MDUSD is proud to announce that Diablo View Middle School in Clayton has been named a 2024 California Distinguished School by the California Department of Education (CDE)!
"Since its inception in 1985, the California Distinguished Schools Award remains one of the state’s most important ways to celebrate exceptional schools, districts, teachers, and classified employees for their innovation, talent, and success in supporting students," according to the CDE news release. The CDE identified 293 middle and high schools statewide for this honor, based on their performance on state indicators on the 2023 California School Dashboard, with a focus on demonstrating excellence and growth in academic achievement and ensuring a positive school climate.
"Diablo View Middle School is extremely honored and humbled to learn that we were selected to receive the Distinguished School Award from the State of California," said Principal Vicki Wilson. "This recognition is a testament to the hard work, dedication, and unwavering commitment of our entire school community—students, teachers, staff, parents, and supporters alike. It reinforces our belief in the importance of providing a nurturing and empowering learning environment where every student can thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. This recognition affirms our dedication to fostering academic excellence, fostering a culture of inclusivity, and preparing our students to become lifelong learners and responsible citizens."
The Mt. Diablo Unified School District is pleased to announce that Walnut Acres Elementary teacher Mia Carella and Bancroft Elementary teacher Ingrid Wright have been selected as the District's two 2024-25 Teachers of the Year! The pair were selected from 35 outstanding educators from preschool through grade 12 who were nominated and offered the opportunity to submit a brief questionnaire.
The questionnaires were scored by members of the MDUSD Teacher of the Year Selection Committee and the top-scoring individuals were interviewed. The MDUSD School Board plans to recognize the District Teachers of the Year, along with nominees and finalists, at its Wednesday, March 27th meeting. Carella and Wright will now advance to the Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year competition, which will name four finalists in April and two County Teachers of the Year in September.
Both Carella and Wright said they were honored to be chosen to represent the District and their schools. They are both passionate educators who strive to build strong relationships with their students and who enjoy working collaboratively with other teachers at their schools to meet students' needs.
Carella teaches first grade at Walnut Acres, where she enjoys helping students learn to read and to express themselves in writing. Wright teaches 4th grade at Bancroft, where she stresses to her students that her classroom is a "safe space" in which she encourages them to ask questions, think critically, work together an inclusive ways, and to voice independent ideas.
Carella, 35, has taught for 11 years, including eight years at Walnut Acres Elementary and three years in San Ramon Valley Unified. Although she has taught several different elementary grade levels, she said first grade is her favorite. "Students are so fun and so willing to try anything," she said. "They just soak it all in and they’re so excited to be at school. It makes me happy. Also, they’re so kind to each other, which I love. I try to have a great classroom environment where they’re supportive and helpful to each other. We just did a kindness week at school, which was great."
Walnut Acres Principal Lauren Ashton nominated Carella for Teacher of the Year. “Mia is not only an all-around phenomenal teacher who cares about students’ growth both academically and socially, she is also an all-around huge cheerleader and advocate for our school,” Ashton said, adding that Carella stays in touch with students as they progress to higher grade levels, showing that she cares about them. “And when we have committees to join, she wants to be in those conversations about making changes to school curriculum or beautifying the school. She led a mural contest and organized the P.E. shed.” In addition, Ashton said Carella is very welcoming to parents and encourages them to volunteer in the classroom, which helps support students who are working at different levels. “She always has a positive intent, she always wants to problem-solve,” Ashton said. “And she’s a teacher who is also a member of the community.”
Carella said she loves teaching phonics and reading because these become students' foundation for enjoying reading. "They pick the new skills up and then they put the skills together and they find a book they love and it turns into that magical, ‘I’m so excited to start reading,' moment,'" she said with a smile. She has developed a system for helping students become independent learners working at four different levels of reading and writing, by creating "learning centers" that include several drawers with a variety of activities in them labeled "must do," "may do," etc. For example, students at the highest reading level participate in a nonfiction book club, and are practicing writing with quotation marks, reading poetry, listening to stories on an iPad and writing about them. At the other end of the spectrum, some students are still learning how to sound out words, focusing on blending the sounds of vowels and consonants together.
