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CCCOE Press Releases - 2017

January 2017

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August 2017

August

Superintendent Sakata decides not to seek re-election in 2018

Karen Sakata, County Superintendent of SchoolsPleasant Hill, CA – Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata announced today that she will not run for a second term in 2018. Sakata, who was elected to her first four-year term in June 2014, has decided to retire when her term ends in January 2019.

“It is one of the great honors of my life to be associated with the Contra Costa County Office of Education, and particularly serving as county superintendent,” said Sakata. “The 174,000+ public school students and 18 school districts in Contra Costa County are better served because of the amazing programs and services our agency provides. I have had the opportunity to work side-by-side with some of the most amazing staff members and forward-thinking educators in the entire state.”

Sakata has worked in education for 41 years. She has worked as a Speech Language Pathologist, Resource Specialist-Auditory Processing, Early Childhood Specialist, Program Specialist, Research Assistant, Program Administrator, Elementary Principal, and Associate Superintendent of Student Programs and Deputy Superintendent of Human Resources. Prior to her tenure with CCCOE, she worked for Santa Clara and Solano County Offices of Education and the Mt. Diablo Unified School District.

“Karen is an amazing, yet very humble educational leader,” said Mike Maxwell, President of the Contra Costa County Board of Education. “She is and continues to be an incredible mentor for me during my tenure as an elected Board member. She is patient, kind, and always puts her focus and attention on students. I know we will continue to work together collaboratively during the remainder of her term.”

Sakata is actively involved in many state and local organizations. She serves on the Fiscal Advisory Committee for the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA), the Region 6 Board of Directors for the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), the ACSA State Board of Directors, the Contra Costa County Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA), the Advisory Council for the Assistance League of Diablo Valley, and the Board of Directors for East Bay Leadership Council. In 2017, she was honored with the ACSA Region 6 Presidential Award.

As she enters her third school year as county superintendent, Sakata expressed pride in some of the recent initiatives and accomplishments of the County Office of Education. “The programs and support we provide for students with disabilities and students who are incarcerated or expelled from their school districts is beyond amazing,” she said. “I am particularly proud of some of our recent initiatives like our Attendance Awareness Campaign and the ‘All Kids are Our Kids’ Post-Election Toolkit, that provide schools and educators in our community with tangible resources with which to tackle some very complex, yet critical issues. But our work is not finished. This year, I look forward to working collaboratively with our school districts on a new equity initiative that will focus on issues of culture and diversity. I am extremely proud of this agency and am excited to continue to work on behalf of the students of Contra Costa County until a new superintendent is elected.”


High School Students Getting an Excellent Jump
on their Health Care Careers

WALNUT CREEK, Calif., August 1, 2017 – On a summer Thursday morning, 10 Contra Costa County high school students meet in a small conference room, located in a Walnut Creek Kaiser Permanente building. Today is their weekly professional-development day, led by their Career Technical Education ROP (CTE/ROP) instructor, John Grigsby.

Through the Kaiser Permanente’s KP LAUNCH Summer Internship, which includes a Contra Costa County Office of Education’s (CCCOE) CTE/ROP course component, students have an opportunity to learn about and explore different health care options and enhance their technical and leadership skills. KP LAUNCH enables these students to work a 40-hour week for 8 weeks during their summer vacation as health care interns. 

The interns' workweeks include four days at a designated Kaiser Permanente hospital, and one day of in-class professional development. On this particular day, Grigsby’s curriculum featured him teaching a hands-on CPR workshop, an informative presentation (featuring many questions and answers) by a Kaiser Permanente general practitioner, and two local Toastmasters’ members who presented a proactive presentation on interviewing for a job.

During the school year, Grigsby is the athletic trainer at Miramonte High School, in Orinda, where he also teaches CTE/ROP sports medicine and advanced sports medicine. While serving as teacher of this summer class of interns, he oversees their educational curriculum, attendance to the worksites and classroom, and their grades for this high school course. The KP LAUNCH program provides the students with their internship job placements at local Kaiser Permanente hospitals, on-the-job training, and their salaries. 

