In the Classroom – Martinez Tribune https://martineztribune.com The website of the Martinez Tribune. Fri, 28 Apr 2017 17:27:54 -0700 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3 Julie Quinn named Martinez’ Teacher of the Year https://martineztribune.com/2017/04/28/julie-quinn-named-martinez-teacher-of-the-year/ Fri, 28 Apr 2017 17:27:54 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=7194 MARTINEZ, Calif. – This past Tuesday, April 25, Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata visited Julie Quinn’s classroom at Las Juntas Elementary School. Quinn, a 34-year instructor, was recently named Martinez School District’s Teacher of the Year (TOY). For the past 17 years, Quinn has been a special education …

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From left: Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata, Las Juntas teacher Julie Quinn, Las Juntas Principal Crystal Castaneda, and Martinez Unified School District Superintendent CJ Cammack. Quinn was recently named the District’s Teacher of the Year and will be honored during a special dinner celebration in the fall. (TERRY KOEHNE, CCCOE / Courtesy)
From left: Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata, Las Juntas teacher Julie Quinn, Las Juntas Principal Crystal Castaneda, and Martinez Unified School District Superintendent CJ Cammack. Quinn was recently named the District’s Teacher of the Year and will be honored during a special dinner celebration in the fall. (TERRY KOEHNE, CCCOE / Courtesy)

MARTINEZ, Calif. – This past Tuesday, April 25, Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata visited Julie Quinn’s classroom at Las Juntas Elementary School. Quinn, a 34-year instructor, was recently named Martinez School District’s Teacher of the Year (TOY). For the past 17 years, Quinn has been a special education resource teacher at Las Juntas. Prior to her current position, Quinn has taught for the Antioch Unified School District, John Swett Unified School District, Walnut Creek Unified School District, Contra Costa County Office of Education, and San Francisco State University.

“My mother says I returned home from my first day of kindergarten complaining that we hadn’t learned to read that day,” remembers Quinn. “Despite this setback, at the end of that first week, I announced I was going to be a teacher when I grew up.” After earning her college undergraduate and graduate degrees, along with two special education credentials, she was soon hired as a resource specialist. “I knew right away this was my calling.”

“I love the many challenges of this position: teaching all the different ages, learning curriculum for each grade, working in the classroom and in small groups, assisting teachers, and working with families – year after year,” adds Quinn. “I love assessing students to help them discover how they best learn, and teaching them how to advocate for themselves (politely). And I especially love working with children in small groups, getting to know them as individuals, discovering their interests and dreams.”

On the evening of Sept. 28, 2017, the 22 Contra Costa County Teachers of the Year, class of 2017-18, including Julie Quinn, will be introduced and honored at the annual Teacher of the Year Dinner Celebration, held at the Concord Hilton. The 22 TOYs will be accompanied by their families, friends, and co-workers. The expected crowd of close to 500 will also include numerous other supporters of the program.

Throughout the school year, Superintendent Sakata makes it a point to visit each incoming TOY in their classrooms, prior to the Dinner Celebration. This is a great way for her to meet the teachers and their students, as well as take in the day’s lesson plan. When individually introducing the TOYs at the Dinner Celebration, Sakata will tell the audience about her visit and will quote one or two of the students’ remarks about their revered teacher.

Currently, there are approximately 8,400 teachers educating more than 176,000 students in Contra Costa County’s public schools. The incoming 22 TOYs represent 17 Contra Costa County school districts, the Contra Costa Community College District, and the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE).

Most of these representatives, those who teach grades K through 12, are eligible to compete in the Contra Costa County TOY competition. The two top teachers in the county TOY program will represent Contra Costa County in the California State TOY Program this coming fall.

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A time travel field trip at Las Juntas https://martineztribune.com/2017/04/07/a-time-travel-field-trip-at-las-juntas/ Fri, 07 Apr 2017 11:00:54 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=6994 Imagine a room of students dressed in American revolutionary period clothing seated around three sides of the room and a talented professional entertainer backed by an array of circa 1700s flags on the fourth side. With the flags are muskets, chests and assorted objects used to make history come alive as the story of the …

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Students in Mrs. Lutz’ 5th grade class at Las Juntas Elementary re-enact scenes from the American Revolution during a program at the school March 28, 2017. (MARTINEZ TRIBUNE / On File)
Students in Mrs. Lutz’ 5th grade class at Las Juntas Elementary re-enact scenes from the American Revolution during a program at the school March 28, 2017. (MARTINEZ TRIBUNE / On File)

Students in period dress during the "Walk Through the American Revolution" program, March 28, 2017, at Las Juntas Elementary School. (MARTINEZ TRIBUNE / On File)
Students in period dress during the “Walk Through the American Revolution” program, March 28, 2017, at Las Juntas Elementary School. (MARTINEZ TRIBUNE / On File)

Imagine a room of students dressed in American revolutionary period clothing seated around three sides of the room and a talented professional entertainer backed by an array of circa 1700s flags on the fourth side.

