Deer Valley High teacher, Maria McClain chosen one of county’s two Teachers of the Year

Maria McClain, math teacher, Deer Valley High School, Antioch Unified School District

Maria McClain, math teacher, Deer Valley High School, Antioch Unified School District

PLEASANT HILL, Calif., September 25, 2015 – Last Friday night, in an energy-filled and packed Concord Hilton banquet room, Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata, announced Maria McClain, of Antioch Unified School District and Kate Perry of Liberty Union High School District as the county’s 2015–2016 Teachers of the Year.

Maria McClain recently began her 28th year of teaching grades 10–12 for the Antioch Unified School District. For the past 19 years, McClain has been at Deer Valley High School (Antioch). McClain has taught high school pre-calculus, AP Calculus, AP statistics, and algebra, as well as junior high school mathematics and algebra. McClain obtained her undergraduate college units at Diablo Valley College, followed by earning her bachelor’s degree in mathematics and teaching credentials at California State University, Sacramento.

Through her dedication, Maria McClain consistently demonstrates the finest qualities and attributes of a highly skilled educator and serves as a solid role model for her fellow peers,” says Susan Ceballos, vice principal, Deer Valley High School. “It is truly refreshing to observe how she creates an academic environment that is both engaging and enriching for all her students. On a daily basis, Ms. McClain maintains a standards-based instructional program that not only promotes an appreciation for mathematics, but also provides her students with the fundamental learning concepts for life-long application. At the same time, she implements successful instructional strategies that address the diverse learning needs of all students. In doing so, she differentiates her instructional approach by employing an array of strategies and activities to monitor student progress daily. Perhaps and most importantly, Ms. McClain is able to motivate her students by establishing high expectations while still maintaining a nurturing rapport with them during the instructional period.”

This past July, Kate Perry began her fifth year of teaching social science to grades 9–12 at Independence High School, in Brentwood. The nine-year teacher also taught social studies at St. Patrick-St. Vincent High School, in Vallejo, and worked as a service learning coordinator for Irvington High School in Fremont. Perry attained her bachelor’s degree in political science from San Francisco State University, earning her teaching credentials at Mills College and University of California Extension. Last year, she received her master’s degree in education from Mills College.

I enrolled into Independent High School as a sophomore, after dropping out six moths prior from my first high school,” reports Perry’s former student, Tiffany Montana. “When I came to Ms. Perry, I didn’t have goals and graduation was farfetched. That was not good enough for her. She showed me that if I stayed focused on my schoolwork and I worked hard, I could graduate on time. Ms. Perry knew I could be anything I wanted, and helped me realize that I really could be anything I wanted to be. While attending Independence, she would text or call me before class to make sure I was going to come in. As a teacher, she provided me with the push I needed. Knowing my decisions could potentially disappoint her was enough for me to do my best. When I graduated on time, in 2014, I had a 3.7 GPA and was looking forward to my future. I owe this drastic change to Ms. Perry’s dedication to my education.”

After both teachers were named Teacher of the Year by their school districts, last March, McClain and Perry successfully proceeded, with the other 16 eligible county candidates, through a rigorous countywide selection process, it included an application screening, classroom evaluation, interview, and speech presentation. Their fellow finalists are Dawn Foote, Liberty Union High School District (Ron Nunn Elementary) and Paul Fitzgerald, Acalanes Union High School District, (Miramonte High).

More than 400 attendees were on hand for an evening that will certainly not be forgotten. The audience was made up of the TOYs’ family members and friends, as well as numerous local educators, business partners, and elected officials. Kicking off the festivities were a few high-energy musical numbers, featuring intricate rhythms of percussion instruments and complementary harmonies of a 60-student group from Alamo Elementary. The tremendous performance was lead by their music teacher, Nancy Raaum.

The evening also featured Sakata introducing the TOY class of 2015–2016 of sharing with the audience her visits to each of the teachers’ classrooms, and the comments their students gave her about their teachers. This was followed by speeches of the TOY finalists on the topic: “What I have learned from my students.” After the finalists’ speeches were given, McClain and Perry’s announcement was made by Sakata.

McClain and Perry will now compete with all the other county representatives in the California State TOY competition. The California State Teachers of the Year are expected to be announced in late October. The county TOY program is coordinated by the Contra Costa County Office of Education. (For additional TOY info, visit the CCCOE’s Teacher of the Year page).

About the Teacher of the Year Program

In 1972, California began recognizing outstanding teachers, establishing the Teachers of the Year Program. This program is open to all teachers in public & private schools who teacher pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade. Contra Costa County has participated in the program since its beginning, when Joseph E. Davis, Jr., of the Acalanes Union High School District, was named the county’s first representative.

Since that time, four teachers from this county have been State finalists: Janet Neill, San Ramon Valley Unified (1975); David Eakin, John Swett Unified (1981); William Thomas, Mt. Diablo Unified (1982); and Janice Bergamini, Mt. Diablo Unified (1991). In addition, William Pence, San Ramon Valley Unified (1999), was selected to represent California at the National Teacher of the Year level. And, in the last two years, the County has had two other state representatives – Mary Allan, Antioch Unified (2001) and Janet Gower, Mt. Diablo Unified (2002). For a list of all of the Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year Representatives please click here.

The county’s TOY program is directed by the CCCOE. With such a high caliber of teaching professionals to draw from, the CCCOE’s TOY program uses a three-stage selection process, with a point and percentage system to determine the final candidate as follows:

Application Screening:

On March 20, a committee of 13, representing the county’s education, business, and public-sector partners meticulously reviewed the applications submitted by the school districts. This committee independently rated each application. After the application screening and scoring were completed, five teachers were selected to advance to the next phase as semifinalists.

Classroom Observation and Interview:

During the weeks of late April and early May, a small committee of education specialists and business partners will observe the semifinalists interacting with their students. Immediately following, the committee interviews the candidates, discussing topics such as their teaching philosophy and techniques. The results of the two screening processes are then combined to determine the four finalists.

Speech Presentation:

This coming August, the four TOY finalists will each give a three- to five-minute speech to another panel of a dozen educators, business, and public-sector representatives who will judge the finalists on their speech and presentation skills.

On the evening of September 24, 2015, all 22 TOYs, accompanied by their families, friends, and co-workers (an audience of approximately 400) will be honored at the annual Teacher of the Year Dinner Celebration, held at the Hilton Concord. Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata, who serves as master of ceremonies, introduces the TOYs by sharing a special story that reflects his classroom visits of each teacher during the recent spring and summer months. This will be followed by the four finalists giving their three- to five-minute speeches (same speeches given in August) to the filled banquet room. The excitement-filled evening will come to a dramatic close with the announcement of the 2015-2016 Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year.

The County representative is announced at the Awards Dinner in September at a gala affair that honors each district’s Teacher of the Year. Local business and community organizations generously donate classroom grants, services and other items to each of the district winners.

For more information and to see all of this year’s finalists, visit

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