Among this impressive group of interns are Rosa Peña, of Antioch, and Zijian Deng, who resides in Walnut Creek.

KP Launch intern Rosa PenaIntern Rosa Peña will return to Dozier-Libbey High School, in Antioch, later in August, for her senior year. Last year, she was enrolled in the ROP/CTE sports medicine class. Peña said that she loved the course, which included learning how to wrap athletes' injuries and potential injuries with medical and sports tape, as well as becoming CPR certified. She plans to take the ROP/CTE first responders class this coming year.

Photo caption: Rosa Peña

During her KP LAUNCH internship, Peña is working at the Antioch Kaiser Permanente’s Health Education Department, “On a normal day I do phone call reminders, prepare for classes such as pre-natal, health, children classes, couples, etc.,” reports Peña. “In addition, I insert information into health connect for patients that have written down who they want as their health decision makers. I also help with sales, because we do sell T-shirts, sweaters, compression socks, and water bottles.”

Peña adds, “With this job, I have learned how important health education really is! We do a lot of things for patients, and everyday is something different. We never have an agenda to go by, many members come in with different questions, and different needs. What I like about my job is putting a smile on patients' faces. It's our job to make sure they leave Kaiser Permanente with a smile on their face. I love how I get to communicate with patients and help them so everything is easier for them.”

After finishing high school, Peña plans to attend U.C. Davis, majoring in neurology, and then will follow the path to become a surgeon.

KP Launch intern Aijian DengIntern Zijian (J.J.) Deng is currently working at the Local Member Services Department, inside the Walnut Creek Kaiser Permanente. This job keeps Deng quite busy, because many Kaiser Permanente members get confused about which department they need to contact in order to get the service they desire. “My job is to direct members to the right departments, handle concerns, look up the copays and benefits the members have on their health insurance coverage, and assist those experiencing difficulties using the website,” says Deng. 

Photo caption: Zijian Deng

Deng enjoys human interaction, which is a big part of his internship, as he communicates with the Kaiser members. “I get to see all types of people and provide their problems with solutions. I always like seeing a smile on the member’s face when we solve their problems!” (Sound familiar?)

This internship in Deng’s first job, he’s been really surprised by how helpful and friendly all his coworkers are. Zijian adds, “As I delve more into the program, I'm slowly discovering that it is not just all doctors and nurses running around in the hospital. There are all sorts of departments doing different things, and their jobs are just as important as any other position in the hospital. Which really opens up a lot more career options if a person is looking into the health care field.”
In his past junior year at Las Lomas, Deng took the CTE/ROP medical technology ROP class. “I really enjoyed the course and learned quite a bit.”

After completing his KP LAUNCH internship, Deng will soon begin his senior year at Las Lomas, where he’ll be finishing up all his high school classes, while also applying to colleges. “I am currently applying to UC San Diego, Davis, and Irvine, as a psychology major, and will pursue the career of psychiatry.”

No doubt, our country's health care future will certainly be strong with such incoming passionate people as Peña, Deng, and their program's fellow students, along with the guidance of their CTE/ROP teacher John Grigsby and their KP LAUNCH supervisors, co-workers, and Kaiser members.

July

At-risk youth creating a beautiful garden and personal futures

YDS interns Tiasha and Drevyon working at Alameda's Crown BeachALAMEDA, Calif., July 26, 2017 – On a recent beautiful summer's mid morning, East Bay Regional Park District's Crown Beach Park in Alameda was enjoying a refreshing bay breeze and a tremendous view of San Francisco, as a small crew were busy working on a large patch of the park's turf. Joining the full-time East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) employees were Youth Development Services’ (YDS) work interns Drev’yon, of Richmond, and Antioch resident, Tiasha.

Photo Caption: (L-R) Tiasha, Ross Mitchell, Drev'yon

During their current 20-hour-a-week internship, Drev'yon and Tiasha have been working with Park District employees in creating a large native plant garden, which will replace a portion of the grass area at the park. The garden will not only look beautiful, but will save on the park's water usage, plant longevity, and money spent for maintenance.

