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Danville teacher finishes outside county's top two Teachers of the Year

Creekside's Rooks just misses out on spot in state competition

Contra Costa County selected its Teachers of the Year on Thursday, with San Ramon Valley finalist Joyce Rooks not among the two educators picked to represent the county at the state competition.

Rooks, a second-grade teacher at Danville's Creekside Elementary School, was among four finalists vying to become the county's two Teachers of the Year.

The awards went to a middle school teacher from Pleasant Hill and a second-grade teacher from Oakley when the Contra Costa County Office of Education announced the winners at a banquet in Concord on Thursday night.

"The process of participating in the Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year program was somewhat challenging, but positively impacted my teaching practice," Rooks said by email over the weekend.

"The application required me to dig deep into my motivation and beliefs about education, teaching philosophy, educational history, thoughts on the teaching profession and views on student assessment," added Rooks, who is in her 15th year of teaching.

Shauna Hawes, computer applications/technology teacher at Valley View Middle School in Pleasant Hill, and Gina Minder-Maldonado, a second-grade teacher at Oakley Elementary School, were chosen as the county's top teachers and now move on to the state Teacher of the Year competition.

Summer Rodriguez, an English teacher at Liberty High School in Brentwood, was the other county finalist to finish outside the Top 2. The selection process included written essays, interviews, classroom observations and speeches.

Rooks said she congratulated her three fellow finalists and looked forward to cheering on Minder-Maldonado and Hawes during the state competition.

"Listening to the finalist's speeches provided inspiration to me and all in attendance," she said. "The students in Contra Costa County are so fortunate to have so many dedicated teacher 'champions' in their midst."

The four finalists, along with the 17 other Teachers of the Year from local school districts across the county, were honored during an evening reception at the Hilton Concord Hotel on Thursday.

Rachael Byron, a Dougherty Valley High School English teacher and literacy coach for her peers, was the San Ramon Valley Unified School District's other Teacher of the Year for 2016.

"We are fortunate to have such great teachers not only in our district but throughout our region as recognized through the Contra Costa County Office of Education's Teacher of the Year program," SRVUSD superintendent Rick Schmitt said. "Both Rachael Byron and Joyce Rooks are exemplars of the great teaching taking place in the San Ramon Valley. I congratulate all of the teachers and thank them for their dedication to our youth."

Rooks praised Thursday evening's ceremony, saying, "Being a member of a host of Teachers of the Year was a surreal experience. Listening to each TOY be introduced at the awards dinner and hearing a bit about their teaching made one thing very clear -- there are many 'champions' among us."

Rooks 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. She's worked the past six years at Creekside.

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