Teaching Excellence Awardees 2017

The five 2017 Teaching Excellence Awardees were announced Friday, February 3rd during surprise visits to the winners’ classrooms by administrators, colleagues, trustees, parents, and family members who presented them with banners and flowers in front of their students. Watch videos of some of the surprise classroom visits.

This year the Ed Fund received 73 nominations, of which the Selection Committee observed 23 teachers in their classrooms. Eight were invited back for a formal interview to select the final five awardees. This year’s 2017 Teaching Excellence Awardees are Third Grade Teacher Tiffany Okubo Chieudjui at Grant Elementary, Fifth Grade Teacher Jasmine Johnson at Richmond College Prep, Dance Teacher Jessy Kronenberg at El Cerrito High School, Seventh Grade English Teacher Sarah La Due at Fred T. Korematsu Middle School, and Spanish Teacher Paula Raj at De Anza High School.

Two teachers, Tiffany Okubo Chieudjui and Paula Raj, have been selected as the West Contra Costa Unified School District’s nominees for Contra Costa County’s Teacher of the Year.

The 2017 Teaching Excellence Award winners share a profound passion for instilling a love of learning in their students so that each student can attain their goals and realize their dreams. By carefully and thoughtfully weaving creativity, adherence to high standards, profound knowledge of the subjects being taught, and appreciation of individual differences, needs and strengths, these award winning teachers raise the quality of education to new heights. The awardees include:

Tiffany Okubo Chieudjui, 3rd Grade Teacher
Grant Elementary School
Ms. Chieudjui has very strong roots with the West Contra Costa Unified School District as she grew up in West Contra Costa County and her mother was a long-time teacher in the District.

Ms. Chieudjui has a very special way of engaging students even before a lesson has started. She’s always looking to find ways to enhance student learning by seeking opportunities that allow students to tie the lessons into real life experiences that have an everlasting impact. Using innovation and technology she taps into every students’ hidden talents. She fosters creativity by allowing self-expression and providing student choice. She taps into students’ interests and chooses themes that are enjoyable to the students and creates cross curricular activities-slightly above their skill level and then raises the challenge as performances improves.

Jasmine Johnson, 5th Grade Teacher
Richmond College Prep Elementary
This marks Ms. Johnson’s fourth year at Richmond College Prep Elementary. Prior to working at Richmond College Prep, Ms. Johnson lived in Southern California where she was born and raised. Her experience navigating school systems in South Central Los Angeles, and, then, eventually, a predominately white institution for her undergraduate degree, led her to the classroom. She has a Master’s degree in Urban Education from Loyola Marymount University with a concentration in Education Policy and Administration.

As an educator, her vision is to create an academically rigorous and rich experience where all students are growing and creating. It’s also equally important that students learn about themselves, their histories, and begin to see themselves as creators in this world. If you were to walk into her classroom, she would want you to see students who are passionately engaged, students who are reading and writing, and speaking and listening to each other. She values participation and believes that true learning only takes place once students are talking, moving, and truly engaging with materials. Of course, this level of work requires her students to be at school every day, and it demands that they show integrity and urgency.

Jessy Kronenberg, Dance Teacher
El Cerrito High School
Ms. Kronenberg is a former student who graduated from El Cerrito High Dance in 1998. Since she took over the program in 2012, she has moved the program forward into a new generation while maintaining the tradition of high quality dance education at ECHS. Through high level instruction and vast amounts of time and dedication, students from all levels of ability are developing their talent and love of dance. Beyond the classroom, Jessy has launched the Gaucho Dance Company and challenged ECHS Dance to become a Chapter of the National Honor Society for Dance Arts.

Ms. Kronenberg earned a BA degree in Environmental Studies and Dance from Pitzer College where she focused on Modern Dance and Composition in 2002. Later, Ms. Kronenberg moved to North Carolina and joined the Asheville Contemporary Dance Theater. She earned a Master’s degree in Teaching at Western Carolina University. Before returning to El Cerrito High School in 2012, Ms. Kronenberg was teaching Modern Dance at EAFIT University in Colombia, South America.

Sarah La Due, 7th Grade English Teacher
Fred T. Korematsu Middle School
Ms. La Due has been an English middle school teacher for three years now at Fred T. Korematsu Middle School. Before becoming a teacher, she worked in the political arena in public affairs and research analysis. She has a Bachelor’s in Political Science from UC Santa Barbara.

Ms. La Due is a gifted educator who engages her students by inspiring them to learn. She does this by using a creative mix of techniques – group projects, individual work and classroom discussions. One of the most remarkable things about Ms. La Due is the lasting impact she has on her students. They stay in touch with her long after she stops being their classroom teacher and she remains an important part of their lives. Ms. La Due emphasizes to her students that the path to success is not through perfection, but through effort and improving over time. She wants students to focus on learning rather than grades.

Paula Raj, Spanish Teacher
DeAnza High School
Ms. Raj has been teaching longer than most of the teachers at De Anza have been alive and her classroom is one of the most joyful places on campus. She claims that she stopped counting the years of teaching after she turned sixty! Ms. Raj brings music, artifacts, and carefully planned lessons to each class period. She warmly demands that ALL students participate and she ensures that the classroom feels like a safe space to do so. Ms. Raj never stops moving in the classroom, always interacting with each student and encouraging them to do their best. To teachers and students alike she pushes that we have to turn our “passion into action”. She demonstrates her passion through incredible warmth and planning for each class period!

Over her long career, she has served as a Spanish Teacher, World Language Department Chair, Instructor Led Training Lead Teacher, Teacher-Coach, Western Association of School and Colleges Chair, Advanced Placement Peer Leadership Consultants Lead and member of Student Advocacy and Master Schedule Committees.

The Ed Fund will be celebrating and honoring the excellence of these five remarkable teachers at its 29th Annual Soaring to Excellence Celebration on Friday, May 12 from 7:00 to 9:00pm at DeAnza High School. We invite you to join us in honoring our teachers at this free event. Register here.