With the flags are muskets, chests and assorted objects used to make history come alive as the story of the American Revolution unfolds.

Lutz engages the students, joking and asking if they are ready. They seem to have forgotten that interested parents are packed around the perimeter.

Students on each side of the room make up a team of Redcoats, White Tories or Blue Rebels who can earn points for their team with an outstanding performance. The animated storyteller calls upon her costumed characters to describe the documents and demonstrate the passions that led to the birth of the nation. It is dramatic. Sometimes it is funny or sad, but always engaging and educational.

After a re-enactment of the Boston Massacre, it is quiet.

“I am going to say a bad word,” the presenter whispers. “Who knows what the colonists called the English soldiers?” There is a suspenseful silence when no one can guess the right answer. “Lobsterbacks! Lobsters were considered the cockroaches of the sea. They were fed to dogs and cats.”

In the corner of the room, one parent discreetly asks another, “Did you know that?”

Lutz’ students began to prepare three weeks beforehand, becoming “experts” on the historic document assigned to them, gathering clothing and Revolutionary War props to bring, and envisioning the mindset of the factions involved. “By the time the day arrived, they were so excited,” Lutz said.

The day following the presentation, Lutz talked about the experience with her class. “Their information output was incredible … so much more than if we went on a field trip. “They (the students) said, ‘We really had a fun time.’ We’ll do it again.”

Las Juntas Principal Crystal Castaneda was impressed. “The Parent Teacher Association normally pays for the bus for a field trip once a year for all the grades. This year they decided to sponsor this learning experience. It’s like a field trip without going anywhere,” Castaneda said.

The “field trip” was a bonus for students visiting from Las Juntas Elementary School’s sister school in Benxi, China. They became part of American history, March 28, 2017.

According to Melanie Piñon of California Weekly Explorer, Rice Don Oliver and his wife Betty initiated “Walk Through” presentations in the early 1980s as a way for 4th grade California history to become an experience. Eventually, he was invited to give the presentations at various schools. The company, named for Oliver’s original publication, now has 17 professional presenters in California who perform “Walk Through” programs on California History, the American Revolution, and the Ancient World.

Mrs. Lutz’ 5th grade class at Las Juntas Elementary after participating in the “Walk Through the American Revolution” program March 28, 2017. Students also include those from Las Juntas’ sister school in Benxi, China. (MARTINEZ TRIBUNE / On File)
Mrs. Lutz’ 5th grade class at Las Juntas Elementary after participating in the “Walk Through the American Revolution” program March 28, 2017. Students also include those from Las Juntas’ sister school in Benxi, China. (MARTINEZ TRIBUNE / On File)

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Legal professionals needed for Contra Costa County High School Mock Trial https://martineztribune.com/2017/01/20/legal-professionals-needed-for-contra-costa-county-high-school-mock-trial/ Fri, 20 Jan 2017 22:39:42 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=6340 MARTINEZ, Calif. – Bay Area soon-to-be, practicing, and retired law professionals are needed to provide assistance to their future brethren at the upcoming 36th Annual Contra Costa County High School Mock Trial Program, held in the early evenings throughout the month of February, at the Martinez Court Rooms. Last year, 120 Bay Area practicing and retired …

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MARTINEZ, Calif. – Bay Area soon-to-be, practicing, and retired law professionals are needed to provide assistance to their future brethren at the upcoming 36th Annual Contra Costa County High School Mock Trial Program, held in the early evenings throughout the month of February, at the Martinez Court Rooms. Last year, 120 Bay Area practicing and retired attorneys and sworn judges, as well as third-year law students volunteered their time with the Mock Trials.

Coordinated by the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE), Mock Trial is an academic event provided for high school students. The hands-on educational program was created to help students acquire a working knowledge of our judicial system, develop analytical abilities and communication skills, and gain an understanding of their obligations and responsibilities as participating members of our society. This year’s grabbed-from-the-local-and-national-headlines case, the People v. Awbrey, is a trial about human trafficking and false imprisonment. The pretrial issue involves the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, namely protection against illegal search and seizure and against self-incrimination.

“I encourage all my fellow law professionals to join us in serving as Mock Trial judges and attorney scorers,” said Contra Costa County Presiding Judge Jill Fannin. “I have been volunteering with this program for over 15 years. I’m continually impressed with the dedication demonstrated by all the teams that participate in this challenging academic event. Every volunteer will tell you that the professionalism and skill these high school students demonstrate in our courtrooms during Mock Trial, rival those they witnessed earlier in the day with the professionals.”

Teams of high school students work with teachers and volunteer coaches to prepare their version of the criminal case, from both the prosecution and defense perspectives.  Students assume the roles of trial attorneys, pre-trial motion attorneys, witnesses, clerks, bailiffs, artists, and court journalists. Mock Trial judges and attorneys score their performance and provide immediate feedback. Winning teams advance through seven rounds of competition. The county’s champion advances to the State finals. This year, there will be 18 Contra Costa County high school Mock Trial teams competing, including Alhambra High School.

