OUTLOOK 76.1 | September 2022

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A special message from the San Joaquin County Superintendent of Schools Troy A. Brown Schools across the county are back in session. Here’s a look at the first days back! From BBQs in the park to farmers markets, Manteca Unified School District provided fun and nutrition throughout the summer one.Program educators ramp up project-based learning to connect students to their schools and education Model program accelerates English learning for students and provides new tools for educators Students explore art in nature at new four-day art camp in the Tahoe National Forest


Meet the 2022 awardees and finalists recognized as outstanding teachers and classified employees. Plus, we honor our county’s retired superintendents. Summer program builds a path for under-served students in the county to experience the outdoors

Mr. Mario: Two Decades of Artwork in the Classroom In this issue, we ask, “What is your favorite memory from when you were a student?”

Looking Ahead Events, trainings, & more!

Learn more about upcoming events, meetings, trainings, and workshops for students, families, and educators on the San Joaquin County Office of Education calendar at www.sjcoe.org/calendar.aspx.



The Outlook is published bimonthly, September through May, by the San Joaquin County Office of Education Public Information Office.


San Joaquin County Superintendent of Schools

SCOTT ANDERSON Deputy Superintendent Business Services



Associate Superintendent Student Programs and Services


Assistant Superintendent Educational Services



Assistant Superintendent Special Education and SELPA


Assistant Superintendent County Operated Schools and Programs

CHRISTINA TORRES-PETERS Chief Human Resources Officer

The San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) is a regional agency that provides educational leadership, resources, and customized services to assist school districts. The SJCOE promotes student achievement and accountability, serves San Joaquin County students, and strives to create an environment in which every student, regardless of circumstances, has an opportunity for a quality education. Zachary Johnson, Editor Carly Sexton, Editor Kailyn Hill, Contributor Lisa Bryant, Contributor Kim Borges, Contributor Melissa Galea, Contributor Brandie Moore, Contributor CodeStack Digital Media



SUBMIT A STORY sjcoepio@sjcoe.net

Let’s stay connected!


A special message from the San Joaquin County Superintendent of Schools

There is nothing quite like the excitement and hope a new school year brings. It’s the time of year when campuses come back to life after the summer break and are filled with the buzzing of conversation, learning, and laughter throughout the hallways, classrooms, and playgrounds. It’s a time of year when: •

Students are hungry for knowledge and socialization.

Educators have prepared welcoming learning environments and engaging lessons, excited to connect with and inspire their new classes of students.

Parents and guardians have set their children up for success in the new school year ahead – reinforcing routines, double-checking backpacks, taking photos, and more.

And school staff are eager to fulfill their goals of meeting the health, wellness, and academic needs of the students and families they serve.

We all play a critical role in the successful outcomes of San Joaquin County students. A child’s education is a partnership between students, parents, guardians, teachers, support staff, administrators, and the community. As partners, we share the responsibility for each student’s success. The San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) and our county’s 14 school districts, as well as charter schools, are committed to our role in supporting student success, and we do our very best to carry out our responsibilities. We recognize that the back-to-school experience doesn’t look the same for each student and that students have varied experiences over the summer break. That is why the beginning of the school year is so special. Because it’s a time to reengage students, build positive relationships, and connect them to their school and the vital services that schools provide. We carry on with that important work the whole year through, making every effort to ensure our schools are safe


and inclusive places where all students feel supported and inspired to learn. In doing so, we strive to meet students where they are by putting each student at the center of the learning process and ensuring all learners have equitable access to the learning opportunities, supports, and resources they require to succeed. Each day, we work to not only educate students but foster and support their well-being, too. Because we believe that to help each child reach their maximum potential, we must focus on their social, emotional, cognitive, and academic development as well as their physical and mental health. So, here’s to a new school year ahead filled with hope. A year filled with new, engaging learning opportunities – which hopefully include participation in a county-wide academic competition or a visit to our FabLab on the SJCOE campus, Durham Ferry Outdoor Education Center in Manteca, or Sky Mountain Outdoor Education Center in the Tahoe National Forest. Also, a year focused on strengthening partnerships, nurturing student relationships, solidifying student connections to school and our community, and supporting all young people’s mental health and well-being. Welcome back, students, families, and education community of San Joaquin County! I know the past few years have not been easy. We have faced -- and overcome -- many challenges. And we did it by working together. I want to thank the education community and those we serve for your flexibility, support, and continued commitment to student success. Your partner in education,

