There was a bumper crop for this year's Mary Allan Fellows awards.
Organized by the Antioch Schools Education Foundation, the awards are geared to put exceptional teachers center stage.
The award is named for Allan, who retired after 20 years teaching at Bidwell and Jack London elementary schools in Antioch. In 2001, she received the California Teacher of the Year award.
In spring, foundation members visited the Antioch district nominees to see them in action.
Taking the big prize was Stacey Wickware from Dozier-Libbey Medical High. Wickware is also the district's Teacher of the Year.
Other winners are Marlein Jeans, Jack London elementary; Maria McClain, Deer Valley High; Heather Owens-Werkheiser, Grant elementary; and Will Whitney, Antioch High
The finalists were Renata Elmore, Antioch Middle; Christina MacAlvey, Turner Elementary; Sheila Spaulding, Belshaw Elementary; and Juanetta White, Lone Tree Elementary.
Rounding out the impressive list are nominees Jeri Brown, Lone Tree Elementary; Julie Culllimore, Bidwell High; Will McKelvey, Antioch Middle; Melissa Raymundo, Marsh Elementary; Sarah Steen, Dozier Libbey; Sherie Wenzel, Antioch Middle; and Robert Young, Dozier Libbey.
This year, the foundation chose more winners than average. "We increased the number of (fellows) this year to be our highest ever," said Martha Goralka, foundation president. "My hope is that we can improve our fundraising
Goralka said she's had the opportunity to watch Wickware in action. "What a phenomenal teacher."
During the visit, Goralka observed how the teacher orchestrated a discussion with students about the influences that led to war in Afghanistan. "(There were) teams of students discussing in-depth areas they had been assigned."
In addition, some students nurtured "babies," a biology class assignment. "So some students were changing 'diapers' or cuddling the dolls to comfort their crying -- all during this serious discussion.
"I can't even envision teaching a regular class, much less this high-level discussion with crying dolls in the background. I was impressed with the readings and curriculum."
The winners receive monetary awards for their class and personal use. An awards dinner for all will be held Sept. 18 at the Lone Tree Golf center.
Goralka and the foundation's hope is that more people -- not just board members -- visit Antioch classrooms.
"What our teachers do every day at every grade level is amazing. Our schools make me."
She said the foundation is working on a five-year effort "to improve our financial support of AUSD."
For more info and how to help, visit www.asef.us
SUMMER STUDIES: Paul Brown is going to summer school -- on purpose (or, is that with purpose?)
The teacher from Oakley's O'Hara Park Middle will join 184 others for a Space Academy program at Alabama's U.S. Space & Rocket Center this month.
It's all part of the Honeywell Educators event, which has handed out 185 scholarships to instructors from 19 countries and 37 states to attend its simulated astronaut training and professional development program.
The Brentwood resident hopes his experience at camp will help him motivate more students to study science.
According to a news release, Brown will participate in "45 hours of professional development, as well as an intensive educator curriculum focused on space science and exploration."
Each teacher will also undergo simulated astronaut training, including a high-performance jet simulation, a scenario-based space mission, land and water survival training, and interactive flight dynamics programs.
The Honeywell program focuses on trends in science, technology, engineering and math for teachers to pass on to their eighth graders.
CAPITOL IDEA: Elected officials recently joined Comcast to celebrate education at the state capitol.
Tiffany Zhou of Brentwood's Heritage and Stephen Rodriguez of Oakley's Freedom were among the 180 California high school seniors who won the 2012 Comcast Leaders and Achievers scholarship. Each student received $1,000.
On board were Tom Torlakson, a former Antioch High teacher and now state superintendent of public instruction, along with many state senators and assembly members.
According to the news release, the Comcast program recognizes high school seniors for their "leadership skills, positive attitude, academic achievement and various community service activities." Since 2001, the program has awarded more than $17 million in college aid to more than 17,000 high school seniors. For more info, visit www.comcast.com/inthecommunity.