As Carella works to meet each students' needs, she collaborates with other 1st grade teachers at the school to create effective, engaging lessons. These include the "Gingerbread City" that morphed from a simple gingerbread house-making activity to one that delves into literature and city planning and culminates with a visit from the Walnut Creek mayor and students' families to see the students' creations. "It's fun to build gingerbread housed," she said. "But we needed to make it more meaningful and make it a good use of our time." The Walnut Acres 1st grade teacher team was also ahead of the curve in realizing that "whole language" reading lessons that did not include phonics were not working, Carella said, explaining that they began integrating phonics to bolster students' ability to sound out words before the most recent trend.
To really motivate students, Carella said one of her passions is teaching around themes. She is eagerly anticipating a South American theme she introduces to her students when the school begins studying different continents, which will include South American books and writing assignments, songs and chants. "Every aspect of the classroom - everything I can think of - I will bring into the classroom," she said. "Students are so engaged and they learn so much because it's all around them." She also engages students by challenging them to add descriptive words to their writing and to replace general or repetitive words with more interesting vocabulary words. During a writing lesson on Wednesday, she suggested that the ordinary word "buy" could be replaced with a more "fancy word that starts with 'p.'" A few students yelled out excitedly, "Purchase!" Carella patiently answered students' questions, complimenting them on their ideas, as they revised their stories. Her students said they appreciate her willingness to help them overcome obstacles. "I like how she helps me when I can't do stuff," said 7-year-old Harper Sill. Bailey Gagnon, also 7, added: "And she does really nice art projects with us."
Carella said she expects to continue teaching for the foreseeable future. "I’ll keep doing it for as long as I’m having fun and willing to change things up," she said. "I do not want to get stuck being the person who’s always doing things the same way because it's always been done that way. I want to try new things."
Wright, 49, has taught for 27 years, starting off her career as a kindergarten teacher at Pleasant Hill Elementary, then moving to 3rd grade there, before taking on a job-share at Monte Gardens Elementary for 11 years teaching 3rd and 4th grades. She is now in her fifth year at Bancroft teaching 4th grade, which she calls the "sweet spot." "I love teaching 4th graders because they’re so independent - able to do so many things, to have higher level conversations back and forth, so I can teach them a strategy and they can work alone or in a group or one-on-one," she said. "They’ve got lots of skills and I’m teaching them how to read closely, how to ask questions about what they’re reading. That is something I’m passionate about - literacy - because I feel like we need to give kids tools to attack fiction and nonfiction so they're not passive readers, teaching them to be thoughtful. Reading should change them. The power in reading is how it can make us more compassionate, how it can inform us, and how we can question if there’s bias - I just think it’s such an empowering tool. If I can create lifelong readers, they can use these skills through college and life. What a way to equip kids to be successful!"
Parent Darya Leverant nominated Wright for Teacher of the Year. “Mrs Wright is one of the best, kindest, loving and caring teachers I've ever known," Leverant said. "My daughter Francesca speaks highly about Mrs. Wright on a daily basis. Mrs. Wright has developed exceptional connections with each student. Her positive energy goes above and beyond to make each day memorable. Mrs. Wright is committed to students' success. Her patience, problem-solving and dedication to teaching has no limits. Mrs. Wright is a subject matter expert with interpersonal communication skills. I have volunteered in the classroom multiple times and witnessed how engaging and captivating Mrs. Wright's lessons are. She uses various methods and visual presentations to explain new material, encouraging kids to take ownership and lead studies during class. Students are allowed to share handmade crafts or findings related to the subject, which makes students feel special, highly involved and engaged. Our family is so grateful and appreciate Mrs Wright for everything she does for our child. Teachers like her are one in a million!"
Wright, who has a background in child development, is very intentional about creating a classroom environment that is safe, inclusive, welcoming and engaging, so students will be willing to ask questions. "Teaching the whole child is huge for me - taking into account their social emotional and academic cognitive skills and making sure those are honored," she said. "Different kids need different things, and that’s OK." She embraces words of wisdom she has learned from mentors, such as former Principal Linda Schuler, who said: "Love them first, teach them second." "That’s so important," Wright said. "If you're trying to teach them something, but your’e not paying attention to what they need emotionally, the train leaves the station."
