2022-23 CCC Teacher of the Year Finalists Announced

County Superintendent of Schools Announces 2022-23 Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year Finalists in Surprise Classroom Announcements
Posted on 05/03/2022
PLEASANT HILL, Calif.—The Contra Costa County Office of Education today announced the four teachers who have been selected 2022-23 Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year finalists: Serina Culleton (Moraga School District/Donald L. Rheem Elementary School), Chavonta Edington (San Ramon Valley Unified School District/Diablo Vista Middle School), Natasha Paul (Mt. Diablo Unified School District/Mt. Diablo High School) and Paula L. Rathert (Walnut Creek School District/Murwood Elementary School). The announcements came on the day that marks National Appreciation Day which celebrates teachers in the classroom throughout the country.

The four were selected from a pool of 18 district teachers of the year. County Superintendent of Schools Lynn Mackey made the announcements this morning in a surprise visit to their classrooms with the help of their principal and school administration, 32nd District PTSA Vice President Velma Wilson, and their families and colleagues.

“Congratulations to our four 2022-23 Teacher of the Year finalists,” said Mackey. “The four teachers were selected from a talented pool of educators who are all focused on providing an exceptional educational experience for their students, and serve in leadership roles at their school and school district communities. These teachers exemplify what teachers do every day which is go above and beyond for the education and well-being of their students.”

Two of the four finalists will be chosen Contra Costa County Teachers of the Year. The announcement will be made at the 50th annual Contra Costa County Teachers of the Year celebration at Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek on Thursday, September 22. To purchase tickets for the event, visit the Lesher Center website. General admission tickets are $25 through Labor Day and $35 after that. Tickets can also be acquired by making a donation to the program at cocoschools.org/TOYDonors.

A 20-year veteran, Serina Culleton is a third- and fourth-grade teacher at her alma mater and has been a fixture at Donald L. Rheem Elementary School. The daughter of a junior high school teacher, she wrote her graduate school thesis about the correlation between feeling a sense of connection with a teacher and student success. That work inspired her to pilot a curriculum to teach growth mindset. She is the math and science leader for the Moraga School District and has developed and led teacher professional development sessions at her school after attending summer intensive training at Teachers College of Columbia University.

Chavonta Edington has been at Diablo Vista Middle School for 16 of her 23-year career and teaches instrumental music. She is a member of the California Band Directors Association and California Orchestra Directors Association, and is a department and district curriculum leader. As a child in inner-city Los Angeles, Edington found refuge in the band room. Her experiences as a young person, informed her teaching philosophy centered around building trust and allowing students to take risks while making music in a supportive environment.

Paula L. Rathert is a third-generation educator with a 31-year career in teaching. She has taught second grade at Murwood Elementary School for the last six years. In the early years of her career, she focused on becoming a reading specialist receiving Reading Recovery training from Les Howard and Arkansas Model small group training from Nancy Hannibal. She also created the Murwood Makerspace to give students a place to design, build and dream, carrying with her the core philosophy that if children are having fun, they will want to learn.

An English teacher at Mt. Diablo High School in Concord, Natasha Paul has been teaching for 19 years. She has taught English Language Development for the last six years. After the tragic events of September 11, 2001, she was compelled to leave her corporate job in human resources to become a teacher and return to her alma mater. She co-leads the Architecture, Construction, Manufacturing and Engineering (ACME) Academy, is a Teacher Induction and Support Program mentor and piloted an Equitable Grading Professional Learning Community last year.

For more information on the Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year program or to donate, visit cocoschools.org/toy. Follow the CCCOE on social media at @cocoschools.

2022-2023 Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year Nominees:
• Sarah Frank, Acalanes Union High School District, Miramonte High School
• Kathleen Brown, Brentwood Union School District, Edna Hill Middle School
• Bernadette Geer, Byron Union School District, Timber Point Elementary School
• Christina Carter, Contra Costa County Office of Education, Contra Costa Adult School
• Maya Nelson, John Swett Unified School District, John Swett High School
• Mackenzie Tovani, Knightsen Elementary School District, Knightsen Elementary School
• Claudia Windfuhr, Lafayette School District, Stanley Middle School
• Crystal Shaw, Liberty Union High School District, Heritage High School
• Jamie Nunes, Martinez Unified School District, Las Juntas Elementary School
• Serina Culleton, Moraga School District, Donald L. Rheem Elementary School*
• Katalina Gallo, Mt. Diablo Unified School District, Mt. Diablo High School
• Natasha Paul, Mt. Diablo Unified School District, Mt. Diablo High School*
• Makaela Huntsinger, Pittsburg Unified School District, Pittsburg Senior High School
• Georgi Cappelletti, San Ramon Valley Unified School District, Tassajara Hills Elementary
• Chavonta Edington, San Ramon Valley Unified School District, Diablo Vista Middle School*
• Paula L. Rathert, Walnut Creek School District, Murwood School*
• Luis F. Chacon, West Contra Costa Unified School District, Richmond High School
• Nashon Williams, West Contra Costa Unified School District, Lovonya DeJean Middle School
• Ellen Coatney, Contra Costa County Community College District, Contra Costa College

Notes regarding eligible participants:
• * indicates 2022-23 Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year Finalist
• 14 of the 18 Contra Costa County school districts represented, and the CCCOE are participating in this year’s TOY program.
• Each year, one instructor from Contra Costa Community College District is submitted to the TOY program for their outstanding body of work with their designated college. The colleges rotate each year between Diablo Valley, Los Medanos, and Contra Costa. These instructors do not compete in the State Teacher of the Year competition but will be recognized at the Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year Celebration.
• Due to the larger number of students and teachers in their districts, Mt. Diablo USD, San Ramon Valley USD and West Contra Costa USD are allowed to submit two TOY candidates.



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