For almost 40 years, the Ed Fund has recognized the district’s best teachers through the Teaching Excellence Awards. These educators exemplify putting students at the center of the educational experience. After the return to in-person learning in 2021, teachers have had a challenging year trying to help students cope with and recover from the pandemic. In this unprecedented time for public education, it is more important than ever for us to celebrate the teachers within the West Contra Costa Unified School District.

The Ed Fund has recognized almost 200 educators through the Teaching Excellence Awards and awarded scholarships to over 660 students. Join us in celebrating our 36th cohort of Teaching Excellence Awardees and 2024 Scholarship recipients! We formally invite you to attend our Annual Soaring to Excellence Celebration on Friday, May 31st, 2024, from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm at the Richmond Country Club (1 Markovich Lane, Richmond, CA. 94806).

This celebration is a time for us to come together and recognize the incredible achievements and contributions of our teachers and students as we continue our mission to support the West Contra Costa community. If you’re able to attend, tickets can be purchased through our event page.

If attending isn’t possible, we kindly ask you to consider making a donation to support our ongoing initiatives. Every contribution, no matter how big or small, enables us to continue the wonderful work we do.

2023 Teaching Excellence Award winners

We are excited to present our 35th cohort of Teaching Excellence Award winners! To select our 2023 teachers, we focused our attention on how teachers focused on social-emotional learning and how they placed the experiences of marginalized students at the forefront of their instruction.

We received teacher nominations from community members across the district and after teacher interviews, the Ed Fund, in collaboration with WCCUSD, chose the following four teachers.

We honored these teachers (and many more!) during our 40th anniversary celebration on May 25, 2023.

Dorcas Sims, Nystrom Elementary, 5th/6th Grade General Education

Mrs. Sims has over 14 years of teaching experience and has spent the last 4 years at Nystrom Elementary School. She brings a strong sense of the importance of building resiliency in her students. At the core of her teaching is an unwavering belief in her students and what they can achieve. Being a WCCUSD graduate herself, she knows the importance of being surrounded by adults that believe you can succeed.

Nystrom felt like home for her in 2012 when she first joined as a site sub. She stepped into her current role during a difficult time for her students and learned how to build trust with them and form a classroom.  Mrs. Sims’ path has been filled with obstacles to being a full-time teacher, but this path has formed the educator she is and has shown her that at the core of everything that happens in her classroom are relationships. Whether that is being a member of Nystrom’s Instructional Leadership Team or a Student Support Supervisor, these roles helped her work closely with administration and teachers to improve the culture and climate of the school.

Andrew Wilke, Richmond High School, Music Director

Mr. Wilke has over 13 years of teaching experience and has Richmond High School for the past 9 years. A graduate of the WCCUSD, Andrew got his start teaching music his senior year at Pinole Valley High School. Since then, he has seen that a true musician shares their knowledge with others so that music can continue to thrive and grow.  He returned to teach at WCCUSD and has taught at seven different elementary schools, seven classes a day, band/orchestra, in Hercules, Pinole, and Richmond.

In 2012 he was asked to come to Richmond High as an after school music teacher and took on the challenge not knowing what to expect. What he found were students who wanted to do music so badly but they were left in a situation that wasn’t able to provide that to them. There was a system that left their school behind many years before despite the hunger and desire of the students to succeed. He has continued to build the music department at Richmond High and is continually honored to be able to help students find their voice and empower them to use it.

Read a recent highlight of Mr. Wilke’s work in Richmond High in this KQED article.

Maria Dizon, Michelle Obama Elementary School, Grade 4

Mrs. Dizon has taught at Michelle Obama Elementary for the last 24 years. A graduate of the WCCUSD, she had attended Hercules Elementary (Lupine Hills), Pinole Middle, Pinole Valley High during her student days. For Mrs. Dizon, teaching involves connection, belief in a growth mindset, and creativity.

Passionate about STEAM education, Mrs. Dizon is continually looking for programming for her students such as Community Resources for Science, where graduate students, scientists, or engineers from UC Berkeley come to teach the students about Play-Doh circuits or microorganisms. In addition, she has applied for and received the Kids for the Bay program, which funds field trips and hands-on experiments to understand how pollution here on their playground can affect the ocean.

In 2017 and 2019, she was voted to represent Michelle Obama Elementary School at the WCCUSD Annual Employee Recognition celebrations. Her biggest rewards are seeing her former students thrive and hear all about how they have stayed lifelong learners.

Mrs. Dizon will be representing WCCUSD this year at the annual Teacher of the Year Award ceremony. Go Maria!

Patricia Ogura, Hercules Middle/High School, 6-12 Special Education

Ms.Ogura has over 40 years of teaching experience and has been at Hercules Middle/High School for the past 6 years. Over the years, her view of teaching has basically remained unchanged: teach to the interests and strengths of each student, building on their successes. One of the biggest rewards in teaching is witnessing the growth, learning, and development of independence in her students. Prior to teaching special education, she taught music in WCCUSD elementary classrooms.

Her first years were filled with introducing new curriculum into the classroom, such as units on the evolution of African American music, curriculum which helped students with memory deficits and speech delays learn through songs, and teaching a class of students using alternative, augmentative communication devices (AAC). Inspired by these students, she continues to study assistive technology in order to be a better teacher for them.

Since going into special education in 2003, another area of immense gratification has been being able to assist the parents of her students in learning to navigate the ins and outs of special education laws and education system, teaching them how to advocate for their students.

Ms. Ogura will be representing WCCUSD this year at the annual Teacher of the Year Award ceremony. Go Patricia!

Thank you to all our awardees and finalists for inviting us in their classrooms! A special thank you to all of our finalists: Michael Messina-Godfey (Korematsu Middle School), Susan German-Zec (Peres K-8), Gina Figone (Murphy Elementary School), and Will Heyward (Pinole Valley High School).