Students said Wright gently guides them in complex and creative tasks, while encouraging them to think about what they are learning and develop their own ideas. "She teaches very kindly," said Francesca. "I'm learning a lot of math. If you need help on an equation, you could ask her and she will tell you how to do it, but not give you the answer." Sarah Hemsley said Wright makes math fun by giving students hands-on activities such as learning about fractions by combining colorful plastic shapes to make half, quarter and full circles. “We get to do projects and actually learn,” she said, explaining that she could see that 2/4 = 1/2 by using the plastic shapes.
Wright said teaching is fulfilling because she gets to work with kids every day and see them keep trying. "I like to come along with each child in their journey," she said. "They're all different. I try to get them to be thoughtful about their own journeys and not compare themselves to others. It's not a sprint, it's a marathon."
This week's MDUSD Friday Letter spotlights:
- the District's two 2024-25 Teachers of the Year, and
- recognition of Diablo View Middle School as a California Distinguished School;
- District News about March recognitions and upcoming meetings and events;
- School News including Rep. Mark DeSaulnier visits Ygnacio Valley HS, Mt. Diablo Adult Education program celebrates EMT graduation, and Sequoia Elementary beautification;
- Student News highlighting two Northgate HS students are named National Merit Scholarship finalists, school spelling bee winners, Concord HS Leadership students host annual conference, and MDHS soccer player featured in Pioneer Athlete spotlight;
- and more!
You can read it here.
This week's MDUSD Friday Letter highlights:
- Spotlight on Valhalla Elementary Art Fair;
- District News including upcoming meetings and events;
- School News including PG&E CEO posts social media shout-out to Ygnacio Valley HS robotics club and teacher, and Northgate HS Girls and Ygnacio Valley HS Boys Basketball Teams head to NCS Championships, plus Elementary and Middle School Social Media Highlights;
- Student News highlighting Northgate HS student creates new organization to help others, Oak Grove MS celebrates students reclassified as Fluent English Proficient, and Northgate HS freshman is youngest and first female NCS wrestling champ in school history, plus HS Student Social Media Highlights;
- Staff News featuring East Bay Times story about Valley View MS teacher's efforts to revive school wood shop program;
- Community News including Free tutoring available and Pride Prom tickets on sale;
- And more!
You can read it here.
The African American Parent Advisory Committee (AAPAC) will meet at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 14th in two locations: The Black Family Resource Center in Bay Point and at Oak Grove MS in Concord.
Please see the attached flyer for details.
MDUSD is pleased to announce our participation in a new partnership with Diablo Valley College (DVC) and United Latino Voices of Contra Costa to help Latinx high school students transition to the community college. Called the DVC/ULV Latinx High School Partnership Project, the effort aims to inform Latinx high school students and their families about the programs available at DVC, help them with applications and answer questions, in English or Spanish.
During a kick-off event for the partnership held Feb. 8 at DVC, program organizers and supporters said many people don't realize that community college in California is free for two years and that DVC accepts everyone who applies. The college also has a Puente program to help students transfer from DVC to four-year colleges and universities, participates in federal programs including Upward Bound - which supports low-income, first generation students, and has a DVC Dreamers Alliance and student Dreamers Club to provide support for undocumented students.
To help get the word out about opportunities for Latinx students at DVC, the partnership is enlisting the assistance of current Latinx DVC students to provide presentations to MDUSD students and their families at the following high schools: College Park HS, Concord HS, Mt. Diablo HS, Ygnacio Valley HS; Olympic, Crossroads, and Prospect continuation high schools; Glenbrook Academy; and Horizons Center for Independent study.
Mt. Diablo HS alum Marlene Gomez, who currently attends DVC, is working as an intern for the partnership. "We’re here to make a difference," she said, adding that she is a first-generation college student. "I came to DVC looking for a brighter future, I knew I wanted to go to college, but because of finances, I couldn’t go to a 4-year university" after high school graduation. She is eager to tell others about how the Upward Bound and Puente programs have helped her navigate college.