YDS provides a broad range of coordinated services for youth who are in foster care or homeless or experiencing barriers and need support to finish school, find a job or pursue a career path. The programs are designed to prepare youth to become self-confident, self-sufficient, and independent adults. YDS is a grant-funded department within the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE), and receives funding from the California Department of Education, the Contra Costa County Workforce Investment Board, Contra Costa County Employment and Human Services, the Department of Rehabilitation, as well as other financial sources.

As for Drev'yon and Tiasha's internships, they both were matched for the jobs by their YDS case workers, who maintain a positive working relationship with such worksites as the Park District’s Crown Beach Park, while the interns’ salaries are funded through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). YDS has cultivated a number of strong employment partnerships, like the EBRP, including the San Pablo, El Cerrito, Hercules, and El Sobrante Libraries; San Pablo East Bay Works (America’s Job Center); East Bay Municipal Utility District; the City of San Pablo; the Richmond Renaissance Center; and numerous other East Bay work sites.

As he was prepping the ground to plant some native grasses, Drev'yon said, “I really enjoy working with the Park District staff and the variety of things I do here, such as setting the drip-line irrigation lines and planting the new native plants. I like working with my hands creating new things for people, and working outside.”

Drev'yon’s YDS caseworker, Edmund Arnold, has been assisting him since last summer. “Drev'yon has been working at various Conversation Corps in an effort to gain various skills pertaining to building trades and construction. His goal is to take part in a Bay Area carpenter apprenticeship.” The CCCOE and the Park District have been working closely together in order to support Drev'yon's efforts to enroll into the carpenter apprenticeship.

 As for Tiasha, she had just began her second week working at Crown Beach.“I've been learning so many new things, like laying down the irrigation system and properly sandbagging designated areas. I also enjoy working at this location!” Tiasha also mentioned that she'd never been to Alameda, until this work assignment.

Tiasha's caseworker, Leilani Villegas, says she has been in the WIOA program for a year and had previously completed an internship at Sutter Delta Hospital, in Antioch. “Tiasha recently completed Certified Nursing Assistant training and will be looking for work in her field after passing the Certified Nursing Assistant State Board exam. Tiasha wanted to gain more work experience while she's studying for the exam. After Tiasha’s internship with the EBRP and passing the exam, the WIOA program will assist her in finding a permanent job and plan her next goals in her career.” Tiasha said that she plans to someday be a head nurse at a hospital.

The two caseworkers agree that Park District Youth Employment Program Supervisor Ross Mitchell does an excellent job in working closely with Drev'yon, Tiasha, and other clients to improve their work readiness skills and to make them more employable in the future. During our meeting, there was no doubt the two interns really enjoy working with Mitchell.

In order to qualify for this particular program, the clients, ages 16-24, must be high school dropouts, homeless, foster, on probation, parenting, or have a disability. Eligible clients who are enrolled will be assisted with finding suitable educational or employment placements. Each will have an individualized case plan, depending on their needs. In this case plan, they will indicate the goals that they want to reach while working with the program. The goals are obtaining their high school equivalency degree, earning an industry-recognized training certificate, attaining employment, or entering into a post-secondary program or any other advanced training program. They will be on Arnold’s and Villegas’ caseload until they accomplish one of these goals.

The clients meet with their caseworkers as much as they want to. “We usually meet on a monthly basis. They are given transportation assistance in order to help them attend their classes, job interviews, jobs, and appointments with us,” says Arnold. The clients are also assisted with purchasing school supplies, interview clothes, work clothes, and other tools/clothes necessary for employment or education. “We try to supply them with anything they need in order to make the pursuit of education/employment goals easier.” Throughout their employment, education, and living-skills experience, YDS clients are monitored, assessed, and encouraged by their caseworkers as they meet their designated goals.

No doubt, that in a few years, Journeyman Carpenter Drev’yon and R.N. Tiasha will bring family and friends back to the beautiful Crown Beach native plant garden, to show what they did as they were preparing for their successful futures.


