Two Ceres teachers and one from Keyes have been named 2018 Teachers of the Year by the Stanislaus County Office of Education and the Modesto Rotary Club.
The four winners were Angelina Rafatti of La Rosa Elementary School in the Ceres Unified School District representing the K-3 division; Ryan Richards from Central Valley High School in the Ceres Unified School District - high school division; Leticia A. Rosales of Spratling Middle School in the Keyes Union School District representing the junior high division; and Gary Carpenter from Agnes Baptist Elementary School in the Stanislaus Union School District - 4-6 division.
The four each receive a $1,000 cash award from the Modesto Rotary Club Foundation and a $700 Nasco gift card. Mocse Credit Union also sponsored the event and provided funding for the awards, decorations and lunch for the student entertainers.
A total of 12 finalists have been picked from 79 nominees representing 16 school districts in Stanislaus County.
Rafatti said it is an honor to be a finalist.
"For the past 23 years of my career, my goal in the classroom has been to cultivate a risk-taking environment and, without actually having a formal name for this practice, I've tried to instill in every child the idea that he/she has value and that I see the preciousness of their heart," said the La Rosa teacher.
Raffati noted that since Howard Glasser's Nurtured Heart ApproachTM was introduced in Ceres Unified, she has been able to "deepen my practices and be even more intentional about building the inner wealth of every child. This, in turn, has led my students to develop a growth mindset and a willingness to try their hardest even when the rigor intensifies."
She said what might set her apart from her peers is that her favorite day of the week is not Friday or Monday, "it's the next day of school."
"Most nights I reflect on what I did or didn't do during the school day and challenge myself to change it the next day to be better. My high expectations of myself then transfer to my students and my expectations of them."
According to Ryan Richards, humor is one of the ways he connects to his students. He said his philosophy of teaching is that any field of study is interesting to students is when they see how the content connects to everything else.
"I try to push my students long enough for them to find success, then they usual push themselves to higher levels," said Richards. "It is always exciting to see students who were indifferent about history or government at the beginning of the year and excited to share their thoughts and knowledge at the end of the year. I know I am doing my job when the students make jokes or references to obscure political or historical facts in relation to the rest of their lives."
He said a favorite quote is from Steven Jay Gould that suggests that the sign genius is the ability to create analogies and connections between different content.
"That is how I approach my classroom - I try to push students to become capable, enabling to see the course content as relevant to their daily lives."
In his Advanced Placement (AP) Government and Politics course, 68 percent of his students - 90 are enrolled - earned college credit while the national average for the course ranges between 49 to 52 percent.
"This came as a surprise and I was shocked because I don't feel like I'm anything special," said Rosales when she found out she was a finalist.
Rosales teaches seventh grade language arts, math and English language development at Spratling Middle School. This is her 12th year teaching and third year with the Keyes Union School District, the same district she attended grades K-8.
Rosales said her history in Keyes allows her to know things about the community, like that it has a high population of Spanish speakers. During her time at Spratling, she has worked to develop meetings for Spanish speaking parents, allowing them to communicate with their children's teachers and administration in a comfortable environment.
"It's a demographic we don't reach out to enough, so we just want to keep them up to par with topics their kids are covering in school," said Rosales. "Parents need to be involved, and sometimes they don't have that outlet.
"I want the parents and students to realize we're all on the same page. We're all a family."
Teachers were nominated by their principals for the award program and finalists were selected from 79 nominees representing 16 school districts in Stanislaus County. A selection committee, composed of local Rotarians and educators, narrowed the nominations through a paper screening process and then visited the classrooms of 24 semi-finalists before narrowing it down to the 12 finalists.
During the May 1 event, Eric Chipponeri of Waterford Junior High School was also honored with the Jane Johnston Civility Award. The Civility Award is in honor of former SCOE Assistant Superintendent Jane Johnston, who helped launch the county-wide Choose Civility Initiative in 2010 and passed away unexpectedly in April 2012. Johnston was a member of the Modesto Rotary Club, co-chaired the Teacher of the Year Program, and was active with the Education Foundation of Stanislaus County. The Education Foundation once again honored her memory with this award.