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925.942.3429

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News and Press Releases

CCCOE Press Releases - 2017

January 2017

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May 2017

May

San Ramon Valley Unified School District's
2017-18 Teacher of the Year Receives Special Visit

San Ramon Valley Unified School District Teacher of the Year Kelly GiottaSAN RAMON, Calif., May 22, 2017 – On May 16, Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata visited the classroom of Kelly Giotta, at Gale Ranch Middle School, in San Ramon. Giotta, a seven-year instructor, was named San Ramon Valley Unified School District’s Teacher of the Year (TOY), earlier this year. Since 2012, Giotta has taught six-grade Core English and history at Gale Ranch. Prior, she has taught in Ayutthaya, Thailand and Guadalajara, Mexico.

“I became immediately aware of Kelly’s incredible teaching ability when she first arrived to our school district in 2012,” reports San Ramon Valley Unified School District’s Director of Instruction Kirby Hoy. “It was clear from the very beginning that Kelly had the passion, commitment and heart for this work and beyond.”

Photo caption: (l-r) Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata, San Ramon Valley Unified School District’s Teacher of the Year Kelly Giotta, and Gale Ranch Middle School Principal Sue Goldman.
Photo Credit: Terry Koehne, CCCOE

“Kelly loves her students and they, in turn, love her,” Hoy adds. “When you walk into her classroom, you immediately feel positive energy emanating from Kelly and each of her students. They are fully engaged in their learning and Kelly is fully engaged in her role as lead learner. I’ve been in her classroom many times by myself and with other district staff, and each experience is consistently amazing.”

On the evening of September 28, 2017, the 22 Contra Costa County TOYs, class of 2017-18, including Kelly Giotta, will be introduced and honored at the annual Teacher of the Year Dinner Celebration, held at the Concord Hilton. The 22 TOYs will be accompanied by their families, friends, and co-workers. The expected crowd of close to 500 will also include numerous other supporters of the program. For more information about this year’s CCCOE TOY Program, please review this earlier-sent news release.

Throughout the school year, Superintendent Sakata makes it a point to visit each incoming TOY in their classrooms, prior to the Dinner Celebration. This is a great way for her to meet the teachers and their students, as well as take in the day’s lesson plan. When individually introducing the TOYs at the Dinner Celebration, Sakata will tell the audience about her visit and will quote one or two of the students’ remarks about their revered teacher.

Currently, there are approximately 8,400 teachers educating more than 176,000 students in Contra Costa County’s public schools. To recognize their efforts and bring much-deserved honor to the teaching profession, the participating school districts in the county named their TOY representatives in mid March. The incoming 22 TOYs represent 17 Contra Costa County school districts, the Contra Costa Community College District, and the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE). Most of these representatives, those who teach grades K thru 12, are eligible to compete in the Contra Costa County TOY competition. The two top teachers in the county TOY program will represent Contra Costa County in the California State TOY Program this coming fall.

Note regarding eligible participants:

Seventeen of the eighteen Contra Costa County school districts represented, and the CCCOE are participating in this year’s TOY program.

Each year, one instructor from Contra Costa Community College District is submitted to the TOY program for his/her outstanding body of work with their designated college. The colleges rotate each year between Diablo Valley, Los Medanos, and Contra Costa. (These instructors do not compete in the State Teacher of the Year competition.) This year is Diablo Valley College’s turn.

Due to the larger number of students and teachers in their districts, West Contra Costa USD, Mt. Diablo USD, and San Ramon Valley USD are allowed to submit two TOY candidates

Follow Contra Costa County’s Teacher of the Year program on Twitter: #cocotoy


Oakley Union Elementary School District's
2017-18 Teacher of the Year Receives Special Visit

Oakley Union Elementary School District Teacher of the Year Paige ColburnOAKLEY, Calif., May 19, 2017 – On May 12, Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata visited the classroom of Paige Colburn, at Gehringer Elementary School. Colburn, a four-year instructor, was named Oakley Union Elementary School District’s Teacher of the Year (TOY), earlier this year. During her four of years at Gehringer, Colburn has taught grades third and fourth.

“Everything is about kids, with Paige Colburn,” says fellow Gehringer teacher, Jeanie Domingo. “It’s what motivates her and occupies her mind nonstop. You cannot find a person more dedicated and focused than Paige, when it comes to children and their education. I first met Paige five years ago when she was a student teacher at my site. The minute she walked into my classroom, I could tell that she was a ‘natural.'”

Photo caption: (l-r) Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata and Oakley Union Elementary School District’s Teacher of the Year Paige Colburn.
Photo Credit: Terry Koehne, CCCOE

“Paige’s classroom is a warm and welcoming environment,” Domingo continues. “Students' work is on display, showing off all content areas. When I have observed her teaching, the children are engaged, on task, and learning. Her interactions, with all of her students, are caring and warm. You can see this as she circulates throughout the room, or as she reads a book aloud, focusing in on the lesson’s theme.”

On the evening of September 28, 2017, the 22 Contra Costa County TOYs, class of 2017-18, including Paige Colburn, will be introduced and honored at the annual Teacher of the Year Dinner Celebration, held at the Concord Hilton. The 22 TOYs will be accompanied by their families, friends, and co-workers. The expected crowd of close to 500 will also include numerous other supporters of the program. For more information about this year’s CCCOE TOY Program, please review this earlier-sent news release.

Throughout the school year, Superintendent Sakata makes it a point to visit each incoming TOY in their classrooms, prior to the Dinner Celebration. This is a great way for her to meet the teachers and their students, as well as take in the day’s lesson plan. When individually introducing the TOYs at the Dinner Celebration, Sakata will tell the audience about her visit and will quote one or two of the students’ remarks about their revered teacher.

Currently, there are approximately 8,400 teachers educating more than 176,000 students in Contra Costa County’s public schools. To recognize their efforts and bring much-deserved honor to the teaching profession, the participating school districts in the county named their TOY representatives in mid March. The incoming 22 TOYs represent 17 Contra Costa County school districts, the Contra Costa Community College District, and the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE). Most of these representatives, those who teach grades K thru 12, are eligible to compete in the Contra Costa County TOY competition. The two top teachers in the county TOY program will represent Contra Costa County in the California State TOY Program this coming fall.

Note regarding eligible participants:

Seventeen of the eighteen Contra Costa County school districts represented, and the CCCOE are participating in this year’s TOY program.

Each year, one instructor from Contra Costa Community College District is submitted to the TOY program for his/her outstanding body of work with their designated college. The colleges rotate each year between Diablo Valley, Los Medanos, and Contra Costa. (These instructors do not compete in the State Teacher of the Year competition.) This year is Diablo Valley College’s turn.

Due to the larger number of students and teachers in their districts, West Contra Costa USD, Mt. Diablo USD, and San Ramon Valley USD are allowed to submit two TOY candidates

Follow Contra Costa County’s Teacher of the Year program on Twitter: #cocotoy


West Contra Costa Unified School District's
2017-18 Teacher of the Year Receives Special Visit

West Contra Costa Unified School District's Teacher of the Year Paula RajRICHMOND, Calif., MAY 17, 2017 – On May 15, Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata visited Paula Raj's Spanish Honors class at De Anza High School. Closing in on 36 years of teaching, Raj was named West Contra Costa USD’s Teacher of the Year (TOY), this past early March. Since 1996, Raj has taught all levels of Spanish and AP language and culture to grades 9-12. Prior to joining De Anza High, she taught Spanish and French in Lexington, Massachusetts; Brooklyn, New York; and New York City.
On April 4, Raj was named as one of four finalists in the county’s TOY program. See recent news release for details.

Photo caption: (l-r) Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata and West Contra Costa USD Teacher of the Year Paula Raj
Photo Credit: Terry Koehne, CCCOE

“Before I was old enough to attend school, every morning I'd watch my brother go off to school – without me. So I would line up my dolls and stuffed animals, and when I could, younger children from my block to make my own classroom, with me as the teacher. Naturally, when I first entered school, it was an amazing milestone for me, and every year thereafter filled me with feelings of excitement and joy. In my eyes, all of my teachers were smart, beautiful, and perfect – and I wanted to be like them!”

“'Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,'” Raj quotes Nelson Mandela. “This is why every day when I greet my students, I am ever cognizant that what I do may have an impact far greater than what I can see. Each student is someone’s child and deserves to be treated with respect, kindness, and caring of their teachers. I believe in keeping this philosophy in mind at all times. Each student is an individual who brings their uniqueness to the classroom, if only we give them voice. Over the years, I have learned so much from my students and I’m always in awe of the new and profound perspectives they bring to class.”

On the evening of September 28, 2017, the 22 Contra Costa County TOYs, class of 2017-18, including Paula Raj, will be introduced and honored at the annual Teacher of the Year Dinner Celebration, held at the Concord Hilton. The 22 TOYs will be accompanied by their families, friends, and co-workers. The expected crowd of close to 500 will also include numerous other supporters of the program. For more information about this year’s CCCOE TOY Program, please review this earlier-sent news release.

Throughout the school year, Superintendent Sakata makes it a point to visit each incoming TOY in their classrooms, prior to the Dinner Celebration. This is a great way for her to meet the teachers and their students, as well as take in the day’s lesson plan. When individually introducing the TOYs at the Dinner Celebration, Sakata will tell the audience about her visit and will quote one or two of the students’ remarks about their revered teacher.

Currently, there are approximately 8,400 teachers educating more than 176,000 students in Contra Costa County’s public schools. To recognize their efforts and bring much-deserved honor to the teaching profession, the participating school districts in the county named their TOY representatives in mid March. The incoming 22 TOYs represent 17 Contra Costa County school districts, the Contra Costa Community College District, and the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE). Most of these representatives, those who teach grades K thru 12, are eligible to compete in the Contra Costa County TOY competition. The two top teachers in the county TOY program will represent Contra Costa County in the California State TOY Program this coming fall.

Note regarding eligible participants:

Seventeen of the eighteen Contra Costa County school districts represented, and the CCCOE are participating in this year’s TOY program.

Each year, one instructor from Contra Costa Community College District is submitted to the TOY program for his/her outstanding body of work with their designated college. The colleges rotate each year between Diablo Valley, Los Medanos, and Contra Costa. (These instructors do not compete in the State Teacher of the Year competition.) This year is Diablo Valley College’s turn.

Due to the larger number of students and teachers in their districts, West Contra Costa USD, Mt. Diablo USD, and San Ramon Valley USD are allowed to submit two TOY candidates

Follow Contra Costa County’s Teacher of the Year program on Twitter: #cocotoy


Antioch Unified School District's
2017-18 Teacher of the Year Receives Special Visit

Antioch Unified School District's Teacher of the Year Jaceey RenfroeANTIOCH, Calif., May 16, 2017 – On May 12, Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata visited the classroom of Jacey Renfroe, at Marsh Elementary School. Renfroe, who has been teaching for 11 years, was recently named Antioch Unified School District’s Teacher of the Year (TOY). Since 2011, Renfroe has taught first and fifth grades at Marsh Elementary. Prior to working at Marsh Elementary, Renfro had taught at Kimball Elementary School, Fremont Elementary School, and Black Diamond Middle School, all three schools are part of the Antioch USD.

