PLEASANT 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.
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