Troy A. Brown, Ed.D. San Joaquin County Superintendent of Schools

Manteca Unified

Lincoln Unified


Here’s what back-to-school looks like at school districts across the county! Find these photos and more in the slideshow at https://tinyurl.com/SJCbacktoschool.

Lammersville Unified



AMAZIING YEAR!! Tracy Unified

New Jerusalem Elementary

Stockton Unified

Find these photos and more in the Back-to-School Slideshow at https://tinyurl.com/SJCbacktoschool.

Special Education



Banta Unified

Oak View Elementary Ripon Unified

Linden Unified Escalon Unified Lodi Unified

Discovery ChalleNGe

Venture Academy



SUMMER MEAL PROGRAM COOKS UP GOOD TIMES From BBQs in the park to farmers markets, Manteca Unified provided fun and nutrition throughout the summer

Since 2013, the Manteca Unified School District (MUSD) Nutrition Education Department has provided daily summer meals for all students ages 18 and younger. Assisting a child’s education through adequate nutrition, the department hosts regular summer barbecues, farmers markets, and meal pickups at various locations districtwide. All summer, the team works hard to distribute free, nutritious, and delicious meals while fostering a positive, all-inclusive environment. Nutrition Education Supervisor Stephanie Huff is passionate about this program and stresses its impact on children who rely on school meals. The Summer Meals

Program extends the school district’s aid beyond the school year. “We could be the only meal these kids get,” Huff said. To overcome social stigmas related to free lunch, the Nutrition Education team put a spin on traditional lunch pick-ups by adding summer barbecues to the schedule. These events have become highly anticipated in MUSD with outdoor activities that make lunch in the park fun and engaging. Huff explains that her team strives to “make it so that families feel like they want to stay.” Another feature that makes MUSD’s Summer Meals Program unique is the traveling farmers market that often accompanies the


summer barbecues. These mini-markets help children develop mathematical and monetary skills through Nutrition Education Dollars. With this educational tool, students can purchase fresh, locally sourced produce. The farmers markets encourage students to make healthy choices. Huff finds that “If the kids choose their own fruits and vegetables, they’re more likely to eat them.” Nutrition is essential to the education of children, and not worrying about food insecurity allows students to thrive. Through the Summer Meals Programs, MUSD showcases its commitment to giving every child an equal opportunity to succeed.

Manteca Unified School District hosts an annual summer internship program for current and recently graduated students. This article was contributed to the Outlook by Community Outreach interns Renato Marquez Balingit (Manteca High School senior) and Daniela Ceballos (Sierra High School graduate), who learned to conduct interviews and write stories as part of their internship experience.



ENGAGING EDUCATION Educators in the one.Program ramp up project-based learning to connect students to their schools and education

At the end of a four-week writing project at one.Odyssey, the students at the school didn’t just make a presentation about what they learned -- they threw a party. The open house and celebration were the culmination of the project, which focused on student writing and spoken word. Students, themselves, wrote their own poems. Students also guided how the event took shape. “We told students what we wanted to do -- but it’s up to you how you’re going to do it,” said teacher Steven Downs. “They planned everything.” Part of the event was like an art gallery -posters showing student work as they worked on literary devices they would use in their final projects, such as metaphor, hyperbole, rhyming schemes, and more, said Marina Saltykova, another teacher at the school. The poems were read aloud on a video, which played on loop in a classroom. Since students were a little nervous about reading their work, the video showed students reading the works of their classmates.

