Five deserving West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) school teachers were given the shock of their professional lives recently when they received surprise visits notifying them they won the “2017 Teaching Excellence Award.”
The distinguished annual awards, sponsored by the Ed Fund, were announced Feb. 3, 2017, during surprise visits to the honorees’ respective schools by Ed Fund Executive Director Joel Mackey, WCCUSD Superintendent Matt Duffy, school principals, Ed Fund board members, WCCUSD Board of Education trustee members, Richmond College Prep Elementary board members, students and winners’ family members.
This year’s honorees include Tiffany Chieudjui, a third-grade teacher at Grant Elementary School; Jasmine Johnson, a fifth-grade teacher at Richmond College Prep Elementary; Sarah La Due, a seventh-grade English teacher at Fred T. Korematsu Middle School; Paula Raj, a Spanish teacher at DeAnza High School; and Jessy Kronenberg, a dance teacher at El Cerrito High School.
According to the Ed Fund, two of the aforementioned teachers, Tiffany Chieudjui and Paula Raj, have been selected as the WCCUSD’s nominees for Contra Costa County’s “Teacher of the Year.”
“The five 2017 Teaching Excellence Award winners share a profound passion for instilling a love of learning in their students so that each student can attain their goals and realize their dreams,” said Ed Fund Development & Communications Director Laura J. Giacomini in a statement.
“By carefully and thoughtfully weaving creativity, adherence to high standards, profound knowledge of the subjects being taught and appreciation of individual differences, needs and strengths, these award winning teachers raise the quality of education to new heights,” Giacomini added.
This year the Ed Fund received 73 nominations for the 2017 Teaching Excellence Award. Following the observation of 23 of the nominated teachers in their classrooms, a selection committee interviewed eight teachers to select the final five awardees.
The five awardees will be honored at the Ed Fund’s “29th Annual Soaring to Excellence Celebration” Friday, May 12, 2017, from 7-9 p.m. at DeAnza High School, 5000 Valley View Road in El Sobrante. For more info about the free-admission event, contact the Ed Fund at 510-233-1464 or click here.
Here follows more info about the 2017 Teaching Excellence Award honorees, provided by the Ed Fund:
Tiffany Chieudjui, third-grade teacher, Grant Elementary School
Ms. Chieujui has very strong roots with the West Contra Costa Unified School District as she grew up in West Contra Costa County and her mother was a longtime teacher in the District.
Ms. Chieujui has a very special way of engaging students even before a lesson has started. She’s always looking to find ways to enhance student learning by seeking opportunities that allow students to tie the lessons into real life experiences that have an everlasting impact. Using innovation and technology she taps into every students’ hidden talents. She fosters creativity by allowing self-expression and providing student choice. She taps into students’ interests and chooses themes that are enjoyable to the students and creates cross curricular activities-slightly above their skill level and then raises the challenge as performances improves.
Jasmine Johnson, fifth-grade teacher, Richmond College Prep Elementary
This marks Ms. Johnson’s fourth year at Richmond College Prep Elementary. Before working at Richmond College Prep, Ms. Johnson lived in Southern California where she was born and raised. Her experience navigating school systems in South Central Los Angeles, and, then, eventually, a predominantly white institution for her undergraduate degree, led her to the classroom. She has a Master’s degree in Urban Education from Loyola Marymount University with a concentration in Education Policy and Administration.
As an educator, her vision is to create an academically rigorous and rich experience where all students are growing and creating. It’s also equally important that students learn about themselves, their histories, and begin to see themselves as creators in this world. If you were to walk into her classroom, she would want you to see students who are passionately engaged, students who are reading and writing, and speaking and listening to each other. She values participation and believes that true learning only takes place once students are talking, moving, and truly engaging with materials. Of course, this level of work requires her students to be at school every day, and it demands that they show integrity and urgency.
Sarah La Due, seventh-grade English teacher, Fred T. Korematsu Middle School
Ms. La Due has been an English middle school teacher for three years now at Fred T. Korematsu Middle School. Before becoming a teacher, she worked in the political arena in public affairs and research analysis. She has a Bachelor’s in Political Science from UC Santa Barbara.
Ms. Ladue is a gifted educator who engages her students by inspiring them to learn. She does this by using a creative mix of techniques – group projects, individual work and classroom discussions. One of the most remarkable things about Ms. LaDue is the lasting impact she has on her students. They stay in touch with her long after she stops being their classroom teacher and she remains an important part of their lives. Ms. La Due emphasizes to her students that the path to success is not through perfection, but through effort and improving over time. She wants students to focus on learning rather than grades.
Paula Raj, Spanish teacher, DeAnza High School
Ms. Raj has been teaching longer than most of the teachers at De Anza have been alive and her classroom is one of the most joyful places on campus. She claims that she stopped counting the years of teaching after she turned sixty! Ms. Raj brings music, artifacts, and carefully planned lessons to each class period. She warmly demands that ALL students participate and she ensures that the classroom feels like a safe space to do so. Ms. Raj never stops moving in the classroom, always interacting with each student and encouraging them to do their best. To teachers and students alike she pushes that we have to turn our “passion into action”. She demonstrates her passion through incredible warmth and planning for each class period!
Over her long career, she has served as a Spanish Teacher, Foreign Language Department Chair,
Teacher Support Provider, Western Association of School and Colleges Co-Chair, Instructor Led Training Chair, and School Improvement Grant Project Support.
Jessy Kronenberg, dance teacher, El Cerrito High School
Ms. Kronenberg is a former student who graduated from El Cerrito High Dance in 1998. Since she took over the program in 2012, she has moved the program forward into a new generation while maintaining the tradition of high quality dance education at ECHS. Through high level instruction and vast amounts of time and dedication, students from all levels of ability are developing their talent and love of dance. Beyond the classroom, Jessy has launched the Gaucho Dance Company and challenged ECHS Dance to become a Chapter of the National Honor Society for Dance Arts.
Ms. Kronenberg earned a BA degree in Environmental Studies and Dance from Pitzer College where she focused on Modern Dance and Composition in 2002. Later, Ms. Kronenberg moved to North Carolina and joined the Asheville Contemporary Dance Theater. She earned a Master’s degree in Teaching at Western Carolina University. Before returning to El Cerrito High School in 2012, Ms. Kronenberg was teaching Modern Dance at EAFIT University in Colombia, South America.