CCCOE Employee Honored at
County Board of Supervisors' Meeting

Derrick Kirk, recipient of 2017 People Who Make a Difference AwardMARTINEZ, Calif., July 20, 2017 – At the July 18 Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors’ meeting, Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) employee, Derrick Kirk, was honored with the 2017 People Who Make a Difference Award. Annually, the Contra Costa Alcohol and Other Drugs Advisory Board acknowledges both volunteer and non-volunteer individuals and groups that have significantly contributed towards reducing substance use in our communities.

Kirk is a youth development specialist for CCCOE's Tobacco Use Prevention Education (TUPE) program. In earning this special award, he was recognized for his work last year in training nearly 500 middle and high school students as TUPE peer educators throughout Contra Costa County. In addition, he’s co-coordinating the CourAGE Youth Health Coalition, along with the Center for Human Development’s Friday Night Live Program.

“Anyone who has had the privilege of working with Derrick is not surprised to learn that he is more commonly known as ‘Mr. Awesome’ among our middle and high school peer educators,” says TUPE Manager Emily Justice. “Since he began his work at CCCOE, the number of students in our county trained as tobacco prevention peer educators has increased from an average of 200 per year to 500 and those students reach 30,000 of their peers annually. Derrick's enthusiasm, positive attitude, humor, and dedication are inspiring to those around him and I am honored to be his colleague.”  

CourAGE is a youth-led group that plays a countywide leadership role in addressing issues such as tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use and misuse. He continuously encourages young people to “shoot for the stars.” With the training and ongoing support from Kirk, hundreds of local students have been given the tools and the confidence to present issues associated with underage substance use to their classmates.

The purpose of the TUPE program is to reduce youth tobacco use by helping students make healthful tobacco-related decisions through tobacco-specific educational instruction and activities that build knowledge as well as social skills and youth development assets. TUPE maintains a Web page for additional information.

The CCCOE provides technical assistance to school districts to develop and implement effective, comprehensive tobacco education programs. Training and technical assistance provided includes:

  • Tobacco-free schools certification
  • Annual countywide TUPE Site Coordinator training
  • California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) administration and data sharing training
  • Alcohol, tobacco and other drug (ATOD) curriculum trainings for teachers
  • Grant writing support
  • Quarterly district and community partner networking meetings
  • Current research on adolescent ATOD use, as well as effective prevention and intervention strategies

Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year finalists
complete their final phase

Teacher of the Year finalistsPLEASANT HILL, Calif., July 19, 2017 – It was a morning of absolute inspiration for the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) employees and invited speech judges at the annual Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year Speech Presentation, held this morning at the CCCOE's Stewart Building, in Pleasant Hill.

Photo Caption: (left to right)
Kari Stewart, Walnut Creek School District; Paula Raj, West Contra Costa Unified School District; Marissa Ware, San Ramon Valley Unified School District; Tom Trowbridge, Mt. Diablo Unified School District.

After a rigorous selection process, the four current Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year (TOY) finalists concluded their progression by each presenting a prepared three- to five-minute speech, titled: “What have I learned from my students.” It was clear that the 10-person judging panel and audience were very impressed with the four speeches. (For more information about the Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year Program, and the three-stage judging process, please review this Web page.)

This year's Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year finalists:

Paula Raj, West Contra Costa Unified School District: Before she was old enough to attend school, 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 School, in Richmond. The 35-year teacher has taught at De Anza for the past 21 years. Prior to her current position, the Brooklyn native taught middle and high school Spanish and French in Brooklyn, New York City, and Lexington, Massachusetts.

Kari Stewart, Walnut Creek School District: While majoring in genetics, Stewart found her career in education through a college internship tutoring local at-risk students. Stewart will soon begin her 25th 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, Mt. Diablo Unified School District: Trowbridge has been a building trades and engineering educator for more than 11 years at Concord High School. His 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 continued to make news with the construction of their low-cost, eco-friendly Tiny Homes project.

Marissa Ware, San Ramon Valley Unified School District: Ware was well on the road to becoming a physical therapist, but during her college work with an infant development program, she became fascinated watching the development stages of the infant and toddler patients grow. 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.

(For additional information about the four finalists, please visit this Web page.)

