Coyote Creek Elementary School teacher Karen Young has been named a finalist for 2014-15 Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year.
"I am very honored and humbled to be selected as one of the final four county TOY finalists for a job that I absolutely love," said Young, who teaches transitional kindergarten at the San Ramon school.
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. She also had prior experience as a substitute teacher throughout the San Ramon Valley Unified School District.
"SRVUSD is extremely proud of Karen," superintendent Mary Shelton said. "Karen is an inspiring teacher, a leader at her school and a tireless worker in support of her school community."
Coyote Creek principal Mike Biondi concurred, saying, "This is a well-deserved recognition for an amazing educator. Her students' introduction into 'the big school' is filled with fun and developmentally appropriate learning and explorations. Parents comment that Karen is a wonderful introduction to our school and a very tough act to follow."
The Contra Costa County Office of Education announced Young among the four finalists late Wednesday afternoon. Two of the county finalists will be selected in September to represent Contra Costa County in the state Teacher of the Year program.
The other finalists are Michael Kleiman (English teacher at Freedom High School in Brentwood), Elizabeth Lanfranki (English instructor at Martin Luther King, Jr. Junior High School in Pittsburg) and Brian Wheeler (automotive technology teacher at Alhambra High School in Martinez).
The quartet was chosen by a 14-person committee that reviewed and rated applications for the nearly two dozen Teachers of the Year representing public school districts around the county.
The selection process now gets more intense for Young and the three other finalists.
A small group of educators and business partners will observe each teacher in his or her classroom and then conduct individual interviews later this month or early next month.
Then in August, each finalist will present a three- to five-minute speech to a panel of 12 education, business and public-sector representatives. The teachers will be graded on their speech and presentation skills.
The two winners are set to be announced during a banquet in Concord on Sept. 11.
Young is bidding to become the second SRVUSD teacher in as many years to represent the county in the state program. Last fall, San Ramon Valley High School science teacher Cindy Egan was named a 2014 California Teacher of the Year semifinalist.
"I am just taking it one step at a time through this rigorous process and letting my passion for teaching and nurturing children speak for itself," Young said of the county selection process. "All of the county Teacher of the Year candidates bring their own unique style and talents to their classrooms, and all deserve to be Teacher of the Year."
Teaching is a second career for Young, a wife and mother of two who has lived in the Danville area for 22 years.
She worked previously as a project manager in the information systems industry, but she stepped away from that field to raise her sons. She soon found herself volunteering in the classroom, becoming involved in school-wide activities and helping with her sons' extracurricular activities.
"Through all these activities, but especially working in classrooms with amazing teachers, I found my second career," Young said. "With the encouragement of my son's teachers, I began substituting and immediately fell in love with teaching and the ultimate reward of knowing I was making a difference in the lives of children."
She began substituting locally in 2003 and continued in that role until earning her multiple-subject teaching credential. She started teaching full-time at Coyote Creek in August 2006.
"Teaching is the most rewarding profession and ultimate way to give back to our community," Young said. "Seeing my students grow socially and academically, and more importantly loving school and believing in themselves, is all the reward I need."