Photo caption: (l-r) Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata, and Antioch Unified School District's Teacher of the Year Jacey Renfroe, Marsh Elementary Principal Crystal Berry.
Photo Credit: Terry Koehne, CCCOE

When expressing her viewpoint on teaching, Renfroe says, “I firmly believe that building relationships with your students is the single most important part of teaching. If you are unable to, or do not try to build a relationship with your students, then they are not going to learn from you. When a student feels connected to you as their teacher, they are more likely to work harder to make you proud. While building these relationships with the students, you get to know them, not as a name on a paper or a test score, but as a person. With this will come a mutual respect. A lot of people today feel as though the students should respect the teacher no mater what; I feel the respect has to go both ways.”

“I take pride in the relationships that I have built with my students,” Renfroe adds. “I show my students respect from day one in the classroom. I set very strict procedures and teach tem explicitly, so they know what to expect when they walk into our classrooms.”

On the evening of September 28, 2017, the 22 Contra Costa County TOYs, class of 2017-18, including Jacey Renfroe, will be introduced and honored at the annual Teacher of the Year Dinner Celebration, held at the Concord Hilton. The 22 TOYs will be accompanied by their families, friends, and co-workers. The expected crowd of close to 500 will also include numerous other supporters of the program. For more information about this year’s CCCOE TOY Program, please review this earlier-sent news release.

Throughout the school year, Superintendent Sakata makes it a point to visit each incoming TOY in their classrooms, prior to the Dinner Celebration. This is a great way for her to meet the teachers and their students, as well as take in the day’s lesson plan. When individually introducing the TOYs at the Dinner Celebration, Sakata will tell the audience about her visit and will quote one or two of the students’ remarks about their revered teacher.

Currently, there are approximately 8,400 teachers educating more than 176,000 students in Contra Costa County’s public schools. To recognize their efforts and bring much-deserved honor to the teaching profession, the participating school districts in the county named their TOY representatives in mid March. The incoming 22 TOYs represent 17 Contra Costa County school districts, the Contra Costa Community College District, and the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE). Most of these representatives, those who teach grades K thru 12, are eligible to compete in the Contra Costa County TOY competition. The two top teachers in the county TOY program will represent Contra Costa County in the California State TOY Program this coming fall.

Note regarding eligible participants:

Seventeen of the eighteen Contra Costa County school districts represented, and the CCCOE are participating in this year’s TOY program.

Each year, one instructor from Contra Costa Community College District is submitted to the TOY program for his/her outstanding body of work with their designated college. The colleges rotate each year between Diablo Valley, Los Medanos, and Contra Costa. (These instructors do not compete in the State Teacher of the Year competition.) This year is Diablo Valley College’s turn.

Due to the larger number of students and teachers in their districts, West Contra Costa USD, Mt. Diablo USD, and San Ramon Valley USD are allowed to submit two TOY candidates

Follow Contra Costa County’s Teacher of the Year program on Twitter: #cocotoy


Moraga School District's
2017-18 Teacher of the Year Receives Special Visit

Moraga School District's 2017-18 Teacher of the Year Amanda LorieMORAGA, Calif., May 16, 2017 – On May 12, Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata visited the classroom of Amanda Lorie, at Donald Rheem Elementary School. Lorie, a 10-year instructor, was recently named Moraga School District’s Teacher of the Year (TOY). For the past couple of years, Lorie has been teaching kindergarten at Rheem Elementary. Prior to her current position, she has taught grades K-2 at both Rheem Elementary and Quail Run Elementary, in San Ramon.

Photo caption: (l-r) Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata and Moraga School District's Teacher of the Year Amanda Lorie.
Photo Credit: Terry Koehne, CCCOE

When asked about her philosophy of teaching, Lorie answered, “Teaching is a delicate balancing act of science, systems, culture, and heart. I believe in the socio-cognitive model of learning, and that students learn what they live, not only in the home, but in the classroom as well. To be truly successful in school, students need to feel connected and safe. They need to feel valued and that their teacher knows who they are, what is important to the child (interests, hobbies, etc.), and that their teacher thinks the child matters. Lasting, caring relationships, in addition to systems an routines – these are the things my students and I work on, and build together, all year.”

Lorie continues: “I try to make connections with their families as well, and continue to build these relationships in the classroom and beyond. If a child feels safe, if they feel part of a team or community, then they feel respected and loved. When children have these needs met – connections, a feeling of safety, familiarity of routines and expectations – then they can let their guard down and take risks. That’s when learning happens. That’s when relationships and children thrive.”

On the evening of September 28, 2017, the 22 Contra Costa County TOYs, class of 2017-18, including Amanda Lorie, will be introduced and honored at the annual Teacher of the Year Dinner Celebration, held at the Concord Hilton. The 22 TOYs will be accompanied by their families, friends, and co-workers. The expected crowd of close to 500 will also include numerous other supporters of the program. For more information about this year’s CCCOE TOY Program, please review this earlier-sent news release.

Throughout the school year, Superintendent Sakata makes it a point to visit each incoming TOY in their classrooms, prior to the Dinner Celebration. This is a great way for her to meet the teachers and their students, as well as take in the day’s lesson plan. When individually introducing the TOYs at the Dinner Celebration, Sakata will tell the audience about her visit and will quote one or two of the students’ remarks about their revered teacher.

Currently, there are approximately 8,400 teachers educating more than 176,000 students in Contra Costa County’s public schools. To recognize their efforts and bring much-deserved honor to the teaching profession, the participating school districts in the county named their TOY representatives in mid March. The incoming 22 TOYs represent 17 Contra Costa County school districts, the Contra Costa Community College District, and the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE). Most of these representatives, those who teach grades K thru 12, are eligible to compete in the Contra Costa County TOY competition. The two top teachers in the county TOY program will represent Contra Costa County in the California State TOY Program this coming fall.

Note regarding eligible participants:

Seventeen of the eighteen Contra Costa County school districts represented, and the CCCOE are participating in this year’s TOY program.

Each year, one instructor from Contra Costa Community College District is submitted to the TOY program for his/her outstanding body of work with their designated college. The colleges rotate each year between Diablo Valley, Los Medanos, and Contra Costa. (These instructors do not compete in the State Teacher of the Year competition.) This year is Diablo Valley College's turn.

Due to the larger number of students and teachers in their districts, West Contra Costa USD, Mt. Diablo USD, and San Ramon Valley USD are allowed to submit two TOY candidates.

Follow Contra Costa County’s Teacher of the Year program on Twitter: #cocotoy


Annual CTE/ROP Students of Excellence Awards Ceremony Honors 41 Students

Students of Excellence group photo

CONCORD, Calif., May 15, 2017 – On Thursday, May 11, The Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) honored 42 high school students, representing 27 schools in Contra Costa and Alameda counties, with the Students of Excellence Awards for their outstanding achievement in their CTE/ROP (Career Technical Education/Regional Occupational Program) classes. The esteemed students were each awarded a certificate of merit and a $250.00 scholarship award. This year's monetary donations were provided by Chevron, Phillips 66, John Muir Health, Walnut Creek Honda, C & H Sugar.

More than 200 were on hand for this special event. Along with the honored students and their families, attendees also included the students’ CTE/ROP teachers and the educational program's business-partnership representatives. In addition, remarks were made by Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata, Contra Costa County Board of Education Member Christine Deane, and Assembly Member (15th District) Tony Thurmond. Please review the Students of Excellence Celebration program for additional info.

Superintendent Sakata individually presented the awards and checks to each student on stage, followed by a short speech from each of the awardees. The common themes of the heart-felt speeches were their gratitude of their parents and families, as well as their appreciation for their CTE/ROP courses and teachers. Many of the students said their CTE/ROP courses were the highlight of coming to school, and that the classes made their future career goals much clearer.

The Contra Costa County CTE/ROP serves nearly 12,000 students annually with classes in 34 high schools throughout Contra Costa and Alameda counties. Currently, there are 399 state-of-the-art career development classes in this program. CTE/ROP focuses on career preparation and exploration, hands-on experience, and academic excellence to prepare students for success in college and future careers. CTE/ROP provides students with the newest equipment, rigorous academic standards, and classes in emerging technologies. All of the CTE/ROP classes and programs are directed by and funded through the CCCOE. For more information about CTE/ROP classes, visit their website.

The following outstanding students received certificates of merit plus $250.00 in scholarship awards

(See below for listing of student names, their school, and their CTE/ROP course – listed alphabetical by city)

ALBANY

Albany High School
Summer Vodnoy, Advanced Photography

ANTIOCH

Deer Valley High School
Pranav Peddinti, Principles of Engineering
Yuriy Manuylov, Advanced Automotive Technology
Aiden Arreola, Reyes Play Production

Dozier-Libbey High School
Jocelyn Villalobos, Advanced Sports Medicine

BERKELEY

Berkeley High School
Jacob Sarasohn, Advanced Digital Photography

BRENTWOOD

Heritage High School
Hannah Nesta, Computer Aided Design and Drafting
Kelsi Holt, Law Enforcement Careers
Jenna Morford, Art of Video Production

Liberty High School
Michael Smith, Automotive Technology
Jared Aquino, Business Economics

CONCORD

Clayton Valley Charter High School
Ryan McGhehey, Civil Engineering and Architecture

Concord High School
Miranda Murphree, Computer Applications
Valeria Martinez, Computerized Accounting
Ygnacio Valley High School
Ivan Isguerra, Careers in Teaching Internship

DANVILLE

Monte Vista High School
Daniel Kouchekinia, AP Computer Science

San Ramon Valley High School
Saman Wadpey, Sports Medicine l

EL CERRITO

El Cerrito High School
Faith Mitchell, Advanced Media Communications

MARTINEZ

Alhambra High School
Gabrielle Solis, Creative Writing
Selina Corralejo, Construction Technology

MORAGA

Campolindo High School
Jessica Sanchez, Advanced Sports Medicine

PIEDMONT

Piedmont High School
Tallulah Pellissier, AP Environmental Science

OAKLEY

Freedom High School
Matthew Weisenberg, AP Environmental Science
Jaigosh Thind, Digital Arts/Designs for the Web
Lexi McCoy, Careers with Children
Alizé Roanhorse-Taylor, Sports Medicine

ORINDA

Miramonte High School
Dillon Wall, TV/Video Production

PINOLE

Pinole Valley High School
Christopher Tan, AP Computer Science Principles
Jessica Nhan, Human Body Systems

PITTSBURG

Pittsburg High School
Andrea Aleman, Sports Medicine
Erick Garcia, Digital Recording Studio

Pittsburg Adult Education Center
Danielle Velasquez, Administrative Medical Assistant

PLEASANT HILL

College Park High School
Kelly Seto, Sports Medicine
Celia Bateman, Advanced Photography

RICHMOND

Kennedy High School
Edgar Sanchez, Digital Arts/Designs for the Web

Richmond High School
Aimee Cortez, Play Production

SAN RAMON

California High School
Hannah Chylinski, Play Production
Aesha Parekh, AP Computer Science
Phillip Latiolais, Computer Integrated Manufacturing

Dougherty Valley High School
Yolanda Shen, Biotechnology

WALNUT CREEK

Las Lomas High School
Gloria Kowall, Medical Technologies
Northgate High School
Danté Maurino, Sports Medicine


All 22 Contra Costa County Teachers of the Year
gather for annual reception

Superintendent Karen Sakata speaking at Teacher of the Year receptionPLEASANT HILL, Calif., May 9, 2017 – On May 8, the Contra Costa County Teachers of the Year (TOY), class of 2017-18, gathered at the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE), in Pleasant Hill, for a special event held in their honor. (For a complete list of the latest TOYs, please review this news release.)