 Volunteers will score two competing schools that argue the case in their assigned court. Each night will begin with a 15-minute rules and regulations training, then the volunteers will go into their scheduled courtrooms to serve as Mock Trial judge and scorers.  The Mock Trials’ scorers are made up of Bay Area deputy district attorneys and deputy public defenders, as well as public-sector, private-practice, and corporate lawyers. In addition, seasoned law students are also welcome to participate. A practicing or retired judge or commissioner will preside over each trial, and also serve as one of the trial’s scorers.

Schedule for 2017 Contra Costa County High School Mock Trials: Preliminaries: Feb. 7, 9, 14, 16, 5-7:30 p.m. (eight competitions each night); Quarterfinals: Feb. 21, 5-7:30 p.m. (four competitions); Semifinals: Feb. 23, 5-7:30 p.m. (two competitions); Final and Consolation: Feb. 28, 5-7:30 p.m. (two competitions).

Mock Trial will be headquartered at the A.F. Bray Courthouse, 1020 Ward St., Martinez. Interested volunteers can learn more by visiting www.cocoschools.org or contacting Jonathan Lance at (925) 942-3429.

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Martinez students make Dean’s List at university https://martineztribune.com/2017/01/20/martinez-students-make-deans-list-at-university/ Fri, 20 Jan 2017 20:51:07 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=6347 Yosuke Miki and Tayler Hopkins, both of Martinez, have been named to the Dean’s List at their respective colleges. Miki attends State University of New York (SUNY) at Oneonta. To qualify for the SUNY Dean’s List, Miki had to earn a grade-point average of 3.5 or higher while carrying a course load of 12 hours …

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Yosuke Miki and Tayler Hopkins, both of Martinez, have been named to the Dean’s List at their respective colleges.

Miki attends State University of New York (SUNY) at Oneonta. To qualify for the SUNY Dean’s List, Miki had to earn a grade-point average of 3.5 or higher while carrying a course load of 12 hours or more.

Hopkins is attending Azusa Pacific University (APU), majoring in Criminal Justice. Hopkins served with Mexico Outreach during the fall semester, visiting Mexicali orphanages, women’s shelters, prisons, schools and churches as part of a gospel-centered outreach program with APU. In order to make the Dean’s List at this university, Hopkins also had to maintain a 3.5 GPA and complete at least 12 units, and be registered for a four-year degree.

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Martinez Arts Association awards $2,000 to local schools https://martineztribune.com/2016/12/30/martinez-arts-association-awards-2000-to-local-schools/ Fri, 30 Dec 2016 09:00:11 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=6192 MARTINEZ, Calif. – The Martinez Arts Association (MAA) recently awarded approximately $2,000 in grants to 12 local teachers to fund art projects in their classrooms. Teachers requested funds to support projects such as murals, tiles, and even butcher paper for “mummification” of students. Students will get supplies for Digital Arts, as well as drawing boards, …

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Kindergartners at Morello Park Elementary School (Clara Wojcik in front left) with their teacher, Janine Reed, one of this year’s recipients of the grants. (MARTINEZ ARTS ASSOCIATION / Courtesy)
Kindergartners at Morello Park Elementary School (Clara Wojcik in front left) with their teacher, Janine Reed, one of this year’s recipients of the grants. (MARTINEZ ARTS ASSOCIATION / Courtesy)

MARTINEZ, Calif. – The Martinez Arts Association (MAA) recently awarded approximately $2,000 in grants to 12 local teachers to fund art projects in their classrooms.

Teachers requested funds to support projects such as murals, tiles, and even butcher paper for “mummification” of students. Students will get supplies for Digital Arts, as well as drawing boards, sketchpads, easels, paint, and videos.

MAA donates 15 percent of its sales from the Gallery toward these grants, and this year funds were supplemented by Shell Martinez Refinery. Supporting art in the schools is a primary mission of the Arts Association. The grants support teachers and help students benefit with enhanced classroom activities.

For more information about MAA, visit www.martinezarts.org.

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Students compete in Contra Costa Model UN https://martineztribune.com/2016/11/11/students-compete-in-contra-costa-model-un/ https://martineztribune.com/2016/11/11/students-compete-in-contra-costa-model-un/#comments Fri, 11 Nov 2016 09:01:39 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=5780 Instead of taking part in their schools’ football games, dances, and other fun weekend activities, 225 Bay Area high school students buckled down this past Friday afternoon and evening, as well as all day Saturday to discuss and provide workable solutions to many of our world’s biggest challenges, at the 26th annual Contra Costa County …

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The Model UN Closing Ceremony. (JONATHAN LANCE / CCCOE)
The Model UN Closing Ceremony. (JONATHAN LANCE / CCCOE)

Instead of taking part in their schools’ football games, dances, and other fun weekend activities, 225 Bay Area high school students buckled down this past Friday afternoon and evening, as well as all day Saturday to discuss and provide workable solutions to many of our world’s biggest challenges, at the 26th annual Contra Costa County Model United Nations (UN) Conference, held at Diablo Valley College.