This week's MDUSD Friday Letter highlights:
- Spotlight on new partnership between MDUSD, Diablo Valley College and United Latino Voices of Contra Costa to help Latinx high school students transition to DVC;
- District News including no school for Presidents' Day Weekend and upcoming meetings and events;
- School News including Valley View MS gets a new saw donation for its Wood Shop and Concord HS PFC gets donation from Jersey Mike's Subs;
- Student news highlighting Ygnacio Valley HS robotics club students featured in PG&E social impact mini-documentary, and Odyssey of the Mind Teams from three MDUSD schools head to state tournament;
- Staff News featuring Mt. Diablo Adult Ed Fiscal Analyst Jennifer Dougherty is a Classified Support Person of Excellence;
- Community News highlighting tickets for Pride Prom 2024 at Concord HS are now on sale;
- And more!
You can read it here.
The first MDUSD Career Technical Education (CTE) and Career Pathway Fair for middle school students on Feb. 8th was a huge success! All middle schools in MDUSD were invited to bring 50 8th-grade students to participate in the fair, which was hosted by MDUSD Career Pathways and Riverview Middle School in Bay Point. The event featured 10 different industry partners and six career pathways from our high schools, with teachers and high school students showcasing the work they do.
In what will become an annual event, the 8th-graders were bussed to Riverview MS to speak with, learn from and see options for them in high school and post-secondary education. Students were given a handout with sample questions to ask and space for taking notes to use during the event to help them communicate and work with all guests. Many of the industry partners who participated said that they were blown away with the questions the students were asking them and by how excited they were to learn about the many options available to them, said MDUSD Career and Transition Specialist Erin Larkins Pulley, who coordinated the event with Riverview MS Principal Laurie Clark and Vice Principal Danya Townsend. Business representatives also were excited to see that middle schoolers are learning about different career pathways before high school. They talked about degrees, apprenticeships and certificates. Students were able to participate in some hands-on activities such as a hammering contest, simulated fire protection and CPR.
"The idea for this event was to plant seeds now for students, to bring awareness and build interest in them," Larkins Pulley said. "After all, they will be heading into the workforce in four short years and it is our mission to send them off into the world, both college and career-ready!"
Clark was enthusiastic about hosting the event. "Any time I can call attention to the passion, ideals, and overall community in Bay Point, I will," she said. "Any opportunity to bring awareness to the opportunities, programs and pathways at our high schools should be welcomed and celebrated. Events like this CTE fair bring reality to the school building for our students. They begin to see that the education we have been providing has purpose and connection with the future person they will become. I can't emphasize enough the importance of giving middle school students the exposure and opportunity to engage with aspects of the future they will soon embody. It keeps them curious, grounded and intentional as they move through the middle school years."
Townsend said the fair was well-planned and well-attended. "Students were able to engage with various community members and have meaningful conversations that pertain to their future, collaborate with peers, and take a deeper dive into what high school can look like for them," she said. "The students were fully engaged and seemed to get a lot out of the experience. It was great having high school students there to represent and speak with the 8th-graders regarding their high school programs. Riverview is grateful for the opportunity to have hosted it."
We cannot do the work we do without the support of our industry and education partners, Larkins Pulley added. These partners included: East Bay CPR, UA Local 342 JATC Plumbers/Steamfitters, Diablo Valley College, ETIC Engineering, Los Medanos College, John Muir Health, Sheet Metal 104 & Bay Area Industry Training Fund, PG&E, Mt. Diablo Adult Education CTE Programs, and Concord Emergency & Volunteer Services. High school pathway programs that participated were: Information Computer Technology at Mt. Diablo HS, Art & Digital Media at Northgate and Mt. Diablo high schools, Health Care at Mt. Diablo HS, Building Trades at Concord HS, Engineering at Concord and Ygnacio Valley high schools, the Education Academy at Ygnacio Valley HS, and HOSA (Future Health Professionals) at Mt. Diablo HS. "Thank you to everyone who participated and we look forward to collaborating again," Larkins Pulley said.
This week's MDUSD Friday Letter highlights:
- Spotlights on MDUSD's first Career Technical Education Fair for Middle School students at Riverview MS, and MDUSD Celebrates National School Counseling Week;
- District news including Board Briefs highlighting Board meetings, and upcoming meetings and events;
- School news featuring World Read Aloud Day at Meadow Homes Elementary, plus School Social Media Spotlights;
- Student news highlighting Mt. Diablo Adult Education students visiting a REACH Air Ambulance;
- Alumni News featuring two Grammy Award winners who graduated from College Park and Ygnacio Valley high schools;
- And more!
You can read it here.