Along with the outstanding opportunity of fellowship between the honored teachers, as well as many of their school principals and school district superintendents, the reception provided information about what the newest 22 TOYs can expect during the upcoming year.

After special remarks made by Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata and Contra Costa County Board of Education President Mike Maxwell, the group learned about the history of the TOY program, that began in 1973; the Classroom Grants that they will receive this fall; and the upcoming Teacher of the Year Dinner Celebration. A heartwarming portion of the event took place during the teachers’ introductions, as each were asked which person in their life inspired them to enter a career in education. Many of the TOYs told the audience how they were inspired by their former teachers and family members. In addition, the group enjoyed hearing about what they can expect during the upcoming year from the current 2016-2017 Contra Costa County Teachers of the Year Shauna Hawes and Gina Minder-Maldonado.

On the evening of September 28, 2017, all 22 TOYs, accompanied by their families, friends, and co-workers (an audience of close to 500) will be honored at the annual Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year Dinner Celebration, held at the Hilton Concord. Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata, who serves as master of ceremonies, introduces the TOYs by sharing a special story that reflects her classroom visits of each teacher during the current spring and summer months. This will be followed by the TOY four finalists giving their three- to five-minute speeches to the filled banquet room. Finally, the night will come to a dramatic close with the announcement of the two 2017-2018 Contra Costa County Teachers of the Year.

For information about the four TOY finalists, please view this news release.

Currently, there are approximately 8,400 teachers educating more than 176,000 students in Contra Costa County’s public schools. To recognize their efforts and bring much-deserved honor to the teaching profession, the participating school districts in the county named their TOY representatives in mid March. The incoming 22 TOYs represent 17 Contra Costa County school districts, the Contra Costa Community College District, and the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE). Most of these representatives, those who teach grades K thru 12, are eligible to compete in the Contra Costa County TOY competition. The two top teachers in the county TOY program will represent Contra Costa County in the California State TOY Program this coming fall.

Note regarding eligible participants:

Seventeen of the eighteen Contra Costa County school districts represented, and the CCCOE are participating in this year’s TOY program.

Each year, one instructor from Contra Costa Community College District is submitted to the TOY program for his/her outstanding body of work with their designated college. The colleges rotate each year between Diablo Valley, Los Medanos, and Contra Costa. (These instructors do not compete in the State Teacher of the Year competition.) This year is Diablo Valley College’s turn.

Due to the larger number of students and teachers in their districts, West Contra Costa USD, Mt. Diablo USD, and San Ramon Valley USD are allowed to submit two TOY candidates.
For additional details about the CCCOE’s Teacher of the Year program, please visit this Web page.


Byron Union School District's
2017-18 Teacher of the Year Receives Special Visit

Byron Union School District Teacher of the Year Erica HornnesBYRON, Calif., May 9, 2017 – On May 8, Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata visited Erica Hornnes’ classroom at Excelsior Middle School. Hornnes, an 11-year instructor, was recently named Byron Union School District’s Teacher of the Year (TOY). During her entire teaching career, Hornnes has been a seventh grade mathematics teacher at Excelsior.

Photo caption: (l-r) Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata; TOY Erica Hornnes; Byron USD Superintendent Debbie Burnette-Gold, Ed.D; Excelsior and Middle School Principal Paul Gengler.
Photo Credit: Terry Koehne, CCCOE

“I was inspired to be a teacher at a young age,” says Hornnes. “My sister, Alicia, and I were lucky to have an amazing role model, our 'Nanny' (grandma) who was an extraordinary teacher. We would spend our spring breaks with her when she was teaching. She would encourage us to participate in the grade-level classes that we would be in the next school year, in the hopes, I believe of seeing what was to come. Alicia and I spent many summer hours helping her organize and decorate her class. At a young age I was exposed to the hard work and dedication required of our profession.”

Hornnes adds, “As I think about the moment that I decided to become a teacher, I realized that what motivated me were the people in my life – those who made a difference and believed in me. They were the teachers, mentors, and volunteers that never gave up on me when I made mistakes and believed in me even when I did not. I wanted to be the ‘Nanny,’ sister, Mrs. Shaw, Mrs. Shegioan, Mrs. Johnson, Mr. Finn, and Mrs. McCosker for someone else. I wanted to give back what those people gave to me. I wanted to change lives, impact futures, and inspire greatness in others.”

On the evening of September 28, 2017, the 22 Contra Costa County TOYs, class of 2017-18, including Julie Erica Hornnes, will be introduced and honored at the annual Teacher of the Year Dinner Celebration, held at the Concord Hilton. The 22 TOYs will be accompanied by their families, friends, and co-workers. The expected crowd of close to 500 will also include numerous other supporters of the program. For more information about this year’s CCCOE TOY Program, please review this earlier-sent news release.

Throughout the school year, Superintendent Sakata makes it a point to visit each incoming TOY in their classrooms, prior to the Dinner Celebration. This is a great way for her to meet the teachers and their students, as well as take in the day’s lesson plan. When individually introducing the TOYs at the Dinner Celebration, Sakata will tell the audience about her visit and will quote one or two of the students’ remarks about their revered teacher.

Currently, there are approximately 8,400 teachers educating more than 176,000 students in Contra Costa County’s public schools. To recognize their efforts and bring much-deserved honor to the teaching profession, the participating school districts in the county named their TOY representatives in mid March. The incoming 22 TOYs represent 17 Contra Costa County school districts, the Contra Costa Community College District, and the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE). Most of these representatives, those who teach grades K thru 12, are eligible to compete in the Contra Costa County TOY competition. The two top teachers in the county TOY program will represent Contra Costa County in the California State TOY Program this coming fall.

Note regarding eligible participants:

Seventeen of the eighteen Contra Costa County school districts represented, and the CCCOE are participating in this year’s TOY program.
Each year, one instructor from Contra Costa Community College District is submitted to the TOY program for his/her outstanding body of work with their designated college. The colleges rotate each year between Diablo Valley, Los Medanos, and Contra Costa. (These instructors do not compete in the State Teacher of the Year competition.) This year is Diablo Valley College’s turn.

Due to the larger number of students and teachers in their districts, West Contra Costa USD, Mt. Diablo USD, and San Ramon Valley USD are allowed to submit two TOY candidates

Follow Contra Costa County’s Teacher of the Year program on Twitter: #cocotoy


Eight Contra Costa County Schools named Gold Ribbon Schools

PLEASANT HILL, Calif., April 26, 2017 – On April 18, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced that 275 middle schools and high schools are being honored under the Gold Ribbon Schools Awards Program. To review the announcement’s news release and entire list of esteemed schools, visit this link.

Contra Costa County is represented with eight Gold Ribbon Schools:

  • Brentwood Union School District, J. Douglas Adams Middle School
  • Brentwood Union School District, William B. Bristow Middle School
  • Contra Costa Office of Education, Clayton Valley Charter High School
  • Mt. Diablo Unified School District, Diablo View Middle School
  • San Ramon Valley Unified School District, Stone Valley Middle
  • Walnut Creek School District, Walnut Creek Intermediate School
  • West Contra Costa Unified School District, Middle College High School
  • West Contra Costa Unified School District, Richmond Charter Academy

“We are extremely proud the secondary schools in Contra Costa County that have been named Gold Ribbon Schools this year,” said Karen Sakata, Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools. ”Each school is doing amazing things to promote student learning and prepare students for the 21st century world that awaits them.”

The California Gold Ribbon Schools Award was created to honor schools in place of the California Distinguished Schools Program, which is on hiatus while California creates new assessment, accountability, and continuous improvement systems. This year, 477 middle schools and high schools applied.

Schools applied for the award based on a model program or practice their school has adopted that includes standards-based activities, projects, strategies, and practices that can be replicated by other local educational agencies. The award acknowledged elementary schools last year.

The Gold Ribbon Awards recognize California schools that have made gains in implementing the academic content and performance standards adopted by the State Board of Education. These include the California Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics, California English Language Development Standards, and Next Generation Science Standards.

“These terrific schools are leading the way in embracing our new rigorous academic standards and showing others how to help students succeed on their way to 21st century careers and college,” Superintendent Torlakson said. “I look forward to travelling the state to honor these schools and to help share the programs, methods, and techniques that are working.”  

For more information, please go to the California Gold Ribbon Schools Program Web page.

April

Mt. Diablo School District's
2017-18 Teacher of the Year Receives Special Visit

Mt. Diablo School District Teacher of the Year, Margaret HoneyWALNUT CREEK, Calif., April 28, 2017 – On April 27, Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata visited Margaret Honey's classroom at Northgate High School, in Walnut Creek. Honey, a 15-year instructor, was recently named Mt. Diablo Unified School District’s Teacher of the Year (TOY). For the past three years, Honey has taught 11th grade US history, at Northgate. She has also taught US history, world history, and ancient history to grades 6-12 at Queen of Saints Middle School, in Concord; Saint Perpetua Middle School, in Lafayette; and Saint Joseph Notre Dame High School, in Alameda. In addition, Honey has been an education-credential lecturer and instructor at St. Mary’s College, in Moraga since 2008.

Photo caption: (l-r) Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata, Northgate High School teacher Margaret Honey, Northgate High School Principal Michael McAlister. Photo Credit: Terry Koehne, CCCOE

When asked about her philosophy of teaching, Honey responds: “I endeavor to instill a passion for history in my students as well as develop them to be confident learners of history. My classes are rewarding, dynamic, and rigorous because I help my students enthusiastically engage with the curriculum as well as inspire them to connect personally to the people, social movements, and places we explore. My teaching philosophy centers on two principles: high expectations and support for all learners.”

Honey adds, “In the courses I teach, both at the high school and graduate school level, I clearly articulate my expectations to my students as well as provide them with the tools and resources to support their academic endeavors. I integrate technology into my daily teaching, and I utilize a variety of material to engage my students. My top priority as an educator of United States History is to develop citizen leaders who are able to celebrate our nation’s accomplishments as well as learn from injustices, and I present meaningful, differentiated lessons that inspire and inform my students. My teaching practice and the sources presented to my students help to develop them as critical thinkers, writers, and communicators.”

On the evening of September 28, 2017, the 22 Contra Costa County TOYs, class of 2017-18, including Margaret Honey, will be introduced and honored at the annual Teacher of the Year Dinner Celebration, held at the Concord Hilton. The 22 TOYs will be accompanied by their families, friends, and co-workers. The expected crowd of close to 500 will also include numerous other supporters of the program. For more information about this year’s CCCOE TOY Program, please review this earlier-sent news release.

