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Ygnacio Valley HS Teacher Joseph Alvarico honored at California Teacher of the Year Gala!

Ygnacio Valley HS Teacher Joseph Alvarico honored at California Teacher of the Year Gala!

Last October, the California Department of Education announced  that Ygnacio Valley High School Teacher Joseph Alvarico was selected as one of five California Teachers of the Year. And on Monday, Jan. 29, Alvarico and the other four honorees were feted at a California Teacher of the Year Gala, where they were recognized by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond for their "extraordinary" work with students. "These five remarkable individuals represent the brilliance and fortitude of California's educators, and they are among the top in the teaching profession," Thurmond said in the gala program. "Through their innovative teaching styles and years of experience, these teachers create positive learning environments for their students, helping them grow academically and supporting their social-emotional needs to become critical thinkers, active participants in society, and the leaders of tomorrow." 

The teachers gave speeches about their passion for helping students thrive. Alvarico was pleased to be able to bring three of his students to the gala, whom he recognized in his speech - Giovanna Gomez, Adriel Malapote and Sara Venegas. Thank you to the Travis Credit Union for sponsoring their tickets to the event so they could share in their teacher's joyful moment and stand as testaments to the transformative impact he is having on students' lives. You can watch Alvarico's speech here.

He began by talking about growing up in the Philippines before moving to the United States. He continued:

"Fast forward to 2017, and I embarked on a new teaching adventure in an economically disadvantaged community. It was at Ygnacio Valley High School, a vibrant yet challenging environment, that my passion for teaching was rekindled and my boyhood memories were remembered. Motivated by the excitement of their engineering courses, my students suggested we continue beyond the classroom by starting an after-school FIRST robotics team. Suddenly, my role expanded from teacher to coach, mentor, and team manager. It was daunting yet thrilling. As we dove into this after-school project, our community rallied around us, offering grants, donations, and mentorships. Parents, professionals, and local businesses alike supported us, each uniquely contributing to bringing our dream to life.

The true magic, however, was the transformation of my students. Guided by industry mentors, students took the reins of our robotics team. Giovanni became the voice of our initiative, eloquently engaging with the community. Sara managed our deadlines and deliverables. And Adriel shared his knowledge of industry-standard software and machines with our members. These exceptional students, who lead and support their peers, are doing more than just using classroom knowledge to build robots. They are mastering collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity, confidently presenting their ideas to the community, and emerging as inspirational leaders.

Reflecting on my journey, from a young boy navigating the streets of Manila to standing here as California Teacher of the Year, fills me with an immense sense of pride and gratitude. A journey that started in a modest school in the Philippines, 6,900 miles away from here, has led me to this moment, a testament to the incredible impact of learning beyond conventional boundaries. 

These after-school learning opportunities—for me, it was the Boy Scouts; for my students, FIRST robotics—have not only sculpted my path of lifelong learning but are now significantly influencing the lives of my students. This is the essence of authentic learning, where the knowledge gained in classrooms fluidly merges with real-life application, where curiosity ignites new discoveries, and where my journey as a teacher is deeply interwoven with the dreams and aspirations of my students. FIRST Robotics is more than an activity for my students; it is family, providing a sense of belonging and a place of support.

Isn’t it remarkable that the lessons I learned from a small school in Manila are now resonating in the hearts and minds of students here in California? Yet, the crucial question we must ask ourselves is this: 'What limitless potential can we unlock in young minds when we bring these expanded, real-world, community-supported learning opportunities to every school in California?'"

Alvarico is pictured below surrounded by the large group of supporters who cheered him on at the event.

MDUSD Superintendent Dr. Adam Clark (back, l-r) stands with YVHS student Giovanni Gomez, Bay Area LEEDS CEO April Treece, YVHS alum and Project 212 Robotics Club founding member and mentor Angelo Aquino, Concord HS teacher and former MDUSD Teacher of the Year Tom Trowbridge, YVHS Principal Jonathan Pike, and Contra Costa County Office of Education Communications Director Marcus Walton; (Front l-r) Project 212 Marketing Mentor Mario Jerez, YVHS students Sara Venegas and Adriel Malapote, Alvarico, MDUSD Board Member Cherise Khaund, MDUSD Board President Erin McFerrin, Concord Rotary Club Member Memory Woodard, MDUSD Board Vice President Linda Mayo, and Hayward Unified colleague Edgar Monroy.

 Teacher of the Year
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