CONCORD -- Rona Zollinger, who founded the environmental studies academy at Vicente Martinez High, has been named Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year.
She was selected Thursday from among three finalists and 21 district teachers of the year to represent the county in the statewide Teacher of the Year competition.
"I want to thank my students because they are my family in Martinez," Zollinger said, after she and two other finalists gave speeches at an awards dinner hosted by the county Office of Education. "They are the spirit of what I try to do in the world and I absolutely believe that we as a community can transform the way we live, the way we treat each other and the way we treat the earth. And I'm
Zollinger said her students taught her about transformation when they decided to help each other become "socially empowered agents of change." Finalists Mona Keeler of Iron Horse Middle School in San Ramon and Terryl Miller of Los Perales Elementary in Moraga said they have also learned from their students.
Miller, who teaches kindergarten, said she celebrates each day with her "kinder friends," who approach new lessons with awe and wonder.
"My young students are a joy to teach," she said enthusiastically. "They are very curious and they delight in a variety of experiences."
Keeler said she has learned that her actions influence her students.
County Superintendent Joe Ovick congratulated all the district teachers of the year, expressing gratitude for their service.
"I feel so proud of being a colleague of such outstanding teachers," he said. "Any one of these three finalists would make an outstanding teacher of the year."
Zollinger said her students are the reason she comes to school every day.
She then got a knowing laugh by adding: "They're also the reason I want to go home."
For a complete list of district Teacher of the Year representatives, visit www.contracostatimes.com/education.
More information about the awards program is available by calling 925-942-3429 or by visiting www.cccoe.k12.ca.us. Click on "Communications," then "News Releases."
For additional details, including links to video clips of the finalists' speeches, visit the On Assignment blog at www.ibabuzz.com/onassignment.