The writing project was just one example of engaging project-based learning activities educators within the one.Program designed throughout the last school year. Students at one.Choice printed a book and others at multiple sites nurtured salmonids in their classrooms that would later be released in the wild as grown salmon -- to name just a few of the projects. “Teachers really went above and beyond this year to think about how to create engaging projects,” said Melanie Greene, division director of San Joaquin County Office of Education County Operated Schools and Programs. The one.Program has ramped up professional learning focused on project-based learning in recent years through a partnership with educational nonprofit West Ed, which also collaborated with some individual projects throughout the school year, including the writing project at one.Odyssey. A major focus at the start of the school year was to re-engage with students returning to in-person instruction after

the distance learning that interrupted classroom instruction the previous school year. Creating new, fun projects for students was part of that, Greene said. “Teachers and sites made re-engagement plans at the beginning of the year focused on how to get students reconnected with school.” At the end-of-year celebration and literary exhibition at one.Odyssey, the students saw supporters from the one.Program and their family members come together and enjoy nachos prepared by staff. “I was kind of nervous, but I think it turned out great,” said Jordan, an eighth-grader. He said he drew on what he learned when writing the poem. “It helped me think about how I wanted to word everything and make it sound the best that it could.” The subject of his poem was his mother, Melisa, who didn’t know that fact when she watched the video of the poem. “It was wonderful,” she said. “It almost made me cry.”



SUMMER LANGUAGE LEARNING Model program accelerates English learning for students, provides new tools for educators

Christian and Luis, two students headed to the sixth grade after summer, laid out 20 strips of paper across a desk -- arranging them and rearranging them in different orders. Each scrap of paper had one word printed on it. The two Lodi Unified School District students studied each word as they tried to recreate -word by word, phrase by phrase -- a complex sentence that they had previously read before the start of the classroom exercise. The hands-on activity was just one of many that students in the summer program tackled as they dove into lessons on how words come together to form sentences and paragraphs to help English learners strengthen their speaking, writing, listening, reading, and thinking skills in order to support them in mastering the language. Offered to students districtwide and for three weeks at Westwood and Beckman Elementary schools, the program is a collaboration with the school district and the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) Language & Literacy department.

Many of the activities used to teach the skills are games or other interactive and engaging tasks that students enjoy doing, Language and Literacy Director Karin Linn-Nieves said. “School should be fun. School should be engaging. We want to entice students to learn,” she said. “They don’t even know they’ve used all these skills to complete these activities. We want them to be talking to each other and practicing language.” The program also builds engagement by tying the three weeks together with a theme that drives the activities: The Prolific Plastic Pollution Problem. The SJCOE also collaborated with Venture Academy Family of Schools and TEAM Charter School to offer similar two-week programs for English learners. The SJCOE first began offering the summer English Learner Demonstration Model summer school programs in 2017. Another key component of the program is professional learning for educators, who take curriculum and skills learned over the summer


to use during the regular school year in their classrooms and share with colleagues. When the students go home at the end of the day of instruction during the summer program, the teachers keep working -- tweaking the curriculum and making it their own. “We’re all learning. We’re all collaborating. We have about an hour and a half where we all collaborate, and we share what worked, what didn’t work, and what we could have done differently,” said Marina Berry, who co-taught a class at Westwood Elementary during the summer program. Berry -- who was an English learner when she, herself, was a student in the school district -- teaches first grade during the regular school year. “And I can use all of this that I’m learning here. I can totally do it in my first-grade class now that I’ve actually had the hands-on experience,” she said.




Students explore art in nature at new four-day art camp in the Tahoe National Forest On a beautiful summer morning, as the sun peeked through the pine trees of a peaceful meadow in the Tahoe National Forest, students sitting on the grass with sketchbooks and colored pencils in hand practiced new art concepts and techniques. The students were just one group among the 72 incoming fourth- through seventh- graders from across San Joaquin County and neighboring counties who were visiting the San Joaquin County Office of Education’s (SJCOE) Sky Mountain Education Center for the first Color the Summer Art Camp. (Cont. on pg. 13)

ALYSSA East Union High

“If you have the passion and you have the inspiration, you can do whatever art piece, you can do whatever you want, in life, in art, in whatever.”

