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School board honors Teachers of the Year, national award winner

Teachers Karen Young, Kara Teach and Kimberley Gilles receive special recognition from officials, colleagues in Danville

The San Ramon Valley school board honored three of the finest local teachers Tuesday night.

The district's 2014 Teachers of the Year, Karen Young and Kara Teach, were recognized along with Kimberley Gilles, a Monte Vista High teacher who won a national award in Washington, D.C. last month.

The trio, whose combined experience spans all levels of primary and secondary education, received special acknowledgments from school officials and standing ovations from roughly 40 supporters during the board of education meeting in Danville.

"I love working with the kids every day. I love watching them grow and knowing that I'm making this huge difference from a very young age to get them loving school, wanting to come to school, wanting to learn," said Young, who teaches transitional kindergarten at Coyote Creek Elementary in San Ramon.

Young is in her second year as a TK teacher, having spent the previous six years teaching kindergarten and kindergarten/first-grade combination classes at Coyote Creek.

"Transitional kindergarten ... is something relatively new to our district. And what Karen has done is taken something new and made it into something magic," Coyote Creek principal Mike Biondi said. "Students in her class are blessed with a wonderfully balanced program."

"It's about giving back to the community," Young added. "And what other job gives back to the community as much as a teacher does."

The aptly named Teach has worked as a special education teacher at Danville's Charlotte Wood Middle School since being hired in August 2011.

"I don't feel like this is my award," Teach said to the school board. "I told the kids, 'we all won an award' because I wouldn't be able to do any of this if it wasn't first for the students, and then also for the staff."

Charlotte Wood principal Chris George said, "Kara's students make absolute leaps and bounds at their academic achievement because they're in an environment that demands more of them and not less of them. And all the while she's there every step of the way, literally holding their hand or hugging them and reminding them of what they're capable of and accepting nothing less."

Teach added, "For people to see the wonder and beauty that are in these students that have different abilities, not necessarily that are disabled, is really what's been amazing. And so I'm so happy that I'm at a place that allows me to kind of fight for that -- in a nice, caring way."

Young and Teach will represent the San Ramon Valley Unified School District in the Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year Program this year.

The school board also recognized Gilles, who won the National Education Association Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence on Feb. 7.

The English teacher at Danville' Monte Vista High has worked in the district since January 2006 and has 27 years of overall teaching experience.

"A day in Kimberley's class is never dull. She fills the hour with varying activities that encourage student collaboration, creativity and exploration. She is a truly gifted teacher," Monte Vista principal Janet Terranova said in a letter, which Superintendent Mary Shelton read aloud during the board meeting.

"I want to thank this board. I want to thank (the San Ramon Valley Education Association), who nominated me I want to thank administrators, who have taken the time to talk to me, help me learn and have been willing to learn from me. I want to thank parents who taught me about their children. I want to thank my husband," Gilles said. "We all won an award it is our district."

In honor of their achievements, the school board presented Teach and Young with crystal statues and Gilles received a crystal plaque.

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