De Anza High’s Paula Raj named county’s Teacher of Year

De Anza High veteran Spanish teacher Paula Raj was named one of Contra Costa County’s 2017-18 Teachers of the Year.

Raj, who received the honor during an annual gala at Concord Hilton last week, is the first to win the award from the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) since 2013-14, according to WCCUSD.

Raj joins Marissa Ware of the San Ramon Unified School District as Contra Costa’s two 2017-18 Teachers of the Year. They earned the honor among 21 semifinalists and four finalists and will next compete in the California State TOY competition, expected to be decided this month.

A teacher for 35 years, Raj says she actually began teaching as a child when she filled a makeshift classroom with stuffed animals and neighbor kids. She taught Spanish and French in middle high and high schools in Brooklyn, NY, and Lexington, Mass., before she joined De Anza 21 years ago, WCCUSD said.

In response to winning an award, Raj quoted Nelson Mandela: “‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

“This is why every day when I greet my students, I am ever cognizant that what I do may have an impact far greater than what I can see,” she said. “Each student is someone’s child and deserves to be treated with the respect, kindness, and caring of their teachers. I believe in keeping this philosophy in mind at all times. Each student is an individual who brings their uniqueness to the classroom, if only we give them voice.”

Superintendent Matthew Duffy praised Raj for having “long exhibited the expertise and commitment to education necessary to ensure the best possible education for our students.”