ISAIAH Peyton Elementary

“I like doing art, so when my mom told me about this camp I wanted to join.”


LORELEI Veritas Elementary

“I’ve always loved art and I’ve always wanted to draw realistic crystals, so I came here to learn the basics.”

LUCIA Waverly Elementary “One of my favorite things that we have done is the shading activity.”


Tiffany, a student from Linden Elementary School, shared that she came to camp because she loves art. “I want to learn how to do different art because I’m always doing art but have no idea what to do.” During the regular school year, the Sky Mountain Outdoor Education is the home for SJCOE STEM Programs Outdoor Education, including Science Camp.

Students foraged through the forest to find flowers, leaves, and insects to incorporate into their drawings; looked out over the lake as they worked on an under-the-seathemed illustration using watercolors; sat under towering pine trees as they sketched a story led by their cabin leader; and more. “I hoped that I could expose students interested in art to different techniques, vocabulary, and mediums that they may not otherwise have the opportunity to use or be exposed to,” Chapman said. “I also wanted them to have the opportunity to learn, make friends, and explore who they are as artists!”


Did you know there are seven elements of art? These elements are the essential components of any artwork. By the end of the Color the Summer Art Camp, students had familiarized themselves with each element and had honed their skills while using the elements in their works of art. The elements are: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

Color Form Line Shape Space Texture Value

A passion for the arts

The Color the Summer Art Camp was not the first art-related endeavor San Joaquin County Office of Education Coordinator Erika Chapman has taken on since joining the Student Events and Activities Department in 2021. At the end of the 2021-22 school year, Chapman organized the first Best of County Art Show, where student artists showcased their work and shared their talent with the community.

Like Science Camp, when students arrived for the summer camp, they met their cabin leader and began bonding with their cabin mates. The cabin leaders were San Joaquin County high school students – many who excelled in their high school art classes and wanted to help younger students explore their passion for art. “I feel inspired to hear that so many kids wanted to come and learn art,” said cabin leader Alyssa, an East Union High School senior. Cabin leaders guided campers through various activities each day for students to make nature come to life in their artwork.



“I feel it is important for students to experience the beauty and inspiration one can receive from being in the mountains,” said Erika Chapman, SJCOE Student Events and Activities coordinator and the driving force behind the new camp.


Each activity covered a new art technique. By using different mediums, such as oil pastels, watercolors, pencils, and more, students could create art like they never had before.


The new art-focused camp was a unique opportunity for students to experience nature while creating works of art in various mediums. When they weren’t learning art, students made new memories and new friends while participating in outdoor team-building activities like archery and singing around the campfire.

Chapman (right) with Assistant Camp Director Ashley Harvey (left).

“Erika’s passion for advancing arts education is inspiring,” SJCOE Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Jane Steinkamp said. “We are thankful for the work she has done during her first year here at the SJCOE to expand opportunities for students throughout the county to express themselves through art.”

A special visit

During the Color the Summer Art Camp, Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council board members and staff were on a tour of the Sky Mountain property to see firsthand the investments the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) has made to the facility since acquiring the property in 2020. The Stewardship Council stated they were impressed to see how busy the camp was and enjoyed observing students creating nature-based works. “We applaud the work SJCOE has done to quickly get the camp up and running and are excited that thousands of students each year will have these great new experiences in the outdoors with snow and the mountains of the Sierra Nevada,” Executive Director Erin Healy said.



GARY PEASE Jefferson School educator Gary Pease named San Joaquin County’s top 2022 educator

