3 educators up for Contra Costa teacher of the year


Terryl Miller spells out words by singing the letters. She says it helps her students to retain new words. Miller teaches at Los Perales Elementary School in Moraga. She's been an educator for 22 years and she says it's never too late to incorporate new learning strategies, like teaching the ABCs using sign language.

"They learn it very soon in the school year and once they have those sounds then I use those as a hook and as reminder later on when they want to write something," Miller said.

Her style of teaching caught the eye of the Contra Costa County Office of Education, which nominated her for teacher of the year.

Mona Keeler of Iron Horse Middle School in San Ramon is another nominee. When her math class ends, that's when her students begin to practice what they have learned.

"So they have to go home and explain it to their parents, to a sibling," Keeler said. "It might even be a fraction game that we built in class or even an algebra game. They have to go home and process it at home."

Rona Zollinger is the third nominee. In 2002, she created an environmental program at Vicente Martinez High School in Martinez. The program is called New Leaf. Part of program requires that students take what they learn into the community.

"I take students on Fridays to different elementary schools and the students teach about environmental awareness and watershed health," Zollinger said.

Zollinger's father, a retired teacher in Utah, taught her to bring change into the classroom.

"And that I inspire them to become empowered agents for change in the world, wherever they go," Zollinger said.

The winner will be announced Thursday evening and will go on to represent Contra Costa County in the state competition.

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