From Don’s Desk

Teaching is as much a calling and passion as it is a profession and career. Those who choose teaching, whether kindergarten, middle school or high school, do it out of love for the mission of teaching and the difference teachers can and do make.

To be honest, teaching looks easy until you try and do it. I didn’t think anything was harder than teaching adolescents and then after seven years of middle school I found myself in front of kindergarteners – for just one day – and it felt like a century of uncertainty and failure. From that day on I took the position that kindergarten teachers should be canonized.

So today, let’s start by saying congratulations to every teacher you know and a shout out to the finalists for San Joaquin County Teacher of the Year:

  • Staci Diaz, El Portal Middle School, Escalon Unified School District

  • Tammy Hurst, Altamont Elementary School, Lammersville Unified School District

  • Gary Pease, Jefferson School, Jefferson Elementary School District

  • Annie Thompson, Ripona Elementary School, Ripon Unified School District

  • Robert Winterhalter, Lodi High School, Lodi Unified School District

Now, those who currently are teaching also know that not everything in the world of teaching and learning is perfect right now. Many of our educators are exhausted from two years of uncertainty and new challenges, and there are some new reports out about why we should be concerned about our teachers: 

  • CalMatters reports: “California’s schools are struggling to staff up — despite billions in state money flowing to school districts to remedy teacher shortages. A report by the Learning Policy Institute found that some of the state’s largest districts had 10% of vacancies still unfilled at the start of the new school year.”

  • California has an impressive plan for Universal Pre-K for all our young children, yet it is already in jeopardy due to dire pessimism there will be the 11,000 additional teachers needed to fill the positions across the state, as reported by EdSource, and talked about in our A+ Speaker Series last month.

To address the situation we should…

  1. Create a plan to grow more teachers locally. SJCOE under Troy Brown’s leadership has launched TEACH, a county-wide program to start that initiative featured below. We need more.

  2. Acknowledge we are in a recruitment challenge that rivals NCAA college teams competing for talent. We have to do all we can to attract, recruit and maintain teachers in San Joaquin County. That’s our collective responsibility. It’s not just a school system challenge, nor a teacher preparation challenge. It’s a community challenge. We all have to value, honor and celebrate the profession of teaching and those who teach… and create incentives to bring teachers here rather than the other counties that are calling.

In all of these cases, I think it should be seen as a massive compliment to the heroic work our current teachers are doing to note that one of the bigger problems facing us is that we need more of you!

So let’s hear it for our teachers as we close another year. Your efforts for our children are so deeply appreciated.

Monthly Highlight

Just over a month ago, the University of Pacific hosted an Education Summit to bring leaders together to discuss key education issues in our K-12 schools coming out of the pandemic. We shared coverage of this event, but now want to share the full video that was put together to highlight youth and educator voices at the event:

Heroes: A+ Partner Spotlight

This month’s partner spotlight is a video from our friends at TEACH! Academy. TEACH! Academy is an early college high school program designed to provide students with a free associate degree in elementary education from San Joaquin Delta College by the time they graduate high school, as well as an affordable pathway to complete their bachelor’s degree at Humphreys University, and to get their teaching credential through the Teachers College of San Joaquin.


As we get ready to close another school year, I’m struck by how quickly the last two years have flown by – while as I note above – so many of our educators and others have worked so hard throughout to keep a sense of calm and normalcy for the youth they serve.

My hope for everyone is to take some time for yourselves and your families, and to step away from work to relax at some point this summer. I know as well as anyone from my days trying to learn how to cluelessly corral Kindergartners that it is hard earned and well deserved.