If it wasn’t for some inspirational words from a secondgrade teacher, Gary Pease would not have started down the path of a career in education that led to him becoming the San Joaquin County Teacher of the Year. While working on a computer science degree, Pease found time to volunteer in his son’s second-grade classroom. The teacher noticed Pease had a knack for working with students and told him he might want to consider it for a career. So, Pease changed tack and enrolled in a teacher credentialing program, which turned into what is now a teaching career that has spanned more than 21 years. He currently teaches eighth-grade math, algebra, and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) at Jefferson School in Jefferson Elementary School District, where he is now the one providing inspiration for his students and colleagues, alike. Pease sets high expectations, which he helps students meet through subject-matter expertise, creativity, humor, and a willingness to go above and beyond to provide support. Pease asked the students in an eighth-grade math class during the first week of the new school year if somebody wanted to volunteer their answer to the previous night’s homework. Hands went up and Pease called out “awesome,” before picking a volunteer. With a behind-the-back pass, Pease tossed the dry-erase marker to the volunteer, who caught it on his way up to the whiteboard at the front of the classroom. He threw other math problems at the students to solve during the class. He’d ask the students to take a crack at the problem on their own, then turn to their neighbor if they needed help. “I have certain expectations of how I want my students to seek help when working in our class setting. If they have a question, they are to ask their partner first,” he said. “I use this, so all students are included in the process of what they are learning. This process is constantly reinforced over the first couple of weeks, so all students get a chance to learn and be a part of the process.”


Pease was on the move during the whole class, seamlessly moving from helping students find their own way to solutions to cracking jokes to put smiles on their faces.


Pease is also a coach and athletic director at his school. In addition to mentoring teachers and leading the district’s math professional learning team, Pease is credited for growing Jefferson School’s STEAM department. Some students will get a concept right away, but others have more difficulty or might not have the same support at home as other students, Pease said. He reaches out to these students by making class engaging for all students and by providing tutoring before and after school for those who need it. “The greatest reward in teaching is getting to those struggling students and seeing that as their understanding increases, so does their effort,” he said.

An Engaging Classroom Catch a glimpse inside the 2022 San Joaquin County Teacher of the Year’s engaging classroom in this issue’s feature video.

Photos clockwise from top: Pease (center) receiving a $1,000 check after being named Teacher of the Year, Pease in the classroom at the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year, and Pease with 2022 Teacher of the Year finalists at the event on June 9.




Only a handful of extraordinary educators are named Teacher of the Year finalists. In 2022 they were:

Annie Thompson

Staci Diaz



Annie has worked at Ripona Elementary for 16 years. “Her work ethic and selflessness are contagious and have helped make Ripona not just a fun and positive site, but also an effective learning environment,” Ripona Elementary Principal Nate Baroni said.

Staci has worked at El Portal for the past eight years. “She possesses all of the qualities you look for in an educator. She constantly pursues strategies and techniques that lead to greater student success,” El Portal Principal Mark Vos said.

Robert Winterhalter

Tammy Hurst

Ripon Unified School District



Robert has worked at Lodi High for 17 years. “He has dedicated his life to the students, families, and staff of Lodi Unified. He makes Lodi Unified stronger by teaching and mentoring,” Lodi High Vice Principal Sera Baysinger said.

Tammy has worked at Altamont Elementary for 17 years. “Ms. Hurst continues to be an exceptional teacher who creates an engaging and inclusive learning environment for all students,” Student Services Director Irene Busuttil said.

Lodi Unified School District




Escalon Unified School District

Lammersville Unified School District

In 1972, California began recognizing outstanding teachers for their dedication and commitment. Since that time, the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) has recognized 46 outstanding individuals as the County Teacher of the Year. The SJCOE submits the County Teacher of the Year to the State for consideration for the California Teacher of the Year. Three of those 46 teachers went on to be selected as California Teacher of the Year. Each district may submit up to three candidates for consideration for the County Teacher of the Year.



LEADING BY EXAMPLE 2022 San Joaquin County Classified Employees of the Year

Classified employees, such as bus drivers, nutrition service workers, instructional assistants, and office support staff, play key roles in our county’s schools. These individuals help to create environments that support the whole child and promote student achievement, health, and safety. This year, eight San Joaquin County classified employees were honored. Each Classified Employee of the Year received $400 from event co-sponsor and longtime supporter of education in our region, Premier Community Credit Union.

Kelly Cabral

Mary Gomez

Kelly has worked for Jefferson Elementary School District for six years as a clerk. “Kelly is one of those employees that always takes initiative and goes above and beyond without being asked. Over the years, she has gone above and beyond to create connections between the school and the surrounding community. She is thorough and thoughtful in every possible way,” Tom Hawkins Elementary School Principal Christina Orsi said.

