Lori Leach, a special-education teacher at Krey Elementary in Brentwood, and Kasey Graham, an English teacher at Libby-Dozier Medical High School in Antioch, are two of five Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year candidates who have been honored for their continued excellence in education.
Leach, who works with special-education students side by side in the classroom with the general-education teachers, said she’s thrilled by the accolades.
“I feel, obviously, humbled and honored, but mostly I’m so grateful to receive the recognition for our school,” said Leach, who teaches third and fourth grade. “It (Teacher of the Year) could have been me or anyone else from our school. I share this with my colleagues and my team of teachers and the students who do all the hard work.”
The married Brentwood resident, who is also the track coach at Edna Hill Middle School, said that teaching is her passion and believes that every child matters: “I truly, truly believe from the bottom of my heart that all students can learn. I’m just so sure of it. Students need to know that learning isn’t always easy, but it is essential, and that we learn through trial and error. We only fail when we quit.”
Graham teaches ninth- and 10th-grade English at Libby-Dozier Medical High School in Antioch, and considers the reward for doing a job you love the best reward of all. “This is the first time I’ve been selected for any kind of award at all, and it’s quite an honor to be recognized by your colleagues,” said Graham. “It’s been a little nerve-wracking to be under the microscope but it’s all very nice.”
The married mother of five said that while there are constants in her job – the novels students are required to read, and the standard guidelines for testing and achievement must be met – her work is far from perfunctory.
“Some things in my job are set but there are many things that are not,” said Graham. “My job changes every hour of every day, and I enjoy that. I love working with young people and I think that I do a good job – at least I hope I do.”
Next month, the field will be narrowed down to three county Teacher of the Year candidates, who will go on to compete for the title. The winner on the county level will be announced in September, and move on as a candidate for State Teacher of the Year.