Throughout the school year, Superintendent Sakata makes it a point to visit each incoming TOY in their classrooms, prior to the Dinner Celebration. This is a great way for her to meet the teachers and their students, as well as take in the day’s lesson plan. When individually introducing the TOYs at the Dinner Celebration, Sakata will tell the audience about her visit and will quote one or two of the students’ remarks about their revered teacher.

Currently, there are approximately 8,400 teachers educating more than 176,000 students in Contra Costa County’s public schools. To recognize their efforts and bring much-deserved honor to the teaching profession, the participating school districts in the county named their TOY representatives in mid March. The incoming 22 TOYs represent 17 Contra Costa County school districts, the Contra Costa Community College District, and the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE). Most of these representatives, those who teach grades K thru 12, are eligible to compete in the Contra Costa County TOY competition. The two top teachers in the county TOY program will represent Contra Costa County in the California State TOY Program this coming fall.

Note regarding eligible participants:

Seventeen of the eighteen Contra Costa County school districts represented, and the CCCOE are participating in this year’s TOY program.
Each year, one instructor from Contra Costa Community College District is submitted to the

TOY program for his/her outstanding body of work with their designated college. The colleges rotate each year between Diablo Valley, Los Medanos, and Contra Costa. (These instructors do not compete in the State Teacher of the Year competition.) This year is Diablo Valley College’s turn.

Due to the larger number of students and teachers in their districts, West Contra Costa USD, Mt. Diablo USD, and San Ramon Valley USD are allowed to submit two TOY candidates

Follow Contra Costa County’s Teacher of the Year program on Twitter: #cocotoy


San Ramon Valley School District's
2017-18 Teacher of the Year Receives Special Visit

San Ramon School District's Teacher of the Year, Melissa WareDANVILLE, Calif., April 27, 2017 – On April 25, Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata visited Marissa Ware’s classroom at John Baldwin Elementary School, in Danville. Ware, an 18-year instructor, was recently named San Ramon Valley Unified School District’s Teacher of the Year (TOY). For the past three years, Ware has taught multiple subjects in second grade, at Baldwin Elementary. Along with her combined nine years at Baldwin, she has also taught early grades at Coyote Creek Elementary in San Ramon and Jefferson Elementary School in Redondo Beach.

Photo caption: (l-r) Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata, John Baldwin Elementary teacher Marissa Ware, John Baldwin Elementary Principal Joe Romagna. Photo Credit: Terry Koehne, CCCOE

“Dr. Mary Howard says, 'We have a professional responsibility to model by our every action that we are richer because we’re blessed to have each child in our presence,'” quotes Ware. “And I couldn’t agree more, which is why fostering relationships and teaching the whole child are those undeniable beliefs that are at the core of my teaching philosophy. Together, these ideals result in high academic performance and social-emotional balance for children in the classroom and the wider world.”

Ware continues: “In our classroom, every day begins with a squeeze and a smile, and ends with a hug, handshake, high five, or this year's student created 'hand-blam.' Every child is nurtured and embraced for their unique learning style, academic and emotional needs, cultural background, and individuality. Inclusion is paramount, as I integrate their commonalities into our class culture. Which of my students is interested in baseball or Pokémon, fairies or fashion? Knowing these snippets of information allows me an entry point into their lives and increases their engagement in learning. A stronger academic outcome is the result.”

“Building relationships is part of the process, but I combine it with high expectations. Offering rigorous and relevant curriculum and consistently showing confidence in my students' capabilities enables them to recognize and reach their own success.”

Also noteworthy, is that on April 4, Ware was named as one of four finalists in the county’s TOY program. See recent news release for details.

On the evening of September 28, 2017, the 22 Contra Costa County TOYs, class of 2017-18, including Marissa Ware, will be introduced and honored at the annual Teacher of the Year Dinner Celebration, held at the Concord Hilton. The 22 TOYs will be accompanied by their families, friends, and co-workers. The expected crowd of close to 500 will also include numerous other supporters of the program. For more information about this year’s CCCOE TOY Program, please review this earlier-sent news release.

Throughout the school year, Superintendent Sakata makes it a point to visit each incoming TOY in their classrooms, prior to the Dinner Celebration. This is a great way for her to meet the teachers and their students, as well as take in the day’s lesson plan. When individually introducing the TOYs at the Dinner Celebration, Sakata will tell the audience about her visit and will quote one or two of the students’ remarks about their revered teacher.

Currently, there are approximately 8,400 teachers educating more than 176,000 students in Contra Costa County’s public schools. To recognize their efforts and bring much-deserved honor to the teaching profession, the participating school districts in the county named their TOY representatives in mid March. The incoming 22 TOYs represent 17 Contra Costa County school districts, the Contra Costa Community College District, and the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE). Most of these representatives, those who teach grades K thru 12, are eligible to compete in the Contra Costa County TOY competition. The two top teachers in the county TOY program will represent Contra Costa County in the California State TOY Program this coming fall.

Note regarding eligible participants:

Seventeen of the eighteen Contra Costa County school districts represented, and the CCCOE are participating in this year’s TOY program.

Each year, one instructor from Contra Costa Community College District is submitted to the TOY program for his/her outstanding body of work with their designated college. The colleges rotate each year between Diablo Valley, Los Medanos, and Contra Costa. (These instructors do not compete in the State Teacher of the Year competition.) This year is Diablo Valley College’s turn.

Due to the larger number of students and teachers in their districts, West Contra Costa USD, Mt. Diablo USD, and San Ramon Valley USD are allowed to submit two TOY candidates

Follow Contra Costa County’s Teacher of the Year program on Twitter: #cocotoy


West Contra Costa School District's
2017-18 Teacher of the Year Receives Special Visit

West Contra Costa School District Teacher of the Year Tiffany ChieudjuiRICHMOND, Calif., April 27, 2017 – On April 21, Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata visited Tiffany Chieudjui’s classroom at Grant Elementary School. Chieudjui, an 11-year instructor, was recently named West Contra Costa School District’s Teacher of the Year (TOY). Since 2007, Chieudjui has taught kindergarten, first grade, and third grade for the district. Prior, she taught high school in the Peace Corps, in Cameroon.

Photo caption: (l-r) Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata, Grant Elementary teacher Tiffany Chieudjui, Grant Elementary Principal Farnaz Heydari. Photo Credit: Terry Koehne, CCCOE

When asked about her philosophy of teaching, Chieudjui answers: “Lifelong learners grow to help better the world,” says Chieudjui. “It is my personal goal to create a nurturing environment where my students are inspired, curiosity is piqued, hard work is valued, friendships are fostered, and laughter comes easily. Students who fall in love with learning will become our future leaders, who help spread the values that are held in our classroom.”

“The majority of my students do not have the same opportunities that their middle-income peers are allotted,” adds Chieudjui. “Therefore, it is deeply rewarding for me to create an environment where my students not only learn their grade-level standards, but become eager to explore the world and better themselves through learning.”

On the evening of September 28, 2017, the 22 Contra Costa County TOYs, class of 2017-18, including Tiffany Chieudjui, will be introduced and honored at the annual Teacher of the Year Dinner Celebration, held at the Concord Hilton. The 22 TOYs will be accompanied by their families, friends, and co-workers. The expected crowd of close to 500 will also include numerous other supporters of the program. For more information about this year's CCCOE TOY Program, please review this earlier-sent news release.

Throughout the school year, Superintendent Sakata makes it a point to visit each incoming TOY in their classrooms, prior to the Dinner Celebration. This is a great way for her to meet the teachers and their students, as well as take in the day’s lesson plan. When individually introducing the TOYs at the Dinner Celebration, Sakata will tell the audience about her visit and will quote one or two of the students’ remarks about their revered teacher.

Currently, there are approximately 8,400 teachers educating more than 176,000 students in Contra Costa County's public schools. To recognize their efforts and bring much-deserved honor to the teaching profession, the participating school districts in the county named their TOY representatives in mid March. The incoming 22 TOYs represent 17 Contra Costa County school districts, the Contra Costa Community College District, and the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE). Most of these representatives, those who teach grades K thru 12, are eligible to compete in the Contra Costa County TOY competition. The two top teachers in the county TOY program will represent Contra Costa County in the California State TOY Program this coming fall.

Note regarding eligible participants:

Seventeen of the eighteen Contra Costa County school districts represented, and the CCCOE are participating in this year’s TOY program.

Each year, one instructor from Contra Costa Community College District is submitted to the TOY program for his/her outstanding body of work with their designated college. The colleges rotate each year between Diablo Valley, Los Medanos, and Contra Costa. (These instructors do not compete in the State Teacher of the Year competition.) This year is Diablo Valley College’s turn.

Due to the larger number of students and teachers in their districts, West Contra Costa USD, Mt. Diablo USD, and San Ramon Valley USD are allowed to submit two TOY candidates

Follow Contra Costa County’s Teacher of the Year program on Twitter: #cocotoy


Seven Contra Costa County Schools named Gold Ribbon Schools

PLEASANT HILL, Calif., April 26, 2017 – On April 18, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced that 275 middle schools and high schools are being honored under the Gold Ribbon Schools Awards Program. To review the announcement’s news release and entire list of esteemed schools, visit this link.

  • Contra Costa County is represented with seven Gold Ribbon Schools:
  • Brentwood Union School District, J. Douglas Adams Middle School
  • Brentwood Union School District, William B. Bristow Middle School
  • Contra Costa Office of Education, Clayton Valley Charter High School
  • Mt. Diablo Unified School District, Diablo View Middle School
  • San Ramon Valley Unified School District, Stone Valley Middle
  • Walnut Creek School District, Walnut Creek Intermediate School
  • West Contra Costa Unified School District, Middle College High School

“We are extremely proud the secondary schools in Contra Costa County that have been named Gold Ribbon Schools this year,” said Karen Sakata, Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools. “Each school is doing amazing things to promote student learning and prepare students for the 21st century world that awaits them.”

The California Gold Ribbon Schools Award was created to honor schools in place of the California Distinguished Schools Program, which is on hiatus while California creates new assessment, accountability, and continuous improvement systems. This year, 477 middle schools and high schools applied.

Schools applied for the award based on a model program or practice their school has adopted that includes standards-based activities, projects, strategies, and practices that can be replicated by other local educational agencies. The award acknowledged elementary schools last year.

The Gold Ribbon Awards recognize California schools that have made gains in implementing the academic content and performance standards adopted by the State Board of Education. These include the California Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics, California English Language Development Standards, and Next Generation Science Standards.

“These terrific schools are leading the way in embracing our new rigorous academic standards and showing others how to help students succeed on their way to 21st century careers and college,” Superintendent Torlakson said. “I look forward to travelling the state to honor these schools and to help share the programs, methods, and techniques that are working.”  

For more information, please go to the California Gold Ribbon Schools Program Web page.


