Big year? You bet.
“Yeah, it was a good year,” laughed Ortega, 28. “It has all been pretty remarkable.”
The Discovery Bay Chamber of Commerce thought so too and honored the first-grade teacher at a special ceremony this week. Ortega couldn’t pick up her award at the State of the Town event in January – in which Teachers of the Year are traditionally recognized – because she was coaching her cheerleaders for the playoffs. So the chamber brought the award to her.
“We were just so thrilled to be able to honor her,” said Chamber President Rita Caruso, who also presented Ortega with proclamations from Supervisor Mary Piepho and Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan. “She’s very deserving.”
In Contra Costa County, more than 8,200 teachers educate approximately 167,000 public school students. In recognition of their efforts, participating school districts select their Teacher of the Year representatives.
Representatives come from each of the 16 school districts as well as the Contra Costa Community College District and the Contra Costa County Office of Education. The winner of the county program goes on to represent Contra Costa in the state competition.
While proud of her accolades, Ortega views the award as more of a group accomplishment.
“I was completely shocked and honored by the award,” said Ortega, who was a 49er cheerleader from 2004-08 and is now their head cheerleading coach. “But everyone puts in their time here and we work very closely as a team. This is really for everyone.”
Ortega credits her success in the classroom to creating “high expectations” for her students combined with equal parts of support and encouragement.
“When you set the bar high, they will always strive to reach it,” said Ortega. “They want to do well and they want to please you, especially at this age. And it works. I have great kids.”
To win Teacher of the Year is an honor for any teacher, but to have garnered the award on the first nomination after being a classroom teacher for only six years is, according to Byron School District Superintendent Ken Jacopetti, remarkable.
“Although Kristin has been in our district for only six years, her positive attitude and integrity has made her an integral part of the team,” said Jacopetti. “We’ve all had teachers in our lives that we remember, and Kristin is that kind of person. We’re very proud of her.”
So, how to top 2011?
“Well, I’m getting married this year,” said Ortega. “That’s the only way I could make it a better year than last.”