Many teachers who would otherwise have been grading papers after work on Thursday instead got dressed up for the San Ramon Valley Education Association’s first Excellence in Education awards ceremony.
Held at the Blackhawk Automotive Museum, the event included 31 awards to educators, administrators and parents.
About 130 people were nominated for the awards, which culminated in Lifetime Achievement recognition for San Ramon Valley High English teacher Richard Ault, whose students shared touching reflections about his impact on their lives. The things that stood out in their minds reflected attributes that many people believe great teachers share.
Here are a few of their comments.
Senior Taylor Cunin said Ault inspired her not to work for the grade, but to make him proud. She also thanked him for pushing seniors “to go out with a bang, not a whimper.”
Student Regan Leach said Ault was by far one of the most passionate people she had met.
“He instills in his students a way of thinking and learning that will carry them very far into the future,” she said. “He truly cares about everybody’s success — not only in school — but in life. He is wise, happy and, best of all, kind.”
Their classmate Whitney Johnsonl said she appreciated the way Ault challenged students with difficult assignments, such as a 15-page paper.
“Great teachers don’t just teach you how to be a great student, but a great person,” she said. “Mr. Ault was able to do this because he is a great man.”
Senior Zachary Baker called Ault “a phenomenal teacher.”
“The reason why I and everyone else care so much about him is he’s also a friend,” he said. “He’s a mentor. He cares about things far beyond the walls of a classroom, such as respect and compassion. But the thing I appreciate most about Mr. Ault is his willingness to pour his heart out for us and to live life to the fullest.”
Jimmy Mitchell, a student from the class of 1999, said Ault gave him confidence in his academic abilities when the teacher praised a paper Mitchell wrote as a sophomore to the rest of the class. Mitchellalso recalled a time when Ault compared creating a good thesis to climbing a mountain.
To demonstrate his point, Mitchellt recalled Ault saying he could easily stand on a table to reach the ceiling. But, instead, he used a more difficult strategy by climbing the wall and then slamming his head into the ceiling, earning a place in historical lore at the school.
Kerri Pike, who previously taught at San Ramon Valley High, said she and the rest of Ault’s colleagues also appreciate his masterful teaching. Pike said she was mesmerized as a new teacher when she sat in on Ault’s class about the play “Waiting for Godot.”
“We all hung on your every word as you explained the decisions that we all have to make in life,” she said. “You taught us all that there’s a time and a place for everything, and it’s our jobs as citizens of the world to know when and how to make important judgment calls. As a teacher, these were words of wisdom that I’ve never forgotten.”
Here are the other awards and winners:
Dedicated Parent: Laurie Horn and Kevin Wiedeman
Outstanding Classified Educator: Kim Cummings, Catherine Grijalva and Andy Kallick
Incredible Community Involvement: Janet Willford
Amazing Committee-a-holic: DeeDee Judice
Sensational Substitute Teacher: Tom Dunlap, Erica Glaser and Elaine Johnson
Shining Golden Apple (new teacher): Analyse George, Christopher Madrid and Kimberley Tretten
Outstanding Administrator: Chris George, Daniel Hillman and Christine Huajardo
Outstanding Leadership: Jamie Brindley, Shirley Convirs, Jana Johnson and Teresa Marohn
Making a Change: Elizabeth Campos, Allison Gardiner and Shea Hunter
Outstanding Creativity: Penelope Davis, Pamela Jarvis and Maria Pan
Fantastic District Administrator: Carol Loflin
Truly Inspirational Teaching: Courtney Konopacky, Heather Russell and Kelsey Wengel
The complete list of nominees is at: http://www.srvea.org.
What do you think makes a great teacher?