Martinez School District's
2017-18 Teacher of the Year Receives Special Visit

Martinez Unified School District's Teacher of the YearMARTINEZ, Calif., April 26, 2017 – On April 25, Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata visited Julie Quinn’s classroom at Las Juntas Elementary School. Quinn, a 34-year instructor, was recently named Martinez School District's Teacher of the Year (TOY). For the past 17 years, Quinn has been a special education resource teacher at Las Juntas. Prior to her current position, Quinn has taught for the Antioch Unified School District, John Swett Unified School District, Walnut Creek Unified School District, Contra Costa County Office of Education, and San Francisco State University.

Photo caption: (l-r) Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata Las Juntas teacher Julie Quinn, Las Juntas Principal Crystal Castaneda, and Martinez USD Superintendent C.J. Cammack. Photo Credit: Terry Koehne, CCCOE

“My mother says I returned home from my first day of kindergarten complaining that we hadn’t learned to read that day,” remembers Quinn. “Despite this setback, at the end of that first week, I announced I was going to be a teacher when I grew up.” After earning her college undergraduate and graduate degrees, along with two special education credentials, she was soon hired as a resource specialist. “I knew right away this was my calling.”

“I love the many challenges of this position: teaching all the different ages, learning curriculum for each grade, working in the classroom and in small groups, assisting teachers, and working with families – year after year,” adds Quinn. “I love assessing students to help them discover how they best learn, and teaching them how to advocate for themselves (politely). And I especially love working with children in small groups, getting to know them as individuals, discovering their interest and dreams.”

On the evening of September 28, 2017, the 22 Contra Costa County TOYs, class of 2017-18, including Julie Quinn, will be introduced and honored at the annual Teacher of the Year Dinner Celebration, held at the Concord Hilton. The 22 TOYs will be accompanied by their families, friends, and co-workers. The expected crowd of close to 500 will also include numerous other supporters of the program. For more information about this year’s CCCOE TOY Program, please review this earlier-sent news release.

Throughout the school year, Superintendent Sakata makes it a point to visit each incoming TOY in their classrooms, prior to the Dinner Celebration. This is a great way for her to meet the teachers and their students, as well as take in the day’s lesson plan. When individually introducing the TOYs at the Dinner Celebration, Sakata will tell the audience about her visit and will quote one or two of the students’ remarks about their revered teacher.

Currently, there are approximately 8,400 teachers educating more than 176,000 students in Contra Costa County’s public schools. To recognize their efforts and bring much-deserved honor to the teaching profession, the participating school districts in the county named their TOY representatives in mid March. The incoming 22 TOYs represent 17 Contra Costa County school districts, the Contra Costa Community College District, and the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE). Most of these representatives, those who teach grades K thru 12, are eligible to compete in the Contra Costa County TOY competition. The two top teachers in the county TOY program will represent Contra Costa County in the California State TOY Program this coming fall.

Note regarding eligible participants:

Seventeen of the eighteen Contra Costa County school districts represented, and the CCCOE are participating in this year’s TOY program.
Each year, one instructor from Contra Costa Community College District is submitted to the TOY program for his/her outstanding body of work with their designated college. The colleges rotate each year between Diablo Valley, Los Medanos, and Contra Costa. (These instructors do not compete in the State Teacher of the Year competition.) This year is Diablo Valley College’s turn.

Due to the larger number of students and teachers in their districts, West Contra Costa USD, Mt. Diablo USD, and San Ramon Valley USD are allowed to submit two TOY candidates

Follow Contra Costa County’s Teacher of the Year program on Twitter: #cocotoy


Walnut Creek School District's
2017-18 Teacher of the Year Receives Special Visit

Walnut Creek School District's Teacher of the Year Kari StewartWALNUT CREEK, Calif., April 18, 2017 – On April 20, Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata visited Kari Stewart's fifth-grade classroom at Tice Creek School. Stewart, a 24-year Walnut Creek School District instructor, was recently named CCCOE's Teacher of the Year (TOY). For the past two years, Stewart has taught multiple subjects at Tice Creek School, prior to that, her career included teaching multiple subjects at the school district’s Buena Vista Elementary and science at Walnut Creek Intermediate.

Photo caption: (l-r) Tice Creek School Principal Connie McCarley teacher Kari Stewart, Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata.

On April 4, Stewart was named as one of four finalists in the county's TOY program. See recent news release for details.

Stewart's venture into teaching was certainly less than typical. “As a genetics major at UC Davis, I went to the career center in my junior year to find an internship,” reminisces Stewart. “I could work in a research lab, in forensics with the coroner’s office or shadow a genetics counselor. But my eyes kept being drawn to a posting for an at-risk tutor position at a junior high school in Dixon. I was a science major and needed to get in a lab, yet the prospect of working with 13-14 year olds seemed beckoning. When it finally came down to a decision between a pathology lab at the coroner’s office or tutoring, to my own amazement, I picked at-risk kids in Dixon. For the next three months I worked one-on-one with struggling students, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.”

Stewart adds: “After this experience I began to wonder if teaching might be something I might be interested in. I did love science and thought it might be great to turn other children on to the subject I enjoyed so much. I spent the next two months at the local junior high school helping in a 7th grade science classroom with an amazing teacher.” Following this experience Stewart was sold, and the following year after graduation she applied to Saint Mary’s College to obtain her teaching credential.

On the evening of September 28, 2017, the 22 Contra Costa County TOYs, class of 2017-18, including Kari Stewart, will be introduced and honored at the annual Teacher of the Year Dinner Celebration, held at the Concord Hilton. The 22 TOYs will be accompanied by their families, friends, and co-workers. The expected crowd of close to 500 will also include numerous other supporters of the program. For more information about this year’s CCCOE TOY Program, please review this earlier-sent news release.

Throughout the school year, Superintendent Sakata makes it a point to visit each incoming TOY in their classrooms, prior to the Dinner Celebration. This is a great way for her to meet the teachers and their students, as well as take in the day’s lesson plan. When individually introducing the TOYs at the Dinner Celebration, Sakata will tell the audience about her visit and will quote one or two of the students’ remarks about their revered teacher.

Currently, there are approximately 8,400 teachers educating more than 176,000 students in Contra Costa County’s public schools. To recognize their efforts and bring much-deserved honor to the teaching profession, the participating school districts in the county named their TOY representatives in mid March. The incoming 22 TOYs represent 17 Contra Costa County school districts, the Contra Costa Community College District, and the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE). Most of these representatives, those who teach grades K thru 12, are eligible to compete in the Contra Costa County TOY competition. The two top teachers in the county TOY program will represent Contra Costa County in the California State TOY Program this coming fall.

Note regarding eligible participants:

Seventeen of the eighteen Contra Costa County school districts represented, and the CCCOE are participating in this year’s TOY program.

Each year, one instructor from Contra Costa Community College District is submitted to the TOY program for his/her outstanding body of work with their designated college. The colleges rotate each year between Diablo Valley, Los Medanos, and Contra Costa. (These instructors do not compete in the State Teacher of the Year competition.) This year is Diablo Valley College’s turn.

Due to the larger number of students and teachers in their districts, West Contra Costa USD, Mt. Diablo USD, and San Ramon Valley USD are allowed to submit two TOY candidates

Follow Contra Costa County’s Teacher of the Year program on Twitter: #cocotoy


County Office of Education
2017-18 Teacher of the Year Receives Special Visit

Acalanes TOY Rhuepell Stroud

MARTINEZ, Calif., April 18, 2017 – Earlier today, Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata visited Rhuepell Stroud's classroom at Mt. McKinley School. Stroud, a 38-year multiple-subjects instructor, was recently named CCCOE's Teacher of the Year (TOY). Since 2003, he has been teaching core subjects to grades 6-12 at Mt. McKinley School. Interesting to note, Mt. McKinley School is located inside the Martinez Juvenile Hall Detention Center.

When asked about his philosophy of teaching, Stroud said: “I always imagined that I would save the world and transform lives like the teachers in To Sir with Love, Up the Down Staircase, The Blackboard Jungle, and Stand and Deliver. Although teachers might not transform lives, we do make a difference. We facilitate the possibility of students transforming their education and future by providing the necessary tools for them to be successful. And like the teachers in each of these movies, we are transformed by the opportunity to serve others.”

On the evening of September 28, 2017, the 22 Contra Costa County TOYs, class of 2017-18, including Rhuepell Stroud, will be introduced and honored at the annual Teacher of the Year Dinner Celebration, held at the Concord Hilton. The 22 TOYs will be accompanied by their families, friends, and co-workers. The expected crowd of close to 500 will also include numerous other supporters of the program. For more information about this year’s CCCOE TOY Program, please review this earlier-sent news release.

Throughout the school year, Superintendent Sakata makes it a point to visit each incoming TOY in their classrooms, prior to the Dinner Celebration. This is a great way for her to meet the teachers and their students, as well as take in the day’s lesson plan. When individually introducing the TOYs at the Dinner Celebration, Sakata will tell the audience about her visit and will quote one or two of the students’ remarks about their revered teacher.

Currently, there are approximately 8,400 teachers educating more than 176,000 students in Contra Costa County’s public schools. To recognize their efforts and bring much-deserved honor to the teaching profession, the participating school districts in the county named their TOY representatives in mid March. The incoming 22 TOYs represent 17 Contra Costa County school districts, the Contra Costa Community College District, and the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE). Most of these representatives, those who teach grades K thru 12, are eligible to compete in the Contra Costa County TOY competition. The two top teachers in the county TOY program will represent Contra Costa County in the California State TOY Program this coming fall.

Note regarding eligible participants:

  • Seventeen of the eighteen Contra Costa County school districts represented, and the CCCOE are participating in this year's TOY program.
  • Each year, one instructor from Contra Costa Community College District is submitted to the TOY program for his/her outstanding body of work with their designated college. The colleges rotate each year between Diablo Valley, Los Medanos, and Contra Costa. (These instructors do not compete in the State Teacher of the Year competition.) This year is Diablo Valley College’s turn.
  • Due to the larger number of students and teachers in their districts, West Contra Costa USD, Mt. Diablo USD, and San Ramon Valley USD are allowed to submit two TOY candidates

Follow Contra Costa County's Teacher of the Year program on Twitter: #cocotoy


Orinda Union School District
2017-18 Teacher of the Year Receives Special Visit

Orinda TOY Susan Boudreau

ORINDA, Calif., April 18, 2017 – Today, Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata visited the classroom of Susan Boudreau, at Orinda Intermediate School. Boudreau, a 33-year instructor, was recently named Orinda Union School District's Teacher of the Year (TOY). Boudreau has been teaching science at the Orinda school for the past 25 years. Prior to her current position, she had taught biology and science in the West Contra Costa County Unified School District, at U.C. Berkeley, and at the Queen Elizabeth School (grades 6-12), in Devon, UK.

“The accomplishment of which I am most proud is making science more accessible to girls and to all students who are not part of the traditional white-coat scientist mold,” says Boudreau, whose father is a particle physicist. “This compelling world of physics is incredibly male-dominated – from middle school onward, and outward to engineering too. The under-enrollment of girls is a huge waste of talent for society and for their own lives and careers, with physics being a gateway to so much beyond STEM. I want to model and convey the message that science is a fascinating, powerful, and relevant endeavor in which ALL are invited to take a part.”

