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West Contra Costa Public Ed Fund Announces 2024 Teaching Excellence Winners

Our annual Soaring to Excellence Celebration is happening on May 31st, 2024, from 5:30 to 8:30 PM! 

Be sure to join us as we honor our outstanding scholarship recipients and the achievements of our 

Teaching Excellence Awardees. Go to or our facebook page for more details.

They all:  Love teaching • Love learning • Love watching their students grow 

Isabel Gil-Garcia, Richmond High School, 

12th grade Government and Economics, 11th-12th grade Gender and Women’s Studies 

Teacher Garcia adeptly tailors their curriculum to address the diverse socio-economic and political backgrounds of their students, fostering a deeper understanding of the world and their place within it. Recognizing the challenges posed by the pandemic, Teacher Garcia recognizes the learning gaps and traumas students bring into the classroom, ensuring a supportive environment for their academic and emotional growth. Their meticulous approach to curriculum development involves extensive reflection and research, resulting in an educational experience tailored to the needs of Richmond High School students.

Using an Ethnic Studies framework to teach Government, Economics, and Gender and Women’s Studies, they exemplify a commitment to diversity, equity, and anti-racism. Serving as the lead of the social science department, Teacher Garcia plays a pivotal role in integrating and demonstrating an Ethnic Studies approach across their courses. Within Teacher Garcia’s classroom, students understand that respecting the dignity and humanity of all individuals is non-negotiable, fostered by collectively established norms and agreements. Here, Ethnic Studies permeates every aspect of the curriculum, creating a welcoming environment where students explore race, class, and gender issues critically, regardless of their identities.

By prioritizing both socio-emotional support and academic rigor, Teacher Garcia cultivates a classroom environment built on trust, collaboration, and a commitment to continuous improvement, making them an exemplary educator. 

Ethan Sorscher, Montalvin, 

K-8, 5th grade Science and Math 

Mr. Sorscher is a highly skilled educator who prioritizes meeting the diverse needs of his students through personalized instruction. Leveraging his deep understanding of each student’s needs, he crafts individualized plans to optimize their learning experiences. Mr. Sorscher regularly adjusts his practices and provides targeted support through daily small group instruction sessions. His dedication extends beyond the classroom as he tutors students before school and serves as a technology lead and math coach, sharing his expertise with colleagues through professional development opportunities.

As an equity-centered educator, Mr. Sorscher believes in the potential of all students and works tirelessly to ensure that his predominantly low-income students receive a rigorous education. He remains well-informed about the latest research and actively participates in initiatives aimed at creating an anti-racist school environment. Continuously reflecting on his practice, he actively seeks opportunities for growth, such as pursuing National Board Certification. In his classroom, Mr. Sorscher emphasizes student voice, choice, and leadership, fostering both mathematical proficiency and advocacy skills that will serve students beyond their time in fifth grade.

Pilar Alvarado, Lincoln Elementary, 

6th grade English Language Arts (ELA)

Ms. Alvarado embodies an exceptional dedication to meeting the diverse needs of her students, particularly as the ELA teacher for all 6th graders. Recognizing the importance of literacy skills for middle school readiness, she approaches teaching with a sense of urgency, leading to significant reading level growth among her students year after year. Employing resources like Amplify, SIPPS, and i-Ready alongside novel studies, Ms. Alvarado fosters a genuine love for reading and provides opportunities for practice, believing in the power of consistent engagement to drive improvement. Additionally, she utilizes various forms of data, including i-Ready and STAR assessments, to inform her instructional approach transparently, ensuring students are aware of their progress and areas for improvement.

Her commitment to inclusivity is evident in her classroom library, which features diverse and culturally relevant books, and in her approach to supporting English Learners by providing opportunities for reading in Spanish while encouraging English language acquisition. As a woman of color teaching predominantly students of color, Ms. Alvarado sees herself as a role model and shares her own experiences to inspire and connect with her students on a deeper level.

Outside the classroom, Ms. Alvarado extends her impact by coaching the boys’ and girls’ soccer teams, instilling values of teamwork, discipline, and excellence among her players. Her dedication to professionalizing the soccer teams and creating a positive experience reflects her genuine passion for enriching the lives of her students both academically and beyond.

Ms. Alvarado will also be sent to represent WCCUSD in the County’s Teacher of the Year Competition.

Akinwale Ajayi, Lincoln Elementary, 

General Ed. Preschool

Utilizing data-driven insights, Mr. Ajayi groups his students and tailors instruction to accommodate varying learning styles and abilities. Within his classroom, students experience a profound sense of safety and belonging, fostered through explicit teaching of social-emotional skills and trauma-informed practices. By employing tools such as the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ), Mr. Ajayi proactively identifies developmental needs and intervenes accordingly, fostering open communication with students, families, and colleagues to address issues promptly.

He champions cultural inclusivity, incorporating diverse perspectives and culturally relevant materials into his lessons while leveraging technology to virtually explore students’ countries of origin, taking them on trips using Google Maps. Through activities like peer tutoring and inviting parents and colleagues to share their cultures, he promotes a sense of pride and empowerment among students, fostering an inclusive atmosphere where all feel seen, heard, and valued. As a bilingual educator, Mr. Ajayi teaches in both English and Spanish, further enhancing accessibility and communication with his diverse student population, even providing progress reports in students’ home languages through the Learning Genie app.

Mr. Ajayi will also be sent to represent WCCUSD in the County’s Teacher of the Year Competition

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