Mary has worked as a special education paraprofessional in Linden Unified School District for eight years. “Mary Gomez goes above and beyond for students every single day she is on campus. Mrs. Gomez is a rare individual that can just stand next to you and make the world a little better because her smile makes you feel like everything will be okay,” Waterloo Middle School Principal Shannon Roberson said.

CLERICAL & ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES Jefferson Elementary School District

PARAPROFESSIONAL Waterloo Middle School

Arthur Medina

Kitty Towers

Arthur has worked for Lincoln Unified School District as maintenance lead for more than five years. “Art leads by example. He goes out of his way to brainstorm solutions for issues that come up in our schools, inside the classroom and out on the playground, while always keeping students’ safety the primary goal. Lincoln Unified is a family, and Art is a beloved member of our family,” Director of Maintenance and Operations Brian Tillman said.

Kitty has worked in Banta Unified School District as the technology coordinator for 27 years. “She works tirelessly to ensure that each teacher, student, and employee in Banta has the necessary technology and tools they need to do their job to the best of their ability. Her commitment to our staff and students is above and beyond, ” Banta Unified School District Superintendent Rechelle Pearlman said.

CUSTODIAL & MAINTENANCE SERVICES Lincoln Unified School District

TECHNICAL SERVICES Banta Unified School District

Shelly Metcalfe

Lilia Martinez DeAredondo

FOOD & NUTRITION SERVICES Lathrop Elementary School

SECURITY SERVICES Great Valley Elementary School

Shelly has worked for Manteca Unified School District as the nutrition service lead for more than 16 years. “She’s caring, not only to the students, but to the staff. Her work ethic and dedication to students and staff at Lathrop Elementary is astounding. She treats everyone with smiles and makes me happy every day,” Lathrop Elementary teacher Molly Lowe said.

Lilia has worked in Manteca Unified School District as a school site assistant for nine years. “Lilia is a person with true dedication to her job. Her number one priority is the safety of students and staff here at Great Valley. Lilia knows our students so well, that even just by looking at them she knows when they are upset or having a bad day,” Great Valley teacher Marisa Castellanos said.

Debra Yanez

Hector Calderon

Debra has worked in Stockton Unified School District as a work order technician for seven years. “Debbie takes pride in making sure that the schools and buildings throughout the district are getting the best service possible. She is a hard-working person that really cares about her job. She cares about the people she services and the people that she works with to get the work done,” Building Division Manager Ken Bennett said.

Hector has worked as the intervention and prevention specialist at the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) for 10 years. “Hector lifts our students and families up, while still instilling a sense of responsibility and purpose. This, along with the countless relationships Hector has built with community partners, makes him truly special,” SJCOE County Operated Schools and Programs Coordinator Jacob Boyd said.

SKILLED TRADES Stockton Unified School District

HEALTH & STUDENT SERVICES San Joaquin County Office of Education



SUPERINTENDENT HONOREES A superintendent takes on the privilege and responsibility of the mission of education. Two leaders in our local public education community announced their retirement this past year. Ron Costa and Dr. Brian Stephens were honored by the San Joaquin County Office of Education at the 2022 Teacher and Classified Employees of the Year Awards Celebration in June 2022 for their outstanding work as educational leaders in our community and the impact they have made in the lives of San Joaquin County students.

Ron Costa

Dr. Brian Stephens

Escalon Unified School District 2010-2022

Tracy Unified School District 2014-2022

Ron has served as the superintendent of Escalon Unified School District since 2010. During his time as superintendent, Escalon Unified passed many milestones, such as starting a home school, charter school, dual-language immersion school, and a career technical education (CTE) first-responders pathway.

Dr. Stephens has served as the superintendent of Tracy Unified School District since 2014. During his time as superintendent at Tracy Unified, he led a district-wide focus on classroom instruction working to make administrators the instructional leaders at their school sites and supported STEM education for all students through various federal grants.



