The West Contra Costa Public Education Fund (Ed Fund) recently surprised four educators with 2023 Teaching Excellence Awards.
The winning teachers are Maria Dizon, 4th grade teacher at Michelle Obama Elementary; Patricia Ogura, special education teacher for grades 6-12 at Hercules middle and high schools; Dorcas Sims, teacher of 5th and 6th tissues at Nystrom Elementary; and Andrew Wilke, music director at Richmond High.
The teachers make up the 35th cohort of the Ed Fund’s Teaching Excellence Awards, which annually recognized the West Contra Costa Unified School District’s (WCCUSD) best teachers, as nominated by their colleagues and community members.
Dizon has taught for 24 years in the WCCUSD and is also a graduate of the district. She’s taught at Hercules Elementary (Lupine Hills), Pinole Middle and Pinole Valley High prior to her tenure at Michelle Obama Elementary. She’s passionate about STEAM education (science, technology, engineering, arts and math), having brought in various programming and funding for field trips and hands-on experiences via the Kids by the Bay Program, which helps students understand how pollution on the school’s playground can affect the ocean, according to the Ed Fund.
Ogura has over 40 years of teaching experience and started special education in 2003. In addition to guiding her students, she assists their parents in learning to navigate the ins and outs of special education laws and the education system, teaching them how to advocate for their children, according to the Ed Fund.
“Patricia has always taught to the interests and strengths of each student to build on their successes,” the nonprofit adds.
Sims, also a graduate of the WCCUSD, began teaching as a substitute at Nystrom in 2012 before going on to become a member of Nystrom’s Instructional Leadership Team. She sought out a number of other leadership opportunities to better the opportunities for all of the kids at Nystrom, according to the Ed Fund.
“For Dorcas, teaching resilience is beyond memorization, calculation, and other traditional learning methods, it requires interaction and engagement,” the organization said.
Wilke, another WCCUSD graduate, began teaching music his senior year at Pinole Valley High. Since then, he’s taught at seven different WCCUSD elementary schools, seven classes a day, band/orchestra, in Hercules, Pinole, and Richmond, according to the Ed Fund.
“He is continually honored to be able to help students at Richmond High find their voice and empower them to use it,” officials said.
The Ed Fund was founded in 1983 in response to the decline in funding to public education caused by the passage of Prop. 13. The organization mobilizes resources with the aims of eliminating inequities and enabling students to thrive in college, career and life. To learn more about the organization, visit its website here.