Photo courtesy of Jonathan Lance, CCCOE

(l-r) Oakley Union Elementary School District Superintendent Greg Hetrick, Oakley Elementary School Principal Marco Franco, Oakley Elementary School teacher/OUESD 2019 Teacher of the Year Maria Fernandez and Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Lynn Mackey.

Maria Fernandez’s classroom at Oakley Elementary School recently received a visit from Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Lynn Mackey. The 3rd-grade teacher has been at the school for the past four years. This past March, Fernandez was named by the Oakley Union Elementary School District as their Teacher of the Year (TOY).

Throughout the school year, Superintendent Mackey makes a point to visit each incoming TOY in their classrooms, before they are all honored at the renowned, annual Contra Costa County Teachers of the Year Gala Dinner. This is a great way for her to meet the teachers and their students, as well as take in the day’s lesson plan.

On the evening of September 26, 2019, the 22 Contra Costa County TOYs, class of 2019-20, including Fernandez, will be introduced and honored at the annual gala dinner, held at the Hilton Concord. The 22 TOYs will be accompanied by their families, friends and co-workers. The expected crowd of close to 500 will also include numerous other supporters of the program. For more information about this year’s CCCOE TOY Program, please review this earlier-sent news release.

“One of my favorite things about Maria Fernandez is just how easy she makes it seem,” said Oakley Elementary Principal Marco Franco. “The very first thing a visitor will notice in her classroom is that all the students are engaged and visibly excited about the multi-step task at hand. The visitor will also see Maria facilitating the lesson and making it accessible to all the kids, regardless of skill or language proficiency. The students are well-trained in group dynamics, and she is careful to provide the groups with the necessary tools and scaffolds, like vocabulary lists, written instructions or steps for solving the task.”

Franco adds, “Maria is also an asset to the school in other ways. This year, she helped mentor a new teacher and was the grade-level-teacher leader. She also gives of her own time to tutor students and provide support to the new teacher. In addition, Maria is fluent in Spanish and frequently volunteers her time to translate for others in the school, as she does numerous times when the school holds parent conferences.”

Currently, there are approximately 8,637 teachers educating nearly 178,000 students in Contra Costa County’s public schools. To recognize their efforts and bring much-deserved honor to the teaching profession, the participating school districts in the county named their TOY representatives in mid-March.

The 22 incoming TOYs represent 17 Contra Costa County school districts, the Contra Costa Community College District, and the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE). Most of these representatives, those who teach grades TK-12, are eligible to compete in the Contra Costa County TOY competition. The two top teachers in the county TOY program will represent Contra Costa County in the California State TOY Program this coming fall.

Note regarding eligible participants:

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 @cocotoy.