Special Education Specialist Named as this Year’s CCCOE Teacher of the Year

Special Education Specialist Named as this Year’s CCCOE Teacher of the Year
Posted on 04/01/2021
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PLEASANT HILL, Calif., March 15, 2021 – Sarah Buhre, a deaf and hard of hearing specialist, was named the Contra Costa County Office of Education’s Teacher of the Year at a virtual ceremony in early March. Since 2000, Buhre has worked with infants and toddlers in the Early Start Program at Diablo Vista Elementary School in Antioch.  

“This office serves the highest-need students in Contra Costa County,” Superintendent of Schools Lynn Mackey said. “Without dedicated, skilled education professionals like Sarah Buhre, we would not be able to serve the children and families who need us. This past year has been difficult, to say the least, but I am proud of the efforts Sarah and all of our teachers have made on behalf of students.” 

Buhre has made home visits an integral part of her work as an educator, building relationships with families who are adjusting to life with a special-needs child. 

“My philosophy that has guided me through all aspects of my teaching for almost 21 years now can be summed up in four words: hook in the parents,” Buhre said. “When I get a referral for a deaf baby, I start out meeting with the family of that child in their own home. We do not sit around a conference table, we gather around a kitchen table, or even on the floor of their living room. This is the home where, a few months earlier, the parents expected to bring their baby and go through life raising their child just like anyone else. It takes a great deal of trust to allow a teacher, who is a stranger, into their home and lives during this vulnerable time.” 

Buhre uses a coaching-approach during her home visits. Since the family spends only one or two hours per week with her, Buhre must coach the parent on how to best encourage the ongoing development of their baby. Buhre’s goal for each parent or caregiver is to become confident enough in their role as their deaf child’s primary teacher, and to get “completely and hopelessly addicted to that task.” 

“I use evidence-based activities such as videotaped segments of play that can be reviewed with the parent,” Buhre said. “Together, we brainstorm ways to repeat the activity with an eye towards incorporating small adjustments to help the child in the area of his or her developmental need.” Buhere’s coaching-approach has been overwhelmingly successful, especially during this time where home visits have been replaced with tele-visits.  

Fellow teacher, Alison Fingerhut, said that Buhre has patience and perseverance when it comes to helping others. “She makes everyone feel like they can be successful and helps them achieve their goals,” Fingerhut said. 

“I cannot imagine a better or more worthy occupation than what I do in the Early Start Program,” 

Buhre said. “Where else could I change the life of an entire family for the better, help give a deaf baby the best boost for a successful life, and have moments on the phone celebrating enthusiastically with a parent about their child’s new advancement?!” 

Buhre will now join approximately 20 other Contra Costa County teachers, who will also be honored by their school districts, in the 2021-22 Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year (TOY) program. The county’s TOY program is coordinated by CCCOE, and the judging combines a three-stage selection process with a point and percentage system to determine the final two candidates. The judging panel is made up of approximately 30 educators, business, and public-sector representatives. The top two teachers chosen in this annual program will be named in late summer, and will go on to participate in the California State Teacher of the Year program. 

2021-22 CCCOE Teacher of the Year nominees: 

Sarah Buhre, Diablo Vista Elementary School 

Danielle David, Mt McKinley School 

Areza Enea , Heritage High School  

Abida Hamid , Mauzy School 

Carianne Kowalski, Diablo Vista Elementary School  

Shana Lindevald, Liberty High School 

Jerry and Shana Lindevald (team), Liberty High School 

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