NORWALK – When Lynn Schaulis began teaching social studies at Hargitt Middle School Academy 12 1/2 years ago, she thought her focus would be telling youngsters about U.S. history or maybe world history, not just how to read the words. But that’s exactly the position in which Schaulis found herself. So she went back to school, obtained a master’s degree in reading and language arts from Cal State Long Beach and jumped into her district’s movement to ensure that 90 percent of its students can read at grade level. These are the reasons why Schaulis, 38, of Huntington Beach, an eighth-grade U.S. history teacher, is this year’s Teacher of the Year for the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District. “The classroom was filled with so many struggling readers that now I consider myself a reading teacher and secondarily a social studies teacher,” Schaulis said. Schaulis’ classroom also is used as part of a demonstration program for other teachers. Coaches come in and teach a lesson for Schaulis or others to watch so they can learn how to teach reading better, she said. Hargitt Principal Karen Cresswell said Schaulis is a deserving teacher of the year. “Lynn is definitely a leader when it comes to vision about what’s best for the program,” Cresswell said. “She’s approachable and personable. She loves the students and is passionate about them.” Schaulis’ students say she helps them a lot. “When we don’t understand something, she takes time to make sure that we understand it,” said Ignacio Rodriguez, 13, of Norwalk.” Ruby Ruiz, 13, of Norwalk described Schaulis as fun and serious. “She puts things in her own words and makes it sound like it’s fun,” Ruiz said. Schaulis knew she would be a teacher from a young age, but actually began to pursue the career while attending Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa. She later received a bachelor’s degree in history from UC Irvine and a teaching credential from Chapman University. It wasn’t easy finding her job during the summer of 1994, said Schaulis, who was looking for a high school job. “The high school market was flooded at the time,” she said. “There just weren’t opportunities.” But a friend of Schaulis, who taught at Hargitt, told her of an opening and she was hired. Schaulis, who had planned on becoming a high school teacher, said the switch to the younger age was no big deal. And now she loves this age group. “The range of maturity is fascinating to me as well as their sense of humor and openness,” she said. “I love them.” [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3022 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “There were words on the page, but \ were not able to make meaning or connections with them,” she said. “Kids couldn’t talk about the ideas in the text.” Schaulis said she now spends a lot of time helping her students become better readers. “I’m less concerned with memorization of facts,” she said. “They’re on the Internet. They’re in books.” Schaulis said she shows students how the text is organized, how to pull out ideas from the book, take notes and even create their own study guide. “I want the eighth-grade readers to leave this class and be prepared for all of that independent reading in high school,” she said.