On the evening of September 28, 2017, the 22 Contra Costa County TOYs, class of 2017-18, including Rhuepell Stroud, will be introduced and honored at the annual Teacher of the Year Dinner Celebration, held at the Concord Hilton. The 22 TOYs will be accompanied by their families, friends, and co-workers. The expected crowd of close to 500 will also include numerous other supporters of the program. For more information about this year’s CCCOE TOY Program, please review this earlier-sent news release.

Throughout the school year, Superintendent Sakata makes it a point to visit each incoming TOY in their classrooms, prior to the Dinner Celebration. This is a great way for her to meet the teachers and their students, as well as take in the day’s lesson plan. When individually introducing the TOYs at the Dinner Celebration, Sakata will tell the audience about her visit and will quote one or two of the students’ remarks about their revered teacher.

Currently, there are approximately 8,400 teachers educating more than 176,000 students in Contra Costa County’s public schools. To recognize their efforts and bring much-deserved honor to the teaching profession, the participating school districts in the county named their TOY representatives in mid March. The incoming 22 TOYs represent 17 Contra Costa County school districts, the Contra Costa Community College District, and the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE). Most of these representatives, those who teach grades K thru 12, are eligible to compete in the Contra Costa County TOY competition. The two top teachers in the county TOY program will represent Contra Costa County in the California State TOY Program this coming fall.

Note regarding eligible participants:

  • Seventeen of the eighteen Contra Costa County school districts represented, and the CCCOE are participating in this year's TOY program.
  • Each year, one instructor from Contra Costa Community College District is submitted to the TOY program for his/her outstanding body of work with their designated college. The colleges rotate each year between Diablo Valley, Los Medanos, and Contra Costa. (These instructors do not compete in the State Teacher of the Year competition.) This year is Diablo Valley College’s turn.
  • Due to the larger number of students and teachers in their districts, West Contra Costa USD, Mt. Diablo USD, and San Ramon Valley USD are allowed to submit two TOY candidates

Follow Contra Costa County's Teacher of the Year program on Twitter: #cocotoy


Acalanes Union High School District
2017-18 Teacher of the Year Receives Special Visit

Acalanes TOY China HarveyWALNUT CREEK, Calif., April 17, 2017 – Earlier today, Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata visited the Las Lomas High School classroom of China Harvey. Harvey, an eight-year social studies instructor, was recently named Acalanes Union High School District's Teacher of the Year (TOY).

“While I went into teaching because of my love of history and my desire to share often untold stories, I have stayed a teacher because of my students,” says Harvey. “They enrich my life through their intelligence, humor, inquisitiveness, and love for life. I am happy to see them every time they walk into my classroom. Combining my love of history with the joy I get from teaching students motivates me every day.”

On the evening of September 28, 2017, the 22 Contra Costa County TOYs, class of 2017-18, will be introduced and honored at the annual Teacher of the Year Dinner Celebration, held at the Concord Hilton. The 22 TOYs will be accompanied by their families, friends, and co-workers. The expected crowd of close to 500 will also include numerous other supporters of the program. For more information about this year’s CCCOE TOY Program, please review this earlier-sent news release.

Throughout the school year, Superintendent Sakata makes it a point to visit each incoming TOY in their classrooms, prior to the Dinner Celebration. This is a great way for her to meet the teachers and their students, as well as take in the day's lesson plan. When individually introducing the TOYs at the Dinner Celebration, Sakata will tell the audience about her visit and will quote one or two of the students' remarks about their revered teacher.

Currently, there are approximately 8,400 teachers educating more than 176,000 students in Contra Costa County’s public schools. To recognize their efforts and bring much-deserved honor to the teaching profession, the participating school districts in the county named their TOY representatives in mid March. The incoming 22 TOYs represent 17 Contra Costa County school districts, the Contra Costa Community College District, and the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE). Most of these representatives, those who teach grades K thru 12, are eligible to compete in the Contra Costa County TOY competition. The two top teachers in the county TOY program will represent Contra Costa County in the California State TOY Program this coming fall.

Note regarding eligible participants:

  • Seventeen of the eighteen Contra Costa County school districts represented, and the CCCOE are participating in this year's TOY program.
  • Each year, one instructor from Contra Costa Community College District is submitted to the TOY program for his/her outstanding body of work with their designated college. The colleges rotate each year between Diablo Valley, Los Medanos, and Contra Costa. (These instructors do not compete in the State Teacher of the Year competition.) This year is Diablo Valley College’s turn.
  • Due to the larger number of students and teachers in their districts, West Contra Costa USD, Mt. Diablo USD, and San Ramon Valley USD are allowed to submit two TOY candidates

Follow Contra Costa County's Teacher of the Year program on Twitter: #cocotoy


2017-2018 Contra Costa County
Teachers of the Year Finalists Named

PLEASANT HILL, Calif., April 10, 2017 – The following four teachers have been named as the 2017-2018 Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year (TOY) Finalists: Paula Raj, West Contra Costa Unified School District; Kari Stewart, Walnut Creek School District; Tom Trowbridge, Mt. Diablo Unified School District; and Marissa Ware, San Ramon Valley Unified School District. Two of these four finalists will be chosen in late September, and will represent Contra Costa County in the California State TOY Program.

To see the entire listing of the 22 Contra Costa County TOYs, class of 2017-2018, please review this earlier news release.

Before she was old enough to attend school, Paula Raj began honing her teaching skills with a “classroom” of stuffed animals and younger neighbor kids. Raj teaches Spanish to grades 9-12 at De Anza High, in Richmond. The 35-year teacher has been with the high school for the past 21 years. Prior to her current position, the Brooklyn native taught middle high and high school Spanish and French in Brooklyn, New York City, and Lexington, Massachusetts, between 1968-1995.

While majoring in genetics, Kari Stewart found her career in education through a college internship tutoring local at-risk students. Stewart will soon be finishing her 24th year of teaching for the Walnut Creek School District. For the past two years, Stewart has taught multiple subjects at Tice Creek School, in Walnut Creek. Her former experience includes teaching at the school district’s Walnut Creek Intermediate and Buena Vista Elementary, grades 5-8.

Tom Trowbridge has been a building trades and engineering educator for more than 11 years at Concord High. Trowbridge’s high school courses include CTE/ROP robotics engineering, civil engineering and architecture, woodworking technology, and construction technology. For the past year, Trowbridge and his students have made quite a bit of news with the construction of their low-cost, eco-friendly Tiny Homes project.

Marissa Ware was well on the road to becoming a physical therapist, but during her college work with an infant development program, she became absolutely fascinated watching the development stages of the infant and toddler patients grow physically and mentally. From this experience, Ware changed course to education. The 18-year educator has been teaching grades K-3, at John Baldwin Elementary, in Danville for the past six years.

The county's TOY program is directed by the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE). With such a high caliber of teaching professionals to draw from, the CCCOE’s TOY program uses a three-stage selection process, with a point and percentage system to determine the final candidates as follows:

I Application Screening:
On March 31, a committee of 13 judges, representing the county's education, business, and public-sector partners meticulously reviewed the applications submitted by the school districts. This committee independently rated each application. After the application screening and scoring was completed, these four teachers were selected to advance to the next two phases as TOY finalists.

II Classroom Observation and Interview:
During the months of April and early May, a small committee of education specialists and business partners will observe the four finalists interacting with their students during class, followed by interviews with the TOYs. The committee and finalists will discuss topics such as their teaching philosophies and student-progress techniques.

III Speech Presentation:
This coming August, the four TOY finalists will each give a three- to five-minute speech to another panel of a dozen educators, business, and public-sector representatives who will judge the finalists on their speech and presentation skills.

On the evening of September 28, 2017, all 22 TOYs, accompanied by their families, friends, and co-workers (an audience of close to 500) will be honored at the annual Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year Dinner Celebration, held at the Hilton Concord. Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata, who serves as master of ceremonies, introduces the TOYs by sharing a special story that reflects her classroom visits of each teacher during the current spring and summer months. This will be followed by the four finalists giving their three- to five-minute speeches (same speeches given in August) to the filled banquet room. Finally, the night will come to a dramatic close with the announcement of the two 2017-2018 Contra Costa County Teachers of the Year.

Currently, there are approximately 8,400 teachers educating more than 176,000 students in Contra Costa County’s public schools. To recognize their efforts and bring much-deserved honor to the teaching profession, the participating school districts in the county recently named their Teachers of the Year (TOY) representatives. This year’s 22 TOYs represent 17 Contra Costa County school districts, the Contra Costa Community College District, and the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE). Twenty-one of these representatives, those who teach grades pre-K through adult education, are eligible to compete in the Contra Costa County TOY competition. The two winners of the county TOY program will represent Contra Costa County in the California State TOY Program this coming fall.


Campolindo High School has an impressive showing at the California State Academic Decathlon Championship

Academic Decathlon first place winning team Campolindo High SchoolMORAGA, Calif., April 5, 2017—The recently crowned Contra Costa County High School Academic Decathlon Champions, Campolindo High School (Moraga), (see story) successfully represented its county during the weekend of March 23-26, at the 2017 California Academic Decathlon, held in Sacramento.

Campolindo’s coach Paul Verbanszky reported that the team represented Contra Costa County very well at the state competition. The team took 6th place, overall, in Division 2 (medium-size school), and picked up a number of individual awards:

Zoe Portnoff, First Place (Gold), Overall Scores; Scholastic Division
Ashley Zhang, Seventh Place, Highest Scoring Student by a School; Overall
Ashley Zhang, Second Place (Silver) in the subject of Art, Honors Division
Zoe Portnoff, Third Place (Bronze) in the subject of Art, Scholastic Division
Mikhail Vasilyev, First Place (Gold) in the Essay Competition, Scholastic Division
Zoe Portnoff, First Place (Gold) in the Interview Competition, Scholastic Division
Zoe Portnoff, Third Place (Bronze) in the subject of Literature, Scholastic Division
Zoe Portnoff, First Place (Gold) in the subject of Music, Scholastic Division
Athya Uthayakumar, First Place (Gold) in the subject of Science, Scholastic Division
Bennett Coates, Second Place (Silver) in the subject of Science, Scholastic Division
Zoe Portnoff, First Place (Gold) in the subject of Social Science, Scholastic Division
Mikhail Vasilyev, Second Place (Silver) in the subject of Social Science, Scholastic Division

Verbanszky teaches AP psychology and government/economics, and has been Campolindo's Academic Decathlon coach since 2005 — they have won the county's Academic Decathlon title for the past seven consecutive years. His Academic Decathlon is an after school club with funding coming from generous donations and fundraising. “It is a tremendous accomplishment to compete in the State Competition”, says Verbanszky.

“I am very proud of my students. They have put in countless hours after school preparing for competition. And, our team gives a big thank you to the Contra Costa County Office of Education for all of their hard work with Academic Decathlon, so that the students can have such a positive experience.”