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 Gala, 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 TOY finalists giving their speeches to the filled banquet room (same speeches that were presented today). Finally, the night will come to a dramatic close with the announcement of the two 2017-2018 Contra Costa County Teachers of the Year.

The two winners of the County TOY program will represent Contra Costa County in the California State Teacher of the Year Program this coming fall.
TOY Speech Judges:

  • Phil Arnold, Jr., Team Lead, Government Alliance on Race & Equity, “Outstanding Friend of Education Award Recipient 2004” awarded by Joseph A. Ovick
  • Hon. Steve Austin, Superior Court Judge, CCC Superior Court
  • Michael Casten, Undersheriff, Office of CCC Sheriff David O. Livingston
  • Luke Ellis, Law Partner, GJEL Accident Attorneys
  • Hon. Jill Fannin, Presiding Superior Court Judge, CCC Superior Court
  • Robin Lipetzky, County Public Defender, CCC Public Defender's Office
  • Eric Maldonado, Community Involvement Officer, Travis Credit Union
  • Hon. Dan O'Malley (ret), Law Partner, O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley, LLP
  • Marsha Tokuyoshi, Coordinator, CCCOE
  • Erica Williamson, Human Resources/Communications Manager, CCC Schools Insurance Group

At-risk youth receive helpful hand in reaching a successful future

East Bay Works office internsSAN PABLO, Calif., July 6, 2017 – It was a typical early afternoon at the East Bay Works office in San Pablo – job seekers checking out the latest employment listings, working on cover letters, and tweaking the latest resume. In the middle of all of the activity, Youth Development Services (YDS) Specialist Edmund Arnold, is checking in with one of 40 clients, at his field office.

YDS provides a broad range of coordinated services for youth who are in foster care or homeless or experiencing barriers and need support to finish school, find a job or pursue a career path. The programs are designed to prepare students to become self-confident, self-sufficient, and independent adults. YDS is a grant-funded department within the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE), and receives funding from the California Department of Education, the Contra Costa County Workforce Investment Board, Contra Costa County Employment and Human Services, the Department of Rehabilitation, as well as other financial sources.

Edmund's particular program is funded by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).

Along with advising his clients that came in for scheduled appointments throughout the day, Arnold also had three of his clients assisting job seekers at the front desk of the East Bay Works office. The three young adults are paid-20-hour-a-week interns, their salaries are provided through the Reconnecting Youth to Their Future (RYTF) program, a program that funds the assistance of out-of-school youth, (ages 16-24) with school re-engagement, diploma/GED attainment, and assistance with advanced training.

Randy is currently completing his high school diploma, and plans to attend Contra Costa College. He wants to major in business, and hopes to own his own dance studio one day. He also has aspirations to be a paralegal. The San Pablo East Bay Works will be his first job that he's had longer than three months. He has been working on his customer service skills at East Bay Works, which he believes will be vital to his career development. “I really like working with the people who come in looking for assistance,” says Randy. Earlier on this day, he helped a client in re-formatting a resume into MS Word.

Elsy has been working at East Bay Works for the past four months. “I came in here one day looking for a job, and one of the employees told me about the Internship Program,” says Elsy. She has already become the go-to person for Spanish speaking-only job seekers. “I am able to help them with the resources we offer, and using our computers.” She is currently working towards enrolling into Laney College. Arnold says, “Elsy is an aspiring cosmetology student, and wants to own her own beauty salon one day. This job has been good at helping her improve her customer service and social skills.”

Astrid is the newest intern of the three, with almost two months of office experience. With two semesters competed at Contra Costa College, Atrid reports that she’s been learning quite a bit as she assists those who come in looking for work. “I support the customers in narrowing down the employment possibilities that match their job skills, and book them into classes we offer, such as resume and cover-letter writing.” As her college studies continue, Astrid plans to major in journalism. She has a great desire to become a journalist or a photographer.

“A good amount of the clients on my caseload have been through referral,” says Arnold. “I work closely with the Calli House Youth Homeless Shelter, Contra Costa County Independent Living Skills Program, and the West Contra Costa Adult School. In addition, a small portion of my caseload are youth who have just walked in here at the San Pablo East Bay Works, looking for employment assistance. In order to qualify for our program, the clients must be high school dropouts, homeless, foster, on probation, parenting, or have a disability.”