CHECK OUT OUR YOUTUBE PAGE FOR FEATURE VIDEOS! Couldn’t make it to the San Joaquin County Teacher of the Year and Classified Employees Awards Celebration? Visit the San Joaquin County Office of Education YouTube page to watch the winner, finalist, and retired superintendent honoree videos that were featured at the event.




FOR ALL Summer program builds a path for under-served students in the county to experience the outdoors

As a small group of fourth-graders hiked along a trail down to the banks of the San Joaquin River, the students shared what they observed along the way. “Look! A lizard!” “I saw a butterfly!” One fourth-grader, Armando, pointed down at an insect blending into the dusty hiking trail: “It’s camouflaged!” He picked up a small rock and showed the group how it sparkled in the morning sunlight during the first hours of the summer’s first Let’s Play Outside camp at the Durham Ferry Outdoor Education Center. Organized by the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) STEM Programs Department and funded by the California Natural Resources Agency through a Youth Community Access Grant, the program was designed to bring the natural world close to young people who might have trouble making that connection on their own. The program focused on a breadth of students, including those in foster care, experiencing homelessness, living in low-income areas, or enrolled in Migrant Education. Over the course of four days, students would also visit a community farm in Ripon, explore a lake in Lodi, or row in the Delta. Each week, for four weeks, the camp saw a different group of students. Armando and his classmates from McKinley Elementary School, and students from other schools in Stockton Unified School

District, were the first group of students. Activities on that first day included archery, fishing, and nature journaling. “It’s wonderful to see my students thrilled about being outside and learning about nature, especially someplace so close to their school. It’s very important that we know what’s in our community and for us to be a part of our community,” said Stacee Lighten, fourth-grade teacher at McKinley Elementary School. “I think it is so important for students to be able to be outdoors,” she said. “Learning about nature and just being around living things -- I think it makes you feel better. I think this is a great program because students need this. Absolutely.” The $300,000 grant is part of more than $14 million awarded statewide through the Youth Community Access grant to expand access to cultural and natural resources for youth in under-served communities. In San Joaquin County, the grant came together through a broad collaboration that included SJCOE departments and programs (STEM Programs, Discovery ChalleNGe Academy, Comprehensive Health, College and Career Readiness, Migrant Education, and Foster and Homeless Youth Services) and the Stockton Unified School District. “An essential part of providing access to under-served populations is being able to effectively reach and recruit the students who will benefit from the program,” said Lissa Gilmore, SJCOE STEM Programs coordinator. “This collaboration of different departments and agencies helped reach students for this program, and it

will help increase access to the outdoors beyond the life of the grant,” she said. “We are finding new ways to really be able to maximize the number of students who will be able to participate,” she said. “It’s exciting.” Additionally, the relationship with community partners offering locations for the students in the summer program expands the types of experiences students are able to have in the outdoors. In addition to Durham Ferry, students also visited Garden Joy farm in Ripon, the Delta Sculling Center, Stockton Yacht Club, and Lodi Lake. The grant will fund the summer camp in San Joaquin County for up to 200 students a year for two years. “The goal is to bring children outdoors,” said Kristine Stepping, SJCOE STEM Programs manager. “We believe that it will help their emotional well-being and their physical well-being. It gives students a chance to be active outdoors and participate in activities staged so they can build mastery and feel confident.” The skills students learn and the knowledge about where to access the outdoors close to home will stay with students long after the end of summer camp, Stepping said. And the connection can help students not only enjoy their natural environment but also inspire them to protect it, too, she said.



Students spent the morning kayaking around Lodi Lake before eating lunch and heading off on a hike to end the day. Many students shared this was their first time kayaking. “I’m excited to learn how to kayak,” said one student.

Durham Ferry Outdoor Education Center

Students fished in the San Joaquin River, learned archery, watched birds through binoculars donated by the Audubon Society, and filled their nature journals with information about the plants and animals they saw. “I think it is so important for students to be outside,” said teacher Stacee Lighten.