This academic event is produced and directed by the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) and coordinated by Kevin Felix Chan, of Best Delegate, along with members of the Model United Nations Club at U.C. Davis. The two-day event enhances high school students’ understanding of the United Nations and its role in global issues. Participating students (delegates) each represent a nation and negotiate on that country’s behalf.

During the conference, delegates debated international issues in 10 committees, including Disarmament and International Security Committee (DISEC), Security Council (UNSC), United Nations Women (UN Women), and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Topics discussed included Eradicating Child Labor, The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Cybersecurity, The Political Participation of Women, and Reducing Global Food Waste.

Security Council committee meeting at Model UN. (JONATHAN LANCE / CCCOE)
Security Council committee meeting at Model UN. (JONATHAN LANCE / CCCOE)

Bay Area high school teams participating in this year’s Contra Costa County Model UN were Acalanes High (Lafayette), Athenian High (Danville), California High (San Ramon), Campolindo High (Moraga), Carondelet High (Concord), De La Salle High (Concord), Deer Valley High (Antioch), Dougherty Valley High (San Ramon), Foothill High (Pleasanton), Lycée de Francais San Francisco (San Francisco), Northgate High (Walnut Creek), Pittsburg High (Pittsburg) and Tilden High (Walnut Creek). Alhambra High School did not participate this year.

This year, Foothill High earned the Best Delegation Award, and Dougherty High was presented with the Outstanding Delegation Award. Numerous individual awards were earned, and will be listed on the Model UN web page in the very near future.

“We are pleased to see so many high school students throughout our county and the Bay Area take advantage of our Model UN program,” said Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata. “Model UN is an excellent opportunity for students to display all the hard work and preparation they have put in, as they successfully discuss, persuade, and work with fellow committee members on real-world problems and complex international relations. The skills they are currently refining with this program will be the same ones they’ll use in college and/or in their future careers.”

This academic event also offers students an opportunity to gain substantive knowledge about the cultures and policies of the countries they represent. They can learn the mechanisms for peaceful resolution of disputes, while at the same time honing their interpersonal skills. They must practice writing and speaking skills in order to persuade delegates from other attending schools.

Kevin Chan reported that the 34 U.C. Davis Model UN Club volunteers who presided over the Committee Meetings were extremely impressed with their younger brothers and sisters who share a tremendous interest in international affairs, especially since many of the high school students were first-year Model UN participants.

Model UN differs from the CCCOE’s Academic Decathlon and Mock Trial academic-event programs, in that it is not so much a competition as it is an event. Participants are commended for outstanding committee work and certificates are awarded to committee rapporteurs. Individual delegate winners are recognized for their debate skills, leadership skills, knowledge of the issues, and presentation of key resolutions. The event concluded Saturday afternoon with a ceremony that recognized the outstanding delegates.

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Teacher of the Year finalists to be honored at upcoming banquet https://martineztribune.com/2016/08/19/teacher-of-the-year-finalists-to-be-honored-at-upcoming-banquet/ Fri, 19 Aug 2016 08:01:39 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=4956 After a rigorous selection process, the four current Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year (TOY) finalists concluded their progression Monday morning, Aug. 15, at the annual Teacher of the Year Speech Presentation. The four finalists were each asked to give a prepared three- to five-minute speech titled: “What have I learned from my students.” …

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Teacher of the Year Finalists (from left): Gina Minder-Maldonado, Oakley Union Elementary School District; Summer Rodriguez, Liberty Union High School District; Shauna Hawes, Mt. Diablo Unified School District; Joyce Rooks, San Ramon Valley Unified School District. (JUNE STEPHENS, CCCOE / Courtesy)
Teacher of the Year Finalists (from left): Gina Minder-Maldonado, Oakley Union Elementary School District; Summer Rodriguez, Liberty Union High School District; Shauna Hawes, Mt. Diablo Unified School District; Joyce Rooks, San Ramon Valley Unified School District. (JUNE STEPHENS, CCCOE / Courtesy)
After a rigorous selection process, the four current Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year (TOY) finalists concluded their progression Monday morning, Aug. 15, at the annual Teacher of the Year Speech Presentation. The four finalists were each asked to give a prepared three- to five-minute speech titled: “What have I learned from my students.” It was clear the 12-person judging panel and audience were very impressed with the four speeches.

