The San Ramon Valley school district has selected Dougherty Valley High School's Rachael Byron and Creekside Elementary's Joyce Rooks as its 2016-17 Teachers of the Year.
Byron, in her eighth year in the district, serves as a literacy coach for her peers and teaches Advanced Placement English at Dougherty Valley in eastern San Ramon.
A 14-year teacher who has worked at four San Ramon Valley schools, Rooks now teaches second grade at Creekside in southeast Danville.
"You are both inspirations," school board president Greg Marvel said to close the ceremony honoring the pair Tuesday evening. "You are just wonderful examples of why our kids do so great -- because they have great teachers like you every day, in every way, working for their benefit."
Dozens of colleagues, family members, friends and supporters of Byron and Rooks attended the Teachers of the Year presentation at the beginning of the regular school board meeting at the district administrative complex in Danville.
"It's such a humbling honor. I was blown away," Rooks told the audience. "It is such an honor to stand here and represent my colleagues. They are the foundation. And our district, we should be really proud because in every classroom you will find an exemplary teacher, a collaborator -- people that have a passion for kids and learning."
Byron said, "I'm privileged to serve and support the teachers of our district. They've made me who I am."
Rooks, the district's elementary-level winner, and Byron, the secondary-education recipient, will represent the district later this year in the Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year competition, where the top two finishers countywide will advance to the state Teacher of the Year program.
"Joyce Rooks and Rachael Byron are exemplars of this commitment to ensuring that all our children receive an excellent education that meets their individual needs," district superintendent Mary Shelton said in a follow-up statement. "I applaud both of these teachers for the difference that they have made in the lives of hundreds of our students."
A 26-year San Ramon Valley resident, Rooks has worked at elementary and high schools in the district.
She has taught kindergarten, first, second and fourth grades at Creekside and San Ramon's Coyote Creek Elementary, as well as served as a computer applications and graphic arts instructor at California and Dougherty Valley high schools in San Ramon.
Rooks educates second-graders this year at Creekside, located on Massara Street in Danville, several blocks south of the Camino Tassajara-Blackhawk Drive (east) intersection.
"Joyce's greatest strength is that she cares about her students and their learning at a level that is hard to describe. When one visits her classroom, one can see how hard she works to make her students love learning," Creekside principal Aaron Tarzian said in a statement.
"She is constantly working to meet the individual needs of her students in her awesome reading and writing workshop lessons, her engaging learning activities and technology projects, and the special way that she circulates about her classroom providing just-in-time compliments and support for students," he added. "As a result, in her classroom, students thrive."
Byron began working as an English teacher in 2008 at Dougherty Valley, located on Albion Road off Bollinger Canyon Road in eastern San Ramon. In 2013, she was hired as a teacher on special assignment to serve as a literacy coach, sharing her knowledge and strategies with her peers.
"Without Rachael's dedication, incredible work ethic and intelligent and methodical approach to this project, the DVHS teaching staff would not be as successful as they have been in implementing the new Common Core standards," principal Daniel Hillman said in a statement.
"She is relentless in the pursuit of finding new and creative ways to explain the complexities of the new standards to her colleagues. She possesses a true love for lesson design and prides herself in creating exciting and engaging learning opportunities for others," he added.
Byron told the school board Tuesday she enjoys "serving and supporting my teacher colleagues as they worked hard to make changes to their curriculum to integrate literacy meaningfully across the disciplines."
Of ongoing Common Core implementation, she added, "Unfortunately in recent months, the news cycle seems to be littered with stories about teachers who can't or who won't or who don't. But what I've discovered at Dougherty is the exact opposite. I find myself working every day with a staff who is dedicated and enthusiastic and believes that they can and they will, time and time again, for our students."