SERVING THEIR COUNTRY: "As students in high school graduate and launch into the adult world, there are a variety of paths they take," said Erik Faulkner, principal at Oakley's Freedom High. "Some will go off to (college) or enter the work force. However, a handful will make a sacrifice of service to their country by joining a branch of the military."

This year, 20 graduating seniors have committed "to their country as members of the armed forces." They are: Jaeger Brooks, Cristian DelPrado, Adrian Mills, Wyatt Orman and Joseph Staricco in the Marine Corps; Collin Barnes, Miranda Bell, Zachary Castelluccio, Glenn Lafleur, Sydney Lane, Edlyn Maldonado, Carli Olson, Miguel Salguero and Nicole Matthews in the Army; and Courtney Davis-Miraglia, Danielle Fender, Teanna Goodman, Dino Samot Ignacio, Brandon McDaniel and Cameron Ott-Bales in the Navy. These students were recognized in an assembly with the entire student body in the audience in May, and also during a military recruit luncheon.

In a similar celebratory vein was the school's annual Letter of Intent rally, which honors seniors moving on to college.

"The event went great," said Steve Amaro, Freedom's athletic director. "This is the only school rally (where) all students get to attend at the same time, and it's an amazing sight to see all of our students support our seniors."

Last year, the school showcased the 121 participants. This year, 154 students were celebrated. Also, 254 students, who completed the "A-G" college entrance requirements, were acknowledged. (Last year, 218 made that cut.)

Amaro said the students were positive and excited about the event, which featured speeches from Teacher of the Year Michael Kleiman, school board members and Freedom alumni.

Some of the campuses the seniors are headed to include Cal State East Bay, Cal State Sonoma, Sacramento State, San Francisco State, University of Nevada, UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara, Fresno State, Cal State Monterey Bay and Chico State.

THEY'RE JOLLY GOOD FELLOWS: Five Antioch school district teachers were recently named winners of the annual Mary Allan Fellows awards.

The list includes Lisa Culcasi, Sutter Elementary; Tracey Davis-Watkins, Black Diamond Middle; Wes Standen, Deer Valley High; and Shelly Werner, Marsh Elementary. As the Antioch Unified School District's Teacher of the Year, Kevin Jones also receives a Fellows award.

Finalists were Kevin Christensen, Antioch Middle; Miryt Furiosi, Sutter Elementary; Terri Hamilton, London Elementary; Rebecca Martin, Dallas Ranch Middle; and Pam Stawicki, Antioch High.

Nominees were Jennifer Carrigan, London Elementary; Pearl DeCew, Antioch Middle; Anita Deepak, Antioch High; Kristina Fox, Orchard Park; Meagan Gargiulo, Turner Elementary; Kristine Koepke, Sutter Elementary; and Nick Wisely, Antioch High.

This prestigious award is given by the Antioch Schools Education Foundation.

Mary Allan (the 2001 California teacher of the year and former AUSD teacher) said she and foundation board members were "very impressed with the quality of teaching we observed and the teachers' commitment to their students and the profession."

"We witnessed exceptional group work -- students interacting with each other to solve problems; teachers engaging students with higher-level thinking questions; lessons integrating a variety of learning modalities and cross-subject material; students making connections between what they were doing and real-life students using the content language while articulating their ideas.

"Simply stated, these teachers beautifully represent the fine quality of teaching that is happening throughout the district. (And,) in many cases the life commitment -- on the part of the teachers -- to improving the lives of the students in their care, involving mega hours of work beyond the classroom. It was simply heartwarming and humbling."

Fellows winners each receive $1,000 for professional use in the classroom and $250 for personal use. The awards dinner event will be Sept. 16 at Lone Tree Golf Course and Event Center, where it will "celebrate the hard work/dedication of teachers throughout the district."

Tickets to attend the awards dinner are $1,000 for a corporate sponsor table for six; $750 for a friend of education table for four; $500 for a patron table for two; and $45 for individual tickets. For more information, email martha@goralka.com.

Contact Trine Gallegos at trineg@att.net.