This year’s Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year finalists are:

Shauna Hawes. Hawes teaches computer applications/technology to grades 6-8 at Valley View Middle School in Pleasant Hill. The 18-year teacher has been with the Mt. Diablo Unified School District during her entire teaching career. Prior to her current position, Hawes taught 6th grade core (English, history, and reading) at Valley View. Before coming to Valley View, she taught 5th grade (all subjects) at Hidden Valley Elementary in Martinez, from 1998-2007.

Gina Minder-Maldonado. Minder-Maldonado has recently begun her 26th year of teaching. For the past 18 years, Minder-Maldonado has taught at Oakley Elementary School in Oakley. Currently teaching 2nd grade, Minder-Maldonado’s former teaching experience includes preschool through 5th, as well as adult education.

Summer Rodriguez. Last month, Rodriguez had commenced her 17th year as an educator for Liberty High School in Brentwood. Rodriguez has taught all levels of high school English, AP English language and composition, and AP English literature and composition. In addition to her education duties, she has served as director of the school’s student activities through its Student Leadership Program.

Joyce Rooks. Rooks began her career in teaching after serving as a senior programmer analyst/senior systems analyst for Mervyns, as well as an independent computer-training consultant. Rooks has begun her 14th year teaching for the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, where she has served as an instructor for Dougherty Valley High, California High, and Coyote Creek Elementary. She has been teaching first and second grades for the past five years at Creekside Elementary in Danville.

“Along with the tremendous speeches, we were very fortunate to have quite the distinguished judging panel,” reports Contra Costa County Office of Education TOY Coordinator Jonathan Lance. “As the judges exited, they each said how impressed they were with the morning’s offerings!”

Coming up, on the evening of Sept. 22, all 21 TOYs, accompanied by their families, friends, and co-workers (an audience of close to 500) will be honored at the annual Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year Dinner Celebration, held at the Hilton Concord. Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata, who will serve as master of ceremonies, will introduce the TOYs by sharing a special story that reflects her classroom visits of each teacher during the current spring and summer months. This will be followed by the four TOY finalists giving speeches to the filled banquet room. Finally, the night will come to a close with the announcement of the two 2016-2017 Contra Costa County Teachers of the Year.

The two winners of the county TOY program will represent Contra Costa County in the California State TOY Program this coming fall.

At left: The Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year Judging Panel: (back row, from left) G.J.E.L. Accident Attorneys Law Partner Luke Ellis; Chevron USA, Inc., Global Social Investment Manager Steve Woodhead; Chevron USA, Inc., Education & Corporate Programs Advisor Melissa Stone; Contra Costa County Public Defender Robin Lipetzky; Contra Costa County Superior Court Presiding Judge Hon. Steve Austin; retired Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge and current Law Partner of O’Connor, Runckel, O’Malley Hon. Dan O’Malley; Contra Costa County Assistant Sheriff Matthew Schuler; (seated, from left) Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Hon. Jill Fannin; Contra Costa Community College District Chancellor Dr. Helen Benjamin; 2017 Contra Costa Community College Teacher of the Year Professor Aminta Mickles; 2013 Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year Dr. Rona Zollinger; Contra Costa County Senior Deputy District Attorney Mary Knox; and Contra Costa County Fire Protection District Fire Chief Jeff Carman. (JUNE STEPHENS, CCCOE / Courtesy)
At left: The Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year Judging Panel: (back row, from left) G.J.E.L. Accident Attorneys Law Partner Luke Ellis; Chevron USA, Inc., Global Social Investment Manager Steve Woodhead; Chevron USA, Inc., Education & Corporate Programs Advisor Melissa Stone; Contra Costa County Public Defender Robin Lipetzky; Contra Costa County Superior Court Presiding Judge Hon. Steve Austin; retired Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge and current Law Partner of O’Connor, Runckel, O’Malley Hon. Dan O’Malley; Contra Costa County Assistant Sheriff Matthew Schuler; (seated, from left) Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Hon. Jill Fannin; Contra Costa Community College District Chancellor Dr. Helen Benjamin; 2017 Contra Costa Community College Teacher of the Year Professor Aminta Mickles; 2013 Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year Dr. Rona Zollinger; Contra Costa County Senior Deputy District Attorney Mary Knox; and Contra Costa County Fire Protection District Fire Chief Jeff Carman.
(JUNE STEPHENS, CCCOE / Courtesy)

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New innovative preschool puts years of theorum to practice https://martineztribune.com/2016/08/05/new-innovative-preschool-puts-years-of-theorum-to-practice/ Fri, 05 Aug 2016 08:01:56 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=4815 By E. CLARK Martinez Tribune There’s a new preschool in town, but it’s not your typical print-rich, rainbow festooned, “plop your kids down while you work” setup. In fact, there’s nary a Barbie or Tonka Truck in sight. No, the new Center of Gravity early education school on the Martinez-Pleasant Hill border is an entirely …

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From left: Center of Gravity preschool lead teacher Demetria Williams, executive director Michelle Grant-Groves, Center director Katherine Brehob, and master teacher Whitney Lee. (HARRY WHO PHOTOGRAPHY / Courtesy)
From left: Center of Gravity preschool lead teacher Demetria Williams, executive director Michelle Grant-Groves, Center director Katherine Brehob, and master teacher Whitney Lee. (HARRY WHO PHOTOGRAPHY / Courtesy)

By E. CLARK
Martinez Tribune

There’s a new preschool in town, but it’s not your typical print-rich, rainbow festooned, “plop your kids down while you work” setup. In fact, there’s nary a Barbie or Tonka Truck in sight.

