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SRVUSD selects Giotta, Ware as Teachers of the Year

Gale Ranch, John Baldwin educators advancing to countywide competition

The San Ramon Valley school board Tuesday honored the district's 2017 Teachers of the Year: Kelly Giotta, sixth-grade core teacher at San Ramon's Gale Ranch Middle School, and Marissa Ware, second-grade teacher at Danville's John Baldwin Elementary and a district literacy coach.

Ware, a district teacher since 2000, and fifth-year Gale Ranch educator Giotta now advance as the San Ramon Valley Unified School District (SRVUSD) representatives in the county's Teacher of the Year competition later this year.

"When people tell me that they moved to the San Ramon Valley for our schools, they really mean they moved here for the staff members who make our schools such special places. Both Kelly and Marissa represent the best of the best, and we are so fortunate to have such excellent teachers working with our students," superintendent Rick Schmitt said in a statement congratulating the pair.

Colleagues, family members, friends and supporters of Giotta and Ware attended the Teachers of the Year presentation at the beginning of the regular school board meeting Tuesday night at the district administrative complex in Danville.

Ware, who attended John Baldwin as a student, started teaching at her childhood campus from 2000-02. She moved to San Ramon's Coyote Creek Elementary from 2002-10 and then returned for a second stint at John Baldwin in 2010.

District officials praised Ware for creating an engaging second-grade classroom environment where her students can participate in hands-on learning through cross-curricular lessons. And as a literacy teacher on special assignment in the district, she helps facilities professional development among her peers to support student growth.

"The staff of John Baldwin couldn't be more proud of Marissa," principal Joe Romagna said in a statement. "As a teacher and literacy coach Marissa exemplifies our school's educational philosophy: teaching to the whole child and instilling a love and joy of learning."

"Her classroom lessons are filled with imagination, inquiry and wonder," he added. "Marissa has taken her role as a literacy teacher on special assignment to heart. I think she has true talent and future in coaching. Many staff members have told me how appreciative they are for Marissa's mentoring and the tools and strategies that she has shared."

John Baldwin is located at 741 Brookside Drive, off Sycamore Valley Road in central Danville.

Giotta has worked at Gale Ranch since 2012, where she's taught various subjects, including core and Spanish.

District officials praised her as a champion for a variety of programs, including the Magnet English Learners program, the Columbia Reading and Writer's teaching strategies, culturally responsive teaching and learning, the geography bee and school's drama program.

"Kelly's classroom is every principal's dream -- engaging, rigorous, inclusive, safe. It's where I send teachers to learn and bring visitors to observe," principal Sue Goldman said in a statement. "She embodies the essence of Gale Ranch Middle School."

Located at 6400 Main Branch Road off Bollinger Canyon Road in eastern San Ramon, Gale Ranch is one of two middle schools in the Dougherty Valley.

It's the second time in three years that a Gale Ranch teacher has been named a district Teacher of the Year, following English language development instructor and program coordinator Georgeann Kurtz's selection in 2015.

Ware, the district's elementary-level winner, and Giotta, the secondary-education recipient, will represent the district later this year in the Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year competition.

The list of standout teachers from districts across the county will be whittled down to four finalists, and from there, the top two finishers will advance to the state Teacher of the Year program. SRVUSD has had a county finalist nearly every year since the 2006 contest -- 2015 was the exception.

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