EL CERRITO -- Every morning, Corey Mason wakes up to the same routine.

"The moment I open my eyes, I give thanks for having opened my eyes," Mason said. "Every day kind of calls for all I have to give, and I give it and am somehow restored every time. Every day I am kind of astonished and happily bewildered."

It's that kind of effervescence and tireless approach to each new challenge that has made Mason not only a beloved teacher at El Cerrito High School but a radio DJ, event coordinator and community advocate who has touched the lives of thousands since he came to West Contra Costa from San Francisco 18 years ago.

El Cerrito High School Spanish teacher Corey Mason works with students in his innovative Media and Radio Broadcast Career Track Program at El Cerrito High
El Cerrito High School Spanish teacher Corey Mason works with students in his innovative Media and Radio Broadcast Career Track Program at El Cerrito High School in El Cerrito, Calif., on Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. Corey has been a free spirit who embodies what it means to be a multifaceted educator. His Media and Radio Broadcast Career Track Program has been a hit with students for years. (Dan Honda/Bay Area News Group)

Mason, 57, teaches Spanish and radio broadcasting at El Cerrito High School, where he has also served as producer of worldOneradio for the school district's radio station KECG (88.1 and 97.7 FM) since 1995.

In his role at the school, the Long Island-born former Pan Am flight attendant both educates students and engages the community while promoting what he calls "global awareness" through music, culture, nature and technology.

In addition, since 1998 Mason has served as founder and creative director of the free worldOne festival in El Cerrito every July 3-4, which has become the major component of the city's July 4 celebration and brings hundreds of celebrants to Cerrito Vista Park.

"Corey brings the widest variety of diverse groups from reggae to rock to Indian folk dancers," said Dyana Bhandari, chairwoman of the Contra Costa County Arts and Culture Commission, which honored him with a 2013 Arts Recognition Award. "He has a vision of what he wants to do, and the passion and charisma to realize it."

El Cerrito High School Spanish teacher Corey Mason works with students in his innovative Media and Radio Broadcast Career Track Program at El Cerrito High
El Cerrito High School Spanish teacher Corey Mason works with students in his innovative Media and Radio Broadcast Career Track Program at El Cerrito High School in El Cerrito, Calif., on Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. Corey has been a free spirit who embodies what it means to be a multifaceted educator. His Media and Radio Broadcast Career Track Program has been a hit with students for years. (Dan Honda/Bay Area News Group)

On a recent morning during his Radio Regional Occupation Program at El Cerrito High, the passion was in full bloom. About 25 students sat rapt while Mason lectured on topics as diverse as mass media and Brazilian dance history, sprinkling his extensive academic vocabulary with contemporary slang. The walls of his classroom are adorned with portraits of figures ranging from John Lennon and Nelson Mandela to Gandhi and Chief Joseph. A few students in the back, assigned to perform some Web research, were caught surfing social media.

"If you're cheesing, you're not reading!" Mason admonished, and the students quickly clicked back to their assignments.

Later, while leading a few students on a live radio broadcast in his cozy studio adjacent to the classroom, Mason dropped helpful aphorisms and encouraged the kids to find their radio voice by sparking fresh topics every few minutes. He schooled the kids on the history of "twerking," tracing its origins to fertility and wedding rituals among indigenous societies, and explained his resemblance to a rooster through a parable about his interactions with a rooster in Hawaii that was presumably provoked by Mason's dangling ponytail and braided goatee.

"Jazz is underneath everything I do," Mason said during a station break. "Improvisational and instinctive."

Born in Long Island to an Italian immigrant mother and Irish/Finnish father ("farmers," he notes), Mason was always looking beyond his neighborhood from the moment he saw airplanes lifting off from JFK Airport, which he watched while working aboard charter fishing boats as a kid.

Airplanes, in fact, were his first ticket to the world. After studying abroad in Spain for a year, he worked for Pan Am, and chose to be based in Hawaii.

In a world that often focuses on differences, Mason says his overarching goal is to bring people of all nations together, and music is the best way he knows to do that.

As creator of worldOneradio, which he calls a global-meta-pop-jazz-love-folklore-fusion program, Mason says he wants to "celebrate life and question what it is to be human."

El Cerrito High School Spanish teacher Corey Mason works with students in his innovative Media and Radio Broadcast Career Track Program at El Cerrito High
El Cerrito High School Spanish teacher Corey Mason works with students in his innovative Media and Radio Broadcast Career Track Program at El Cerrito High School in El Cerrito, Calif., on Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. Corey has been a free spirit who embodies what it means to be a multifaceted educator. His Media and Radio Broadcast Career Track Program has been a hit with students for years. (Dan Honda/Bay Area News Group)

As Monet Boyd, one of Mason's students, wrote in an issue of RichmondPulse.org youth magazine last year, "For many students at El Cerrito High, Mr. Mason is one of the best men in the world, one who seems to know about almost everything. He tries his best to make his students think about the long run, and to understand that what they do now will affect their future."

Mason described programming at worldOneradio as "multicultural music, arts and information intended to uplift, inspire and inform our community."

Mason has been teaching courses in Radio ROP and Spanish at El Cerrito High School for more than a decade, bringing practical training together with arts and cultural education.

The El Cerrito resident focuses a large portion of the radio station's programming on local residents, artists and community groups. The annual Fourth of July event is a culmination of his efforts.

"Like a lot of people, I heard all about Corey long before I met him," Bhandari said. "He is beloved in the community."

After a life of globe-spanning adventures, Mason has found his calling in El Cerrito.

"Education is the opportunity to reach and teach and engage in the community," Mason said. "I love the energy of the young people. Their enthusiasm, hope and aspirations, the boundless energy, is something that sustains me."

Contact Robert Rogers at 510-262-2726 or rrogers@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/SFBaynewsrogers.

NAME: corey mason
AGE: 57
HOMETOWN: El Cerrito
CLAIM TO FAME: Teacher, radio DJ
QUOTE: "I love the energy of the young people. Their enthusiasm, hope and aspirations, the boundless energy, is something that sustains me."
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