these various iterations empowers Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Orange Coast to integrate STEM activities into a variety of monthly or weekly themes throughout the year.


Arts Teach

Segerstrom Center for the Arts

Segerstrom Center’s Arts Teach program is an enriching educational program that provides the wonder and excitement of live performance and hands-on arts education activities to schools and community organizations throughout six Southern California counties. With a roster of more than 75 professional teaching artists from around the world, the Arts Teach program is a critical supplement to schools and community organizations throughout Southern California, supporting K-12 education in ways that improve academic performance, energize teachers with curriculum integration strategies, and transform learning environments. Serving nearly 200,000 people annually, Segerstrom Center’s Arts Teach program supports students, families, schools, and communities keeping the arts relevant and vital for generations to come.



Legacy Magnet Academy

Students taking high school Geometry explore and apply geometric concepts through project-based learning. Their experiences foster relevant and meaningful learning, problem-solving and effective communication so students gain confidence in their ability to do math. Projects range from using properties of shapes to design a truss bridge,  to composing architectural design proposals for redesigning a teacher’s classroom.


Through its Irvine Forward Foundation, the Greater Irvine Chamber has awarded more than $18,000 in scholarships this year. John Colvin Memorial Scholarships were awarded to five students and presented during Distinguished Educators.

Andrew Cisneros (Golden West College), Anganette Cisneros (University of California, Irvine), Euronymous Fernandez and Gaurav Malhotra (California State University, Fullerton), and Carlene Nhu (Irvine Valley College).


Joining Concordia University Irvine in presenting the Greater Irvine Chamber Distinguished Educators event were Business Sponsor City of Hope Orange County, Award Sponsors Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Orange CoastHoag HealthOctaneUniversity California, Irvine, and Vital Link.

This year's Distinguished Educators also hosted tables by Chapman UniversityCommercial Bank of Southern CaliforniaCox CommunicationsFivePointGreater Newport PhysiciansIrvine Valley CollegeParker AerospaceWaste Management, and Zillow.

For more information about Greater Irvine Chamber events and sponsorship opportunities, contact Courtney Nakagawa.