California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

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Local Teacher Of The Year Honored at Concord Campus

Pinole Valley High School teacher  Michele Lamons uses everything from the Bible to Tupac Shakur to inspire her students

Teacher of the Year Michele Lamons stands next to her students at the “Day of the Teacher” event held on the CSU East Bay Concord Campus last Saturday.

Despite inclement weather, there was a large turnout for Saturday’s “Day of the Teacher” held on the CSU East Bay Concord Campus.

The motto of the day was “touching lives forever,” as the event showcased the achievements of local teachers and provided recourses for future teachers at the beginning of their careers.

Over 70 attendees convened in the campus’ main auditorium to hear the opening remarks of Dr. Joseph Ovick, who serves as the Superintendent of Schools for Contra Costa County.

“We come here to celebrate the people who are there because they’re often forgotten,” said Ovick of those in the educational profession, who he believes are often undervalued and marginalized.

Ovick, who has been an educator for 41 years, admitted that he is currently faced with many serious challenges that undermine the very reasons why he began teaching in the first place.

“The state right now is in such bad shape financially, most people would retire,” said Ovick.

However, Ovick and the rest of California’s thousands of teachers and administrators are not giving up. The stakes are far too high for them to do otherwise, as Ovick pointed out, “our children are on a collision course with history.”

The strength of California’s educational system continues to be its dedicated teachers, exemplified by men and women like Michele Lamons of Pinole Valley High School, who was recently named Contra Costa County’s 2010-2011 Teacher of the Year.

“One thing I learned is that if you’re enthusiastic about what you do it’s going to rub off on your students,” said one of Lamons’ former students who introduced the keynote speaker to the audience.

Lamons’ enthusiasm for teaching was evident as she addressed the crowd, declaring, “what we do is touch lives forever.”

She elaborated on how the strength of her teaching style is in the ability to relate to students.

“I may not have an instant rapport with a student, but I do try to find some common ground,” said Lamons.

Anyone who has ever taught teenagers knows that they are very quick to pass judgment on the sincerity of their teacher’s interests.

“They really see if you care about them,” said Lamons. “I want to be not only a mentor but someone who plays an important role in their lives.”

To bridge the divide that exists between student and teacher, Lamons uses what she calls “inspirational devices.” This includes utilizing, “everything from Shakespeare to Tupac,” explained Lamons.

“It might make some people uncomfortable, but it’s effective.”

“The fact that I can quote from the Bible and Tupac? That’s OK. It makes me who I am,” said Lamons, who went on to reference Tupac Shakur’s “The Rose that Grew from Concrete” as an analogy to show that every student possesses true potential.

Annie Nogales-Chandler of CSUEB Concord, who organized the event, acknowledged how important it was for the participants to see how Ms. Lamons and other educators are achieving great things within their profession.

“There is so much negative publicity about teaching,” said Nogales-Chandler. “Just turn on the television. People are getting their pink slips.”

The participants then broke off into smaller groups to take part in the numerous workshops conducted by CSUEB faculty and local educators.

One session was led by Charles Reynes of the Castro Valley Unified School District, who has himself received Teacher of the Year awards from Alameda County and California along with the 2008 Presidential Award in Math and Science Teaching.

Teaching since 1986, Reynes has developed a library of hands-on projects that have captivated the imagination of his science students.

“Part of what I try to do is make the invisible visible for kids,” said Reynes. “If it interests me, I think it’s going to interest them.”

One of Reynes new techniques includes using magic, which he tells his students he recently learned at the Hogwarts Academy, a reference from the Harry Potter novels.

Although this technique is fun for the students, it also provides the crucial function in his lesson plan, known in pedagogy as the anticipatory set, which engages the students and prepares them to learn new information.

Reynes knows he is successful when his class projects make a lasting impression on the students.

Not surprisingly, the most popular session included representatives from the Mount Diablo and Fremont Unified School Districts that provided current credential candidates with valuable information on how to get hired—by no means an easy task at a time when most California school districts are struggling with budgetary restrictions.

This networking among teachers highlights one of the main goals of CSUEB Concord’s “Day of the Teacher,” which is now in its ninth year of existence.

“This is a tradition that’s part of the CSUEB Concord Campus,” said Executive Director Dr. Emily Lowe Brizendine referring to the significance of the event.

“It is a day we can focus on teachers and honor them.”

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California State University East Bay
Local Teacher Of The Year Honored at Concord Campus