Directed by the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) and with the assistance of community volunteers, the Academic Decathlon provides an opportunity for high school students to compete as individuals and teams in a series of ten academic tests and demonstrations. The subjects in the competition include art, economics, literature, mathematics, music, science, social science, essay, interview, and speech (prepared and impromptu) – plus the popular SuperQuiz™. Approximately, 100 participating high school students had been studying and preparing for this event with their coaches since September. This year’s Academic Decathlon theme was World War II.

The Academic Decathlon was first created by Dr. Robert Peterson, former Superintendent of Schools in Orange County, California. Firmly believing that everyone's learning potential can be maximized through competitive challenge, Dr. Peterson set in motion the contest that has since come to be recognized as the most prestigious high school academic team competition in the United States. The program spread rapidly throughout the states due to the success and excitement it engendered. USAD was founded in 1981.


John Swett and Pittsburg School Districts included in 2017
Model School Attendance Program Awardees

PLEASANT HILL, Calif., April 4, 2017 — Recently, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced that 27 California school attendance programs were recognized as Model School Attendance Review Boards (SARBs) for innovative and effective practices to reduce suspensions, expulsions, and chronic absenteeism – News Release. Among the honored California school districts were Contra Costa County's Pittsburg Unified School District and John Swett Unified School District.

According to the findings, the Pittsburg Unified School District decreased its chronic absenteeism rate by an impressive 21 percent over the past three years. During the 2015-16 school year, John Swett Unified School District improved 15.9 percent over a chronic absentee rate of 19.3 percent from the prior 2014-15 school year.

“Students need to be in school to learn. The terrific work of the review boards is a testament to the collaboration between the school, parents, and community so that all students have the opportunity to succeed on their way to 21st century careers and college,” Torlakson said. The number of districts that applied to the Model SARB Recognition Program tripled since 2016. The State SARB, an expert panel appointed by Torlakson, reviewed the applications.

All school programs chosen use a three-tiered approach to keep students in school. The first tier rewards improved attendance and creates an engaging school climate with low suspension rates. The second tier identifies attendance problems early and provides personalized outreach to students and parents. The third tier refers the most persistent attendance or behavior problems to a SARB and combines resources to solve the underlying attendance problems.

In its third year, Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools, Karen Sakata, and District Attorney, Mark Peterson have been co-championing two attendance awareness initiatives with the theme Every School Day Counts: Attend today, Achieve for a Lifetime! The countywide campaign is designed to provide communication resources to schools, engage school communities, and boost student attendance as soon as children enter school. For additional information about the award-winning program, visit its website. The other attendance initiative is the Attendance Learning Network funded by the Long's Foundation and facilitated by Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE), in partnership with the national experts on chronic absenteeism, Hedy Chang and Cecelia Leong, of Attendance Works. Both the John Swett and Pittsburg Districts have been active participants in – both of these initiatives.

The State SARB Chair, David Kopperud and Education Consultant, Jennifer Gomeztrejo presented a Model SARB application workshop in December at the CCCOE to train attendees on model SARB best practices and assist districts interested in submitting an application. Director Dr. Lindy Khan represents the CCCOE on the State SARB.

Poor attendance increases the likelihood that certain groups of students will drop out, including children living in poverty, African Americans, Native Americans, foster youth, and others. Chronic absenteeism and truancy also costs California school districts millions of dollars each year.


Contra Costa County's school districts announce their
2017-2018 Teachers of the Year

PLEASANT HILL, Calif., April 3, 2017 – Currently, there are approximately 8,401 teachers educating more than 176,000 students in Contra Costa County’s public schools. To recognize their efforts and bring much-deserved honor to the teaching profession, the participating school districts in the county recently named their Teachers of the Year (TOY) representatives. (See list below.) The upcoming school year’s 21 TOYs represent 17 Contra Costa County school districts, the Contra Costa Community College District, and the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE). Most of these representatives, those who teach grades K thru 12, are eligible to compete in the Contra Costa County TOY competition. The two top teachers in the county TOY program will represent Contra Costa County in the California State TOY Program this coming fall.

“We are extremely proud of these astounding educators,” said Karen Sakata, Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools. “They were thoughtfully chosen to represent their schools and districts, and truly represent what is best about public education.”

The county’s TOY program is directed by the CCCOE. With such a high caliber of teaching professionals to draw from, the CCCOE’s TOY program uses a three-stage selection process, with a point and percentage system to determine the final candidates as follows:

I Application Screening:
On March 31, a committee of 13 judges, representing the county’s education, business, and public-sector partners carefully reviewed the TOY representative applications submitted by the school districts. This committee independently read and rated each application. After the application screening and scoring are completed, four teachers will be selected to advance to the next two phases as finalists.

II Classroom Observation and Interview:
In April and May, a small committee of education specialists and business partners observe the four finalists interacting with their students. Immediately following, the committee interviews the candidates discussing topics such as their teaching philosophy and techniques.

III Speech Presentation:
On August 21, the four TOY finalists will each give a three- to five-minute speech to another panel of a dozen educators, business, and public-sector representatives who will judge the finalists on their speech and presentation skills.

On the evening of September 28, 2017, all 22 TOYs, accompanied by their families, friends, and co-workers (an audience of close to 400) will be honored at the annual Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year Dinner Celebration, held at the Hilton Concord. Ms. Sakata, who serves as master of ceremonies, introduces the TOYs by sharing a special story that reflects her classroom visits of each teacher during the current spring and summer months. This will be followed by the four finalists giving their three- to five-minute speeches (same speeches given in August) to the filled banquet room. Finally, the night will come to a dramatic close with the announcement of the two 2017-2018 Contra Costa County Teachers of the Year.

2017-2018 Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year Representatives:

Shawna Borba, Brentwood Union School District, Bristow Middle School
Susan Boudreau, Orinda Union School District, Orinda Intermediate School
Trina Bradshaw, Liberty Union High School District, Liberty High School
Tiffany Chieudjui, West Contra Costa Unified School District, Grant Elementary School
Paige Colburn, Oakley Union Elementary School District, Gehringer Elementary School
John Freytag, Contra Costa Community College District, Diablo Valley College
Kelly Giotta, San Ramon Valley Unified School District, Gale Ranch Middle School
Paula Gonzalez, Knightsen Elementary School District, Knightsen Elementary School
China Harvey, Acalanes Union High School District, Las Lomas High School
Margaret Jane Honey, Mt. Diablo Unified School District, Northgate High School
Erica Hornnes, Byron Union School District, Excelsior Middle School
Amanda Lorie, Moraga School District, Donald L. Rheem Elementary School
Linda Mara, Lafayette School District, Stanley Middle School
Paula Raj, West Contra Costa Union School District, De Anza High School
Jacey Renfroe, Antioch Unified School District, Marsh Elementary School
Kari Stewart, Walnut Creek School District, Tice Creek School
Rhuepell Stroud, Contra Costa County Office of Education, Mt. McKinley School
David Taylor, John Swett Unified School District, Rodeo Hills Elementary School
Tom Trowbridge, Mt. Diablo Unified School District, Concord High School
Julie Quinn, Martinez Unified School District, Las Juntas Elementary School
Marissa Ware, San Ramon Valley Unified School District, John Baldwin Elementary School
Michael Whitaker, Pittsburg Unified School District, Highland Elementary School

Note regarding eligible participants:

  • Seventeen of the eighteen Contra Costa County school districts represented, and the CCCOE are participating in this year’s TOY program.
  • Each year, one instructor from Contra Costa Community College District is submitted to the TOY program for his/her outstanding body of work with their designated college. The colleges rotate each year between Diablo Valley, Los Medanos, and Contra Costa. (These instructors do not compete in the State Teacher of the Year competition.) This year is Diablo Valley College’s turn.
  • Due to the larger number of students and teachers in their districts, West Contra Costa USD, Mt. Diablo USD, and San Ramon Valley USD are allowed to submit two TOY candidates

Follow Contra Costa County’s Teacher of the Year program on Twitter: #CoCoTOY


March

County Office of Education Announces the Death
of Former Superintendent

Dr. Joseph OvickPLEASANT HILL, Calif., March 31, 2017 — The Contra Costa County Office of Education sadly announced today that former Superintendent of Schools Joseph A. Ovick, Ed.D., died unexpectedly, early Thursday (March 30) morning. Dr. Ovick served as the County Superintendent of Schools from 1996-2014.

Dr. Ovick was an educator for 45 years. He began his career as a Special Education teacher in Santa Clara County, followed by serving in the county as a public school assistant principal, principal, and Director of Special Education. He later joined the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE), where he worked as Director of Special Education, Assistant Superintendent for Student Services, and Associate Superintendent for Business.

In 1996, he began his service as the elected County Superintendent of schools. He was well known for developing strong coalitions of educators, community members, and legislators in support of public schools, while always making it a point to visit countless classrooms throughout the county.

“Dr. Ovick was a true champion of students and schools during his 45 years as an educator,” said Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools, Karen Sakata. “He was a wonderful friend and mentor to me, beginning back in our early days working in Santa Clara County. This is truly a sad day for our agency, our county and the education community.”

Dr. Ovick taught at Chapman University’s Graduate School of Education and San Jose State University for a number of years, with a curriculum emphasis on school law, finance, and leadership. Besides holding many leadership roles in statewide and local education organizations and commissions, Dr. Ovick served on the Board of Directors of the East Bay Leadership Council and the Contra Costa County Children and Families Policy Forum. In 2012, he served as president of the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association, where he continued to serve on their executive board after his retirement.

In addition, Dr. Ovick was the former chair of the Bay Area Leadership Foundation; the Federal Policy & Legislation Committee for the Council of Administrators for Special Education; former vice-chair of the Federal Advocacy for California Education; past-president of Association of California School Administrators, Region 6; and former chair of the Bay Area Region Superintendents Association.

In 2005, Dr. Ovick was awarded the President’s Circle Award for Outstanding Service to Education and the Community from the Diablo Valley College Foundation, as well as the Government Service Award in Recognition of Outstanding Community Service from Congressman George Miller. In 2008, the East Bay Leadership Foundation named Dr. Ovick Citizen of the Year, East Bay Awards. In 2006, he won the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), Region 6, Superintendent of the Year Award, and in 2010 he earned the ACSA, Region 6, Ferd Kiesel Memorial Distinguished Service Award.

Additionally, in 2008, the Contra Costa County Board of Education unanimously voted to honor Dr. Ovick by dedicating CCCOE’s community school in Brentwood as the “Joseph A. Ovick School.” The Board said that the dedication was made because he was a longtime advocate for the addressing the needs of all students – especially those most at risk and with special needs.

Community service was also an important part of Dr. Ovick’s life. He was an active member of the Pleasant Hill Rotary Club and served as a member on both the local Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs and Junior Achievement USA.

Dr. Ovick leaves behind a rich legacy of leadership and advocacy on behalf of children and families. The County Superintendent and staff of the CCCOE offer their sincere condolences to Dr. Ovick’s family, relatives and many friends.