Eligible clients who are enrolled will be assisted with finding suitable educational or employment placements. Each will have an individualized case plan, depending on their needs. In this case plan, they will indicate the goals that they want to reach while working with the program. The goals are obtaining their high school equivalency degree, earning an industry-recognized training certificate, attaining employment, or entering into a post-secondary program or any other advanced training program. They will be on Arnold’s caseload until they accomplish one of these goals.

The clients meet with Arnold as much as they want to. “We usually meet on a monthly basis. They are given transportation assistance in order to help them attend their classes, job interviews, and appointments with me.” The clients are also assisted with purchasing school supplies, interview clothes, work clothes, and other tools/clothes necessary for employment or education. “Basically, we will try to supply them with anything they need in order to make the pursuit of education/employment goals easier.”

Throughout their employment, education, and living-skills experience, clients such as Elsy, Astrid, and Randy, are monitored, assessed, and encouraged by Arnold. After meeting with the three at-risk young adults on this day, it was quite evident that they shared a gratefulness and positive attitudes when talking about their current achievements in the program and their future plans – and of course, their coach and friend, Edmund Arnold.

June

County Office of Education 2017-18 Teacher of the Year
Inspires and Motivates At-Risk Students

CCCOE Teacher of the Year Rhupell StroudMARTINEZ, Calif., June 7, 2017 – Contra Costa County Office of Education's (CCCOE) newest Teacher of the Year (TOY) Rhuepell Stroud has plenty in common with his fellow 21 Class of 2017-18 Contra Costa County TOYs: he was inspired to become a teacher, earned his teaching credentials (along with obtaining his masters and bachelors degrees), and is incredibly dedicated to his students. But, the one big difference between Stroud and his fellow honored teachers is that his students are locked up in a detention facility. Stroud teaches multiple subjects to middle and high school students at Mt. McKinley School – which resides inside the Martinez Juvenile Hall.

Stroud, a 38-year instructor, has been teaching core subjects to grades 6-12 at Mt. McKinley School since 2003. 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.”

Eliseo, a former student who graduated from Mt. McKinley in 2016, said, “I continue to further my education in college because of one reason – my English teacher Mr. Stroud.” Eliseo remembers, when he first met Stroud, they got off to a rough start. He never listened to his teacher, and would make fun of him in the classroom. “I never paid attention or did my work. But once I sat down, and really listened to what the man had to say, it changed me for the better. He not only taught me to be a proficient English communicator, but also taught me about life”

“Mr. Stroud really cares about his students,” continues Eliseo. “He keeps the classroom positive, yet his classroom rules and expectations are tough – but we always know we have his support.”

Fellow instructor Brian Murtagh says that Stroud's dedication to create a positive learning environment for his students is second to none. “When not in the classroom, he can often be found talking to a peer in the hallways of our school, checking up on certain students, determining the best way to approach them, both academically and behaviorally.” 

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.

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

May

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

Brentwood School District Teacher of the Year Shawna BorbaBRENTWOOD, Calif., May 24, 2017 – On May 22, Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata visited the classroom of Shawna Borba, at William B. Bristow Middle School, in Brentwood. Borba, a 15-year instructor, was named Brentwood Union School District’s Teacher of the Year (TOY), earlier this year. Borba has taught a variety of courses at Bristow since 2002, including physical education, journalism, language arts, and history. Currently, she is teaching consumer arts, leadership, and serves as the coordinator and director of the school’s Associated Student Body.

Photo caption: (l-r) Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata and Brentwood Union School District’s Teacher of the Year Shawna Borba
Photo Credit: Terry Koehne, CCCOE

When asked about her philosophy of teaching, Borba replies, “Every day provides an opportunity to make an impact. Teaching for the past 15 years has definitely taught me a thing or two.  As teachers we often become so test–and-curriculum– driven that we feel forced to move at such a high speed that we leave causalities in our wake. It is a hard line to balance and one I continually struggle with; I need to cover the material and I need to make sure the class is learning. I’ve determined that the students need me to put them first.”

