NBC Sports names Richmond native as All-Star Teacher finalist

NBC Sports names Richmond native as All-Star Teacher finalist
Stephen Ashford (via NBC Sports Bay Area segment)

Stephen Ashford, a Richmond native and veteran physical education teacher at Aspire East Palo Alto Charter School, has been selected along with four other teachers as finalists for the NBC Sports Bay Area All-Star Teacher contest.

Members of the community can vote once a day at this link to support Ashford in the contest.

As part of the honor, Ashford was recently featured in NBC Sports Bay Area segment about what makes him an all-star at Aspire East Palo Alto, where he’s been a teacher for 23 years.

Art teacher Summerlynn Burlew calls Ashford “the heart, the foundation and the roof that keeps this school going.”

“Mr. Steve has this authentic charm that is just infectious,” said Kristina Thompson,  intervention specialist at Aspire East Palo Alto. “He’s so popular because I think his whole spirit at the school is, ‘I want to give you joy and bring fun to you.’ But he also drops knowledge and wisdom on our students.”

Ashford was also described as creative and giving of his time. During a power outage, he came through with Pizza, Thompson said. During COVID, he got musicians, athletes and actors, including the 49ers’ Nick Bosa, Cedric the Entertainer and basketball hall of famer Lisa Leslie, to provide the school community with encouraging messages.

He’s put on charity basketball games and does an annual toy drive, noting, “A lot of people don’t realize there’s a lot of homeless shelters with kids that go to school.”

Aspire East Palo Alto Principal Jeremy Akiyama commended Ashford for going beyond the school day in order to empower his instruction at school.

Community is important to Ashford. He said his grandmother instilled that in him.

“If you are in a position to help people, you do it,” he said.

Every school day at 8:05 a.m., Ashford greets students by having them declare that “every person will attend college some day.” He said it feels good that the kids can depend on him, and know he’ll always be there for them.

“I wouldn’t trade this job for anything in the world,” Ashford said.

He’ll leave the profession when he and the kids are no longer having fun. At the end of every year, he assesses whether that remains the case. As of now, does he still love it?

“I still do,” he said.