2017 Mock Trial winning team - Miramonte High School

Miramonte High named Contra Costa County's
High School Mock Trial Champion

PLEASANT HILL, Calif., March 3, 2017 — After remarks given by Contra Costa County's Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata and Presiding Judge Jill Fannin, followed by speeches made by coaches and individual awards presented to exceptional-performing students, last night's (3/2) exciting 36th Annual Contra Costa County High School Mock Trial’s Awards Ceremony concluded with the naming of this year’s championship team: Miramonte High (Orinda). Miramonte beat California High (San Ramon), this past Tuesday night in the final round of Mock Trials, inside the Bray Courthouse, in Martinez. This is second year in a row Miramonte has earned top team honors.

Also noteworthy, Acalanes High (Lafayette) defeated Alhambra High (Martinez) in the same evening’s consolation match.

This year’s top four teams were ranked: 1) Miramonte, 2) California, 3) Acalanes, 4) Alhambra.

Contra Costa County Presiding Judge Jill Fannin was on hand to address the large crowd with amusing stories about her Mock Trial experiences while attending law school – which many of the students could relate. “I've been involved with Mock Trials for 20 years, as a scoring attorney and presiding judge”, said Judge Fannin. “It’s still so much fun to watch your hard work and talent come together in our courtrooms. At work, I often hear my fellow judges, who volunteer with Mock Trials, speak so highly of how well you all did the night before, during your matches. We are all so impressed!”

Most of the teams begin their Mock Trial training when they began the new school year – which makes Mock Trials one of the longest seasons of all the participating schools’ sports and academic activities.

For the past four weeks (seven evenings), Miramonte High School and 15 other Contra Costa County high school Mock Trial teams have been battling it out with each other inside the superior courthouse courtrooms of Martinez. Miramonte High School will now represent Contra Costa County at the California State Mock Trial competition, held in Riverside, California, March 24-26. The California state finalist team will then compete in the National Mock Trial Competition, held May 11-13, Hartford, Connecticut.

Teams from the following 16 Contra Costa County high schools competed:
Acalanes (Lafayette), Alhambra (Martinez), California (San Ramon), Campolindo (Moraga), Clayton Valley Charter (Concord), De Anza High (Richmond), Deer Valley Law Academy (Antioch), El Cerrito (El Cerrito), Hercules Middle/High (Hercules), Heritage (Brentwood), Kennedy (Richmond), Las Lomas (Walnut Creek), Miramonte (Orinda), Monte Vista (Danville), Pinole Valley (Pinole), Richmond (Richmond).

For all the team and individual results, visit the Contra Costa County Office of Education's Mock Trial Web page for complete team and individual results.

Mock Trial is an academic event for high school students coordinated by the Contra Costa County Office of Education, and sponsored by the Constitutional Rights Foundation.  The purpose of this program is to teach students about the law and the workings of the legal system. To prepare, the students conducted legal research and received guidance on courtroom procedures from their schoolteachers and volunteer attorneys and judges, to acquire a working knowledge of the judicial system.

This year, an impressive 100 Bay Area practicing and retired attorneys, senior law students, and sworn judges volunteered their time to serve as Mock Trial Attorney Scorers and Judges. These volunteers represented judges from Bay Area Superior Courts, the California Bankruptcy Court, the California Supreme Court, and the California Appellate Court. Attorney Scorers included Bay Area attorneys from county District Attorney and Public Defender offices, the State Attorney General’s Office, and the California Department of Justice. Also assisting, were non-profit, public, private, and corporate attorneys. In addition, senior students from five Bay Area law schools lent a hand in scoring.


2017 Contra Costa County
Teacher/Certificated Staff Recruitment Fair

MARTINEZ, Calif., March 1, 2017 – The Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) will present its annual Contra Costa County Teacher/Certificated Staff Recruitment Fair, on Saturday, March 4, from 9:00 to 11:30 a.m., at Alhambra High School's gymnasium, located at 150 East St., in Martinez.

Attendees will discover a number of teaching positions in a variety of fields, including all levels of K-12 education, specialty, and substitute teaching positions. Representatives of some of these open positions will be offering interviews on site.

Along with the CCCOE, representatives from many of the 18 Contra Costa County school districts will be on hand. In addition, representatives from local universities will also be attending to talk to those interested about their teaching programs and earning teaching credentials.
For additional information about this free event, contact Beverly Christie at (925) 942-3387 or visit the CCCOE's human resources website.

February

Campolindo named 2017 East Bay Regional
Academic Decathlon Champion for the Seventh Straight Year

Academic Decathlon first place winning team Campolindo High SchoolPLEASANT HILL, Calif., February 9, 2017— At last night's energy-filled Academic Decathlon Awards Reception, it was announced that Campolindo High School (Moraga) won the 2017 East Bay Regional Academic Decathlon for the seventh straight year. Along with being the East Bay Regional winner, the team will also represent Contra Costa County in the California State Academic Decathlon competition. Following Campolindo, were Acalanes High School (Lafayette), second place; and Freedom High School (Oakley), third place.

Directed by the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) and with the assistance of community volunteers, the Academic Decathlon provides an opportunity for high school students to compete as individuals and teams in a series of ten academic tests and demonstrations. The subjects in the competition include art, economics, literature, mathematics, music, science, social science, essay, interview, and speech (prepared and impromptu)–plus the popular SuperQuiz™.

Approximately, 100 participating high school students had been studying and preparing for this event with their coaches since September. This year’s Academic Decathlon theme was World War II.

The participating teams represented the following high schools: Acalanes (Lafayette), California (San Ramon), Campolindo (Moraga), Clayton Valley Charter (Concord), Dublin (Dublin), Freedom (Oakley), and Pittsburg (Pittsburg). Campolindo High School has now been Contra Costa County’s champion for the past seven years, and last year at the State competition, the Moraga high school came in 2nd place in the Medium Sized school division. One of the students ranked 10th overall decathlete in the state.

Academic Decathlon teams are made up of nine students, grades 9-12, with a maximum of three students in each of the following divisions: Honors (3.75-4.00 GPA), Scholastic (3.00-3.74 GPA) and Varsity (2.99 GPA and below). The winning team will represent Contra Costa County at the California State Academic Decathlon, to be held in Sacramento, March 24-25. This year’s National Academic Decathlon will be held in Madison, Wisconsin, April 20-22.

The top four 2017 East Bay Regional Academic Decathlon overall school rankings:

  1. Campolindo
  2. Acalanes
  3. Freedom
  4. Pittsburg

Campolindo High School also won this year’s East Bay Regional Academic Decathlon SuperQuiz™, held last Saturday.

Numerous individual awards were presented last night, and will soon be posted on the CCCOE's website.

HISTORY

The Academic Decathlon was first created by Dr. Robert Peterson, former Superintendent of Schools in Orange County, California. Firmly believing that everyone's learning potential can be maximized through competitive challenge, Dr. Peterson set in motion the contest that has since come to be recognized as the most prestigious high school academic team competition in the United States. The program spread rapidly throughout the states due to the success and excitement it engendered. USAD was founded in 1981.

January

Contra Costa County High School Mock Trial is looking for legal professionals to volunteer a few hours of their expertise

MARTINEZ, Calif., January 12, 2017—Bay Area soon-to-be, practicing, and retired law professionals are needed to provide assistance to their future brethren at the upcoming 36th Annual Contra Costa County High School Mock Trial Program, held in the early evenings throughout the month of February, at the Martinez Court Rooms. Last year, 120 Bay Area practicing and retired attorneys and sworn judges, as well as third-year law students volunteered their time with the Mock Trials.

Coordinated by the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE), Mock Trial is an academic event provided for high school students. The hands-on educational program was created to help students acquire a working knowledge of our judicial system, develop analytical abilities and communication skills, and gain an understanding of their obligations and responsibilities as participating members of our society. This year's grabbed-from-the-local-and-national-headlines case, the People v. Awbrey, is a trial about human trafficking and false imprisonment. The pretrial issue involves the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, namely protection against illegal search and seizure and against self-incrimination.

“I encourage all my fellow law professionals to join us in serving as Mock Trial judges and attorney scorers,” says Contra Costa County Presiding Judge Jill Fannin. “I have been volunteering with this program for over fifteen years. I’m continually impressed with the dedication demonstrated by all the teams that participate in this challenging academic event. Every volunteer will tell you that the professionalism and skill these high school students demonstrate in our courtrooms during Mock Trial, rival those they witnessed earlier in the day with the professionals.”

Teams of high school students work with teachers and volunteer coaches to prepare their version of the criminal case, from both the prosecution and defense perspectives. Students assume the roles of trial attorneys, pre-trial motion attorneys, witnesses, clerks, bailiffs, artists, and court journalists. Mock Trial judges and attorneys score their performance and provide immediate feedback. Winning teams advance through seven rounds of competition. The county’s champion advances to the State finals. This year, there will be 18 Contra Costa County high school Mock Trial teams competing.

Volunteers will score two competing schools that argue the case in their assigned court. Each night, will begin with a 15-minute rules and regulations training, then the volunteers will go into their scheduled courtrooms to serve as Mock Trial judge and scorers. The Mock Trials’ scorers are made up of Bay Area deputy district attorneys and deputy public defenders, as well as public-sector, private-practice, and corporate lawyers. In addition, seasoned law students are also welcome to participate. A practicing or retired judge or commissioner will preside over each trial, and also serves as one of the trial’s scorers.

Teams from the following 17 Contra Costa County high schools will be competing:
Acalanes (Lafayette), Alhambra (Martinez), California (San Ramon), Campolindo (Moraga), Clayton Valley Charter (Concord), De Anza (Richmond), Deer Valley Law Academy (Antioch), El Cerrito (El Cerrito), Hercules Middle/High (Hercules), Heritage (Brentwood), Kennedy (Richmond), Las Lomas (Walnut Creek), Miramonte (Orinda), Monte Vista (Danville), Pinole Valley (Pinole), Richmond (Richmond), St. Patrick–St. Vincent (Vallejo).

Schedule for 2017 Contra Costa County High School Mock Trials:

Preliminaries: February 7, 9, 14, 16, 5:00–8:00 p.m. (Eight competitions each night)

Quarterfinals: February 21, 5:00–8:00 p.m. (Four competitions)

Semifinals: February 23, 5:00–8:00 p.m. (Two competitions)

Final and Consolation: February 28, 5:00–8:00 p.m. (Two competitions)

Mock Trial will be headquartered at the A.F. Bray Courthouse, 1020 Ward Street, in Martinez.
Interested volunteers can learn more by visiting the CCCOE’s Mock Trial Web page, or contacting Jonathan Lance at (925) 942-3429.

The two highest-scoring teams will advance to the finals on Tuesday, February 24. The winning team will then represent Contra Costa County at the California State Mock Trial competition, held in Riverside, Calif., March 24-26. The California state finalist team will then compete in the National Mock Trial Competition, held May 11-13, Hartford, Connecticut.

In 1977, the Constitutional Rights Foundation (CRF) introduced the concept of mock trials to the Los Angeles schools. In 1980, the program expanded to the state level. The California Mock Trial Program currently involves more than 36 counties and over 8,000 student participants from more than 400 teams. Approximately 1,500 attorney volunteers serve as team coaches and scorers, and 500 Municipal, Superior, and Appellate Court judges preside over the trials.

Advisories - 2017

There are currently no advisories.

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Page updated on: May 22, 2017

Rev: 0.4-010514-BETA4