The following four teachers have been named as the 2019-2020 Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year (TOY) Finalists: Gina Capelli, Liberty Union High School District; Shay Kornfeld, Mt. Diablo Unified School District; DarVisa R. Marshall, Antioch Unified School District; and Maureen Mattson, Pittsburg 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. See below for the entire listing of the 22 Contra Costa County TOYs, class of 2019-2020.
With 27 years of education experience, Gina Capelli has been teaching at Liberty High School, in Brentwood, since 2002. Capelli’s courses include psychology, government, ethnic studies, and social studies. Capelli joined Liberty High School with an impressive resume of teaching experience with school districts in San Jose, Livermore, and Brentwood. “My most important contribution to my students is to model selflessness and the importance of school and community involvement,” says Capelli. “Living in a small, tight-knit community has helped me to participate in many community activities alongside my students.”
Science instructor and robotics club advisor, Shay Kornfield, has been teaching at Diablo View Middle School, in Clayton, for the past three years. Five years prior, Kornfield taught grades 4 and 5 at Fair Oaks Elementary School, in Pleasant Hill. Kornfield says that he was lucky enough to grow up in a loving household with educated parents and grandparents that fostered his sense of curiosity and adventure. “Then, I had a teacher, Glen Barker [2018 CCCOE Teacher of the Year], who made school feel like summer camp for the first time in my life,” remembers Kornfield. “Without these amazing people, perhaps I would not have chosen the career path I have – but choose it I did, and what an amazing ride thus far!”
Like so many teachers, DarVisa Marshall was influenced by a special teacher in her life. For Marshall, it was in the 11th grade, back in Cincinnati, Ohio. “No matter the circumstances, Mrs. Bryant never gave up on me,” remembers Marshall. “She saw potential that I never saw and my parents didn’t understand. Because of her, I became a teacher.” For the past five years, Marshall has been teaching English language arts (ELA) and history to grade six, at Antioch Middle School, in Antioch. Her 21 years of experience also includes teaching ELA and history in middle and elementary schools in Oakland and Cincinnati.
Maureen Mattson has been a positive fixture for the past 33 years at Pittsburg High School. The honored teacher has been teaching physical education during her entire career at the school. Along with teaching physical education, she has served many other rolls, including the school’s women’s basketball coach, assistant principal, and assistant athletic director. “My biggest influence in becoming a teacher was my father, Bob Matson,” reflects Mattson. “He was a physical education teacher, department chair, athletic director, and coach of multiple sports at Hollister High School for 38 years.”
The county’s TOY program is directed by the CCCOE, and with such a high caliber of teaching professionals to draw from (18 teachers eligible this year), 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 April 12, 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 (see above) will be selected to advance to the next two phases as finalists.
II Classroom Observation and Interview:
April 22-May 17, a small committee of education specialists and business partners will observe the four finalists interacting with their students. Immediately following, the committee will interview the candidates, discussing topics such as their teaching philosophy and techniques.
III Speech Presentation:
On July 24, 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 26, 2019, 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 Lynn Mackey, who serves as the evening’s master of ceremonies, will introduce all 22 TOYs to the attendees. This will be followed by the four finalists giving their three- to five-minute speeches (same speeches given in July) to the filled banquet room. Finally, the night will come to a dramatic conclusion with the announcement of the two 2019-2020 Contra Costa County Teachers of the Year.
2019-2020 Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year Representatives:
- Paul Verbanszky, Acalanes Union High School District, Campolindo High School
- DarVisa R. Marshall, Antioch Unified School District, Antioch Middle School
- Ezra Smith, Brentwood Union School District, Pioneer Elem/Loma Vista Elem
- Alicia Woodson, Byron Union School District, Discovery Bay Elementary
- Cheri Etheredge, Contra Costa Community College District, Contra Costa Community College
- Kevin McKibben, Contra Costa County Office of Education, Mt. McKinley School
- Nagia “GG” Abdu, John Swett Unified School District, John Swett High School
- Katy Bracelin, Knightsen Elementary School District, Knightsen Elementary School
- Cindy Fisher, Lafayette School District, Happy Valley Elementary School
- Gina Capelli, Liberty Union High School District, Liberty High School
- Pamuela Galletti, Martinez Unified School District, John Muir Elementary School
- Jennifer Strohmeyer, Moraga School District, Donald L. Rheem Elementary School
- Emily Andrews, Mt. Diablo Unified School District, Bancroft Elementary School
- Shay Kornfeld, Mt. Diablo Unified School District, Diablo View Middle School
- Maria Fernandez, Oakley Union Elementary School District, Oakley Elementary School
- Jennifer Dodd, Orinda Union School District, Del Rey Elementary School
- Maureen Mattson, Pittsburg Unified School District, Pittsburg High School
- Athena Agustin, San Ramon Valley Unified School District, Dougherty Valley High School
- Nusheen Saadat, San Ramon Valley Unified School District, Quail Run Elementary School
- Jana Palmquist, Walnut Creek School District, Walnut Creek Intermediate School
- Daniel O’Shea, West Contra Costa Unified School District, Pinole Valley High School
- Doug Silva, West Contra Costa Unified School District, Helms Middle 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 Contra Costa 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 and Instagram at: #cocotoy