No, the new Center of Gravity early education school on the Martinez-Pleasant Hill border is an entirely different animal, as anyone can see upon entering. The colors and textures of the interior are soft and neutral. The chairs aren’t bright pink, red or blue plastic, but rather miniature versions of adult furniture, made of natural wood and fabrics. The toys – or rather tools, as executive director Michele Grant-Groves prefers to call them – are made up of dye-free wooden blocks and arches, sand play stations, tubes and other materials designed to encourage children to build, create and experiment as they play. Lacking is the sense of busyness and over-stimulation one might find at an archetypal preschool.

That’s one reason why Grant-Groves, her husband Bobby and their partners in business call the preschool a lab school – one centered on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

But how do you teach children ages 2-6 STEM subjects?

“It’s what kids are doing when they play,” Grant-Groves said. “They’re exploring, experimenting, prototyping, looking and observing. It’s not that letters, numbers, shapes and colors aren’t important, but that’s low-level learning. The kids pick up on those in a blink. What we focus on is complex learning, especially getting them up and going for Next Generation Science Standards.”

Those standards are defined by Common Core, an educational initiative that details what K-12 students should know in English language arts and mathematics at the end of each grade. The Science Standards specifically call for learning rich in content and practice. And that’s where Center of Gravity comes in.

The Center has a host of credentialed teachers that specialize in early childhood education. These educators perform observation-based formative assessments on each child in their care, helping to foster the children both cognitively and emotionally.

“We have such a phenomenal academic team. We look at the constellation of what’s happening with the children and adjust our curriculum accordingly,” Grant-Groves said.

And though it may sound quite lab-like, there seems to be no shortage of comfort and fun at the Center. In addition to play tools reminiscent of those found at San Francisco’s Exploratorium, the children also have access to iPads and other technology they can use in their learning. One upcoming activity is a photo journalism class where the children will choose and talk about their photography and subjects, shoot a series of photos and videos, and share and converse about their favorite digital stories.

“This is a heart project,” Grant-Groves said. “We really believe this makes a difference.”

After spending 25 years in the field of early childhood education, an associate of Grant-Groves encouraged her to open the school.

“She said, ‘Girl, what are you waiting for? It’s time to do your own thing, start applying all that theory, and show people what this (advanced early education model) looks like from top to bottom,’” Grant-Groves said. She said she began calling her friends in education research as well as vendors she knew, asking them to listen to her “crazy idea” to open a center.

“They said, ‘Not only do we think it’s not crazy, we’re going to help you do this,’” she said. Then a rental property that formerly housed a preschool was found, and with the help of friends, associates, vendors and area education professionals, the project was born.

The lab school, located at 2702 Pleasant Hill Road, opened the first week of June and now collaborates with the Center for Play Research at Mills College, Be Love Farm, Kodo Kids and the i3 Institute of Martinez – all working to cultivate excellent early education, creativity and health in our “centers of gravity,” our children.

The school is open to all children ages 2.9-5.5, and also has a full day infant/toddler program for those ages 6 months to 2.9 years. There’s also space available for children of families with mixed- and low-income, as well as children in need of Individualized Education Programs or special education.

The Center will also host a monthly farmers market and makers faire, and offer what they call community learning labs featuring workshops for children and a monthly expert speaker series.

For more information or to enroll, visit www.centerofgravityece.org.

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American Association of University Women grants local scholarships https://martineztribune.com/2016/07/01/american-association-of-university-women-grants-local-scholarships/ Fri, 01 Jul 2016 17:08:15 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=4588 MARTINEZ, Calif. – At the Pleasant Hill-Martinez American Association of University Women (AAUW) June Brunch, college scholarship and Tech Trek camp awards were presented to nine students from local schools. It is the mission of AAUW to break down barriers for women and girls by promoting education and supporting their personal and professional growth. Each …

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Pleasant Hill-Martinez American Association of University Women (AAUW) Tech Trek campers, from left, are: Isabella Martinez of Sequoia Middle School, Julia Beaty of Martinez Junior High, Isabella Triana of Sequoia Middle School,  and Jazmine Cano of Valley View Middle School. Not pictured: Lexi Alford of Martinez Junior High. (COURTESY / On File)
Pleasant Hill-Martinez American Association of University Women (AAUW) Tech Trek campers, from left, are: Isabella Martinez of Sequoia Middle School, Julia Beaty of Martinez Junior High, Isabella Triana of Sequoia Middle School, and Jazmine Cano of Valley View Middle School. Not pictured: Lexi Alford of Martinez Junior High. (COURTESY / On File)

MARTINEZ, Calif. – At the Pleasant Hill-Martinez American Association of University Women (AAUW) June Brunch, college scholarship and Tech Trek camp awards were presented to nine students from local schools. It is the mission of AAUW to break down barriers for women and girls by promoting education and supporting their personal and professional growth. Each recipient was honored by members, family, and friends.

