DIABLO -- Three teachers who believe it's important to tailor their lessons to reach each and every student will be honored Thursday at the 22nd annual Warren W. Eukel Teacher Trust awards dinner.

Acalanes High English teacher Natalie Moore, Hanna Ranch Elementary teacher Sarah Creeley and Kensington Hilltop Elementary teacher Beatrice Lieberman each will receive $10,000 at the Diablo Country Club gala to be spent on anything they want. This year, a selection committee reviewed more than 40 nominations to choose the three winners, said Alan Plutzik, co-president of the nonprofit organization that presents the awards.

"This trust was started 22 years ago to try to recognize teachers and express the gratitude of the community for what they do for our children," Plutzik said. "Teachers are not the highest earners in society, and sometimes it's just helpful to say thank you.''

Moore, who is the first Acalanes High teacher to receive a trust award, has taught for 14 years and is in her seventh year at the high school in Lafayette. The selection committee found her to be an enthusiastic teacher who encourages students to explore their ideas.

"I'm very interested in student curiosity and in helping students kind of discover the curiosity they had as small children," said Moore, 35. "Instead of just Googling everything, I give them time to discuss and ponder and question and take the time to really be a thinker instead of just one who finds answers."


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These concepts are essential to preparing students for college and careers, according to new Common Core standards adopted in California. This year, Moore spends three periods a day coaching other educators in the new standards, helping them to plan lessons that will prompt students to think critically and solve complex problems.

Creeley has taught in Hercules for the past 16 years. The third-grade teacher deeply involves herself in her school, as well as in her community. She values every student and incorporates their ideas and interests into her lessons, the committee found.

One example of Creeley's community involvement is a free "Wild About Writing Club" drop-in class for students in kindergarten through sixth grade that she volunteers to teach Saturday afternoons at the Hercules library. She said her early experiences teaching special education, along with personal experiences in her family, have helped her to recognize that each child brings something wonderful to the world.

"I just try to let everybody know that they are special to me and that their best interest is my purpose, no matter how difficult they can be sometimes," said Creeley, 56. "I want everyone to succeed. I feel very strongly about that."

Lieberman's teaching career has spanned 45 years at various grade levels and subject areas, in both low-income and wealthier areas. She has spent the past 25 years in the West Contra Costa school district and currently teaches kindergarten.

Lieberman says it's essential for teachers to connect with students as individuals and to resist one-size-fits all lessons.

"You want to get kids to want to learn," said Lieberman, 61. "A lot of the trend has been to pour explicit bits of knowledge into kids' heads with a standardized curriculum. What you really need to do is excite kids about life and reading and writing."

The trust was formed in 1991 to honor the memory of Warren Eukel, a Walnut Creek resident who worked for more than 30 years to help teachers positively influence students. It is a community-based nonprofit organization that collects donations to reward teachers who are nominated each year for their excellence and commitment to students.

Moore, who was nominated by her students, said she is humbled and grateful to receive the award.

"There are a lot of teachers I know who deserve recognition like this," she said. "I know how hard we work, and I want to represent that for teachers."

If you go
WHAT: Warren W. Eukel Teacher Trust's 22nd Anniversary Gala Awards Dinner
WHEN: 5:30 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: Diablo Country Club, 1700 Club House Road, Diablo
COST: $175 per person or $1,750 for a table of 10 (a portion is tax-deductible)
INFO: 925-945-0200 or www.eukelteachertrust.org