For more than 30 years, Ed Fund West has recognized the county’s best teachers through the Teaching Excellence Awards. These educators exemplify putting students at the center of the educational experience. With the shift to distance learning due to COVID-19, the challenges to giving our students the best educational experience have made it more necessary to support and acknowledge the work our teachers do in West Contra Costa Unified School District.
2021 Teaching Excellence Award winners
We are excited to announce our 38th cohort of Teaching Excellence Award winners! To select this year’s teachers, we focused our attention on how teachers addressed the COVID-19 pandemic, the social unrest many of our students are experiencing, and how they created inclusive classroom environments online.
We received teacher nominations from across the district and after classroom “visits” and teacher interviews, the Ed Fund, in collaboration with WCCUSD, chose the following four teachers:
Laura Garriguez, Richmond High School, 9-12 Spanish
Ms. Garriguez has over 8 years of teaching experience and has spent the last 7 years at Richmond High School. She brings a strong sense of collaboration with her teacher colleagues and students. At the core of her teaching is a strong foundation that fosters love and trust with her students and amongst the students as well. As a newcomer teacher, she uses her content to teach topics of social justice, resiliency, and Socio-emotional development.
In her classroom, she often incorporates Restorative Justice Circle Keeping and activities that promote engagement, community and collaboration. Ms. Garriguez’s classes dive into topics that help newcomer, immigrant and refugee students share and explore their experiences in the U.S. Her content does not shy away from conversations around racism, anti-blackness, and gender roles, issues that affect her students’ communities.
Molly Wahl, Madera Elementary School, 6th grade Reading, Writing, Integrated Social Studies, Home Room
Ms. Wahl has over 10 years of teaching experience and has been at Madera Elementary for the past year. She believes that the key to being an effective teacher is to truly see her students and prioritize love. Her classes stress the importance of social emotional learning, while motivating students to excel academically.
In her classroom, her students have the opportunity to share ideas and learn from one another. These relationships and conversations she is a part of help her believe that the future will be better than the present. In midst of all the social unrest, her students show her that this generation cares deeply about the many different causes and issues that impact their lives.
Christina Ferry, DeJean Lovonya Middle School, 7-8 ELD
Ms. Ferry has been at DeJean Middle School for the past 6 years. During that time, she has come to the understanding that the way to work for the best interest of the student is by working in community. She counts on the support of her colleagues and other adults to meet the differing needs of students–both inside her classroom and throughout the school.
In the classroom, she seeks to build a culture of trust with her students where they can open up and be their full selves. This involves working with onsite therapists in weekly community circles to ensure students have a strong support system and dedicating the time necessary to address how to best assist a struggling student. She has been a part of a team of fellow teachers and staff who brainstorm together, create solutions and trust positive intent to do the best for their students.
Ms. Ferry will be representing WCCUSD this year at the annual Teacher Of the Year Award ceremony. Go Christina!
Carlo Juntilla, Richmond High School, AP United States History (11th grade), United States History (11th grade), Government/Economics (12th Grade)
Mr. Juntilla has been at Richmond High School for the past 3 years. In just three years, he has worked towards creating an inclusive learning environment where students feel heard and challenged. His teaching style is informed by a culturally responsive pedagogy that celebrates the differences of students and makes meaningful connections between what students learn in school and their cultures, languages, and life experiences.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted traditional forms of education, but he has taken this as an opportunity to explore ways to support students and their families to use their voices. Understanding the stress his students are under during the current circumstances, he makes himself available to his students after class and incorporates current events into his economics lessons. Throughout this unprecedented year, his students continue to show their potential and he is honored to be a part of their journey.
Mr. Juntilla will be representing WCCUSD this year at the annual Teacher Of the Year Award ceremony. Go Carlo!
Congratulations to our other 4 finalists–thank you for inviting us into your classrooms!
(left to right: Cora Blain, Sarah Coles, Joseph Lim, and Key-aira Jones)