Four very deserving high school seniors were recognized for excelling in their high school years, not only with excellent grades, but also in community service and leadership ability. They were each awarded a $1,000 AAUW scholarship in recognition of their achievements.

Pleasant Hill-Martinez AAUW Local Scholarship recipients, from left:  Laura Maule of College Park High School, and Amy Moran and Joyce Figueroa of Alhambra High School. Not pictured: Taravat Lakzian of College Park High School. (COURTESY / On File)
Pleasant Hill-Martinez AAUW Local Scholarship recipients, from left: Laura Maule of College Park High School, and Amy Moran and Joyce Figueroa of Alhambra High School. Not pictured: Taravat Lakzian of College Park High School. (COURTESY / On File)
This year’s recipients of Pleasant Hill-Martinez AAUW Scholarships are Laura Maule and Taravat Lakzian from College Park High School, and Amy Moran and Joyce Figueroa from Alhambra High School.

In the Fall, Laura, who is interested in Neuroscience, is going to UC Berkeley, and Amy is headed to Cal Poly with a Liberal Studies major in Elementary Education. Joyce will attend San Diego State University to study Speech-Language Pathology. Taravat is off to UCLA and would like to go into the Physiological Sciences field.

Pleasant Hill-Martinez is proud to award these young women its 2016 scholarships. This branch of AAUW strongly supports its Local Scholarship Fund in many ways. Two of the fundraisers were the Italian Festa held at Viano Winery and a Silent Coffee Klatch, which the membership generously supports.

Tech Trek, a program of AAUW California started in 1998, is a Science and Math camp aimed to encourage girls who will be entering eighth grade in the fall to consider careers in science, math, engineering, or technology. The camp features hands-on activities in math, science, and related fields. All sleeping, eating, instructional, and recreational facilities are located on a variety of university campuses throughout California where camps are held. Campers will be exposed to programs in fields such as astronomy, engineering, chemistry, marine biology, and environmental studies to enhance their learning experience and introduce the students to a variety of potential career areas.

In 2016, five girls from Martinez and Pleasant Hill attended the Tech Trek camp in June at the Sonoma State University campus. The following local seventh grade outstanding students were chosen because of their passion for math and science: Julia Beaty and Lexi Alford (Martinez Junior High School), Isabella Martinez and Isabella Triana (Sequoia Middle School), and Jazmine Cano (Valley View Middle School). 

This past year, the branch has raised money for these scholarships by holding several events including fundraisers at a local Tahoe Joes restaurant. AAUW members are very generous to support this local cause. Also, the Martinez Kiwanis Club granted money to the Tech Trek Program. Festa Italiana funds support Tech Trek as well.

Congratulations to all of these exceptional young women.

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Congratulations to Vicente, Briones High Class of 2016 https://martineztribune.com/2016/06/17/congratulations-to-vicente-briones-high-class-of-2016/ Fri, 17 Jun 2016 19:50:33 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=4513 Students’ strengths, tenacity highlighted during June 8 commencement ceremony MARTINEZ, Calif. – “Courage” was a word oft repeated during the Vicente Martinez and Briones High School Class of 2016 commencement ceremony last week – and a quality each member of the graduating class has in spades, according to their mentors. After a lively medley, procession …

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Students’ strengths, tenacity highlighted during June 8 commencement ceremony
Vicente Martinez and Briones High School seniors walk down the steps at John Muir Amphitheater in Martinez, Wednesday, June 8, 2016, before taking their seats at the commencement ceremony. (ERIN CLARK / Martinez Tribune)
Vicente Martinez and Briones High School seniors walk down the steps at John Muir Amphitheater in Martinez, Wednesday, June 8, 2016, before taking their seats at the commencement ceremony. (ERIN CLARK / Martinez Tribune)

MARTINEZ, Calif. – “Courage” was a word oft repeated during the Vicente Martinez and Briones High School Class of 2016 commencement ceremony last week – and a quality each member of the graduating class has in spades, according to their mentors.

After a lively medley, procession and National Anthem played by the Diablo Regional Concert Band, Principal Lori O’Connor addressed the graduates, their family members and friends gathered at John Muir Amphitheater June 8.