Borba continues, “Sometimes all it takes is to slow down to ask how their weekend was, or provide an open, safe classroom in which to eat their lunch. And sometimes it’s an ear to listen or word of encouragement. Time and again I’ve been shown that this impact is much greater than the thoughtfully planned lesson that I delivered that day. Students who come back to visit don’t bring up the amazing lesson I gave them on prepositional phrases; they remember the time I gave them. They remember that I cared and saw in them more than just a name on a roster.”

On the evening of September 28, 2017, the 22 Contra Costa County TOYs, class of 2017-18, including Shawna Borba, 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


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

Knightsen Elementary School District Teacher of the Year Paula GonzalezKNIGHTSEN, Calif., May 24, 2017 – On May 22, Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata visited the classroom of Paula Gonzalez, at Knightsen Elementary School, in Knightsen. Gonzalez, a nine-year instructor, was named Knightsen Elementary School District’s Teacher of the Year (TOY), earlier this year. Gonzalez has been with Knightsen since 2013, and is currently teaching six-grade ELA, social studies and mathematics.

“Paula is a creative, child-focused educator who inspires even the most skeptical of sixth-graders to engage in learning and do their personal best,” reports fellow teacher and former Knightsen Teacher of the Year Jamie Bennetts. “As anyone who has taught middle school knows, this is no simple task. She relates to students with a positive, friendly intensity that draws them to her. She fills her classroom with messages promoting personal commitment, respect, and integrity, the most important qualities for honest success.”

Photo caption: (l-r) Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata and Knightsen Elementary School District’s Teacher of the Year Paula Gonzalez
Photo Credit: Terry Koehne, CCCOE

Bennetts continues: “When you visit Paula’s classroom, be sure to look for the books she has each student create to document their authentic learning, complete with pockets, fold-out pieces, and envelopes to contain artifacts of their knowledge. These become personal reference materials and, in a way, scrapbooks of their most important pieces of new knowledge.”

On the evening of September 28, 2017, the 22 Contra Costa County TOYs, class of 2017-18, including Paula Gonzalez, 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


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

Lafayette School District Teacher of the Year Linda MaraLAFAYETTE, Calif., May 23, 2017 – On May 18, Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata visited the classroom of Linda Mara, at Stanley Middle School, in Lafayette. Mara, a 15-year instructor, was named Lafayette School District’s Teacher of the Year (TOY), earlier this year. Since 2002, Mara has taught grades seven and eight mathematics and algebra at Stanley.

“When I first started middle school, math was the least of my concerns, I busied myself with friends and sports. It wasn’t until 7th grade when I was a student in Ms. Mara's math class that I started paying attention to mathematics,” remembers former student Madeline Wilson. “Ms. Mara's enthusiasm for her job is evident and she has bountiful energy towards her students. Her classes are not only engaging and fun, but educational and effective. She adapts and modifies her teaching style for every student. Whether math is or isn't your thing, Ms. Mara is dedicated to making sure you enjoy learning in her class. I remember many times where Ms. Mara made an effort to talk to me outside of class when she saw that I was struggling and offered her help and support. Ms. Mara makes school enjoyable and her classes are captivating.”

Photo caption: (l-r) Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata, Stanley Middle School Principal David Schrag, Lafayette School District’s Teacher of the Year Linda Mara, and Lafayette School District’s Superintendent Rachel Zinn.
Photo Credit: Terry Koehne, CCCOE

Wilson continues, “Looking back at my growth from the beginning of 7th grade to the end of 8th grade I would say a great deal of me has changed and that is largely do to Ms. Mara. I am now inspired to work in a STEM field and I am taking multiple STEM classes in high school. Not only has my career path changed, but my attitude towards school in general has been impacted. To this day I look forward to my math classes and I believe that I can accomplish anything if I put my mind to it. I owe that sense of confidence to Ms. Mara, and I can vouch for countless other students that Ms. Mara has done the same for them.”

On the evening of September 28, 2017, the 22 Contra Costa County TOYs, class of 2017-18, including Linda Mara, 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 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: August 15, 2017

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