“I love that quote that says, ‘Sometimes courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is that little voice at the end of the day that says, I will try again tomorrow,’” O’Connor said. “Everyone that’s joined us here this evening has courage. Parents and families of our graduates have courage; you had the courage to support your children in the pursuit of their education, even though it meant not through traditional means. … Each and every one of you had an obstacle to leap, a challenge to work through and a struggle to overcome – a challenge to make it here today,” O’Connor said, adding the graduates are an inspiration to all.

The continuation school boasted nearly 50 graduates this year, many of whom will continue their education at trade schools, community and four-year colleges.

“This is a celebration that represents 13 years of effort. It reflects hard work, dedication and perseverance. Savor the moment. Take a snapshot in your mind’s eye so you will always have this as a reference point,” outgoing Superintendent Rami Muth said to the graduating class. “You’ve chosen a path that will lead you to success, even though you’ve had to overcome some obstacles to get to where you are today.”

Following a presentation of scholarships that included a dramatic entrance from the Saints Motorcycle Club of Martinez, class speakers Kathryn Butler, Catty Dalton, Carly Loveless and Johnathan Montoya talked of educational and personal struggles, and how the alternative options offered at their schools helped them reach their goal of obtaining a high school diploma.

After diplomas were distributed, Muth delivered the Certification of Graduates, followed by student Jhonatan Zamora presenting the Moving of the Tassels.

“Your resiliency, your hard work and your heart got you here today. It will take you a long way,” O’Connor said. “Remember this day always, and that you can achieve. And Class of 2016, continue to be courageous.”

Vicente Martinez and Briones High School seniors waiting for their diplomas to be distributed. (ERIN CLARK / Martinez Tribune)
Vicente Martinez and Briones High School seniors waiting for their diplomas to be distributed. (ERIN CLARK / Martinez Tribune)
“About Time” is the statement one Vicente Martinez, Briones High School grad wanted to make at the June 8 commencement ceremony. (E. CLARK / Martinez Tribune)
“About Time” is the statement one Vicente Martinez, Briones High School grad wanted to make at the June 8 commencement ceremony. (E. CLARK / Martinez Tribune)

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Vicente Martinez and Briones High School Class of 2016: Jack M. Adair, Cole J. Archuleta, Enrique Juan Ramon Armas, Kenneth Richard Balluff, Mercedes Monique Beard, Kourtney Branum, Ta’tiana Jacqueline Sharik Butcher, Kathryn Mary Butler, Jayson Cain, Dominic Cellini, Miranda Ladawn Chappa, Amani Conat’e, Matteo A. Corralejo, Alexander Daberdaku, Caitriona Dalton, Alyssia Kayleen deBonneville, Wolfgang Dunn, Daniel Obioma Egeolu, Tyler Darrin Ferguson, Isabel Angela Garcia-Gutierrez, Grady Hernandez, Patrick Jackson, Selina Cristiana Limbaugh, Carly Gabriel Loveless, Patrick Michael Madden, Reese Grem Markham, Danielle Jennifer Marti, Nicole Adeline Medernach, Taylor Mitchell, Sarah Elizabeth Mohammed, Johnathan Guilberto Montoya, Danielle S. Murray, Chantz Andrew Nemcik, Samantha Leanne Ohde, Gabriel W. Perez, Hailie Nicole Christina Pergakis, Jada Ariana Perkins, Josh Pratt, Amanda Elise Rainey, Alexia Rubio, Joaquin Joseph Sanchez, Maria Fernanda Sepulveda, Jonathan Serbellon Jr., Michael Anthony Tomsic, Tiffany Roze’ann Webb, Madison Koryn Yaeger, Jhonatan Zamora.

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Students awarded scholarships

The following Vicente High School and Briones School students were awarded scholarships during their Class of 2016 commencement ceremony Wednesday, June 8, 2016, at John Muir Amphitheater in Martinez.

Saints Motorcycle Club scholarships: Miranda Chappa, Mercedes Beard, Grady Hernandez, Dominic Cellini, Matteo Corralejo, Michael Tomsic, Enrique Armas, Tyler Ferguson, Catty Dalton, Kenneth Balluff, Daniel Egedu, Patrick Jackson, Chantz Nemcik, Amani Conate, Danielle Murray, Jonathan Serbellon, Cole Archuleta, Jack Adair, Jayson Cain;

Martinez Adult Education scholarships: Isabel Gutierrez, Ta’tiana Butcher;

Lioness scholarships: Samantha Ohde, Sarah Mohammad;

Martinez Rotary scholarships: Alyssia deBonneville, Nicole Medernach;

Martinez Kiwanis: Katherine Butler, Jhonatan Zamora;

Zichichi Family scholarship: Amanda Rainey;

Hobert Family: Fernanda Sepulveda, Selina Limbaugh;

Campos Family scholarships: Carly Lennox, Kourtney Branum, Jada Perkins;

New Leaf scholarships: Josh Pratt, Amanda Rainey, Isabel Garcia-Gutierrez, Johnathan Montoya, Madison Yaegar and Danielle Marti.

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