Garden Joy Farm

Students built bee houses, played games on the grass, observed various insects, and harvested vegetables to make their own salsa. To end the day, students were provided with a bag of vegetables to take home. “Mi actividad favorita fue cocinar y coleccionar los vegetales,” said student Alejandro.

Delta Sculling Center

Students learned basic rowing techniques using rowing machines before they headed out on the water to put their skills into practice. When the students transitioned to the water, they had oneon-one instruction from coaches. “I liked playing with oars in the water. It felt like I was a movie star rowing on the river; I would want to do it again,” said student Jayleen.

Stockton Sailing Club

Students learned about water safety, sailboats, and knot-tying. After learning the basics, students were able to put their skills into practice. Through various stations, such as tying knots on chairs and learning sailing techniques in boats on dry land, the students left the Stockton Sailing Club feeling confident in their new skills.


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Teens learn job skills and more as leaders at Let’s Play Outside summer camp

The group of high school students and graduates had recently completed the weeklong Leadership Academy to get the training they needed to guide summer campers through a whole host of outdoor activities. They were excited and ready for the first busload of fourth- through eighth-grade students about to arrive at the San Joaquin County Office of Education(SJCOE) Durham Ferry Outdoor Education Center. All their group needed was a name. They picked “Cheese Taco.” Said aloud; it sounds like the summoning call of the quail found darting in and out of the bushes along the trails running through Durham Ferry. It was one of the things the teens learned about on how to help young students have fun while making connections to the natural world surrounding them. So, the teens formed a circle to get themselves fired up with a cheer: “Go Cheese Taco!”

One key piece of the SJCOE grant-funded Let’s Play Outside Summer program was to hire school-aged youth leaders and college-aged counselors. They interviewed and applied for these paid positions, then received training on trauma-informed care, mindfulness, and other skills that would help them be role models and leaders as well as nature guides for the under-served youth participating in the summer camp. Many leaders were recent graduates of the Discovery ChalleNGe Academy (DCA), a quasi-military program operated by the SJCOE and the California National Guard to get struggling teens back on track to graduate high school.

than just in front of your computer,” said Mia, a recent DCA graduate. “If they can have that connection with nature, I want to help bring it out for them.” Going through the DCA program helped recent graduate, Julius, feel confident that he could be a leader for these younger students. It helped him with the job interview, and he felt like the experience of applying to be a camp leader would help him the next time he applies for a job. Julius likes the job. He says it’s peaceful being out in nature. “And the best part is working with the kids.”

On days they weren’t leading young campers, the leaders and camp counselors met with community organizations or spent time as a team kayaking on Lodi Lake. “Most kids are inside playing video games. It’s boring and actually very bad for them. I think it would be better to connect them with the outside, so they understand that there is a bigger world

Become a volunteer at Durham Ferry! Visit sjcoescience.org or scan the QR code.




Two Decades of Artwork in the Classroom

For more than 20 years, students in classrooms across San Joaquin County have had Mario Tejada to guide them as artists -- from their first artistic steps in transitional kindergarten to the time they begin to soar in high school.

(SJCOE) Artists-in-Schools program. The program puts professional artists “in residence” in classrooms throughout San Joaquin County and offers California standards-based lesson plans for residencies in the visual arts and in dance and movement.

He doesn’t just teach techniques. Tejada welcomes students to experiment and explore their own artistic ideas. His students know that their ideas matter.

“He is the face of Artists-in-Schools. He is an ambassador,” said Sandra Wendell, who coordinates the program. “I’ve been with him on campuses when there are kids running across the playground saying ‘Mr. Mario! Mr. Mario,’” she said, adding that Tejada will remember the students and details they had shared with him, even if it had been years since he was their teacher.

“What is important is the idea that you have and want to put on canvas or on paper. You don’t have to repeat what artists have done in the past. You learn from them, but you create your own art yourself -- and then you become the master,” he said. “These kids are amazing. We are going to have really great artists in the San Joaquin Valley.” Tejada has been teaching art for even longer than the two decades he has been with the San Joaquin County Office of Education

Tejada hopes his students continue to be artists into adulthood, no matter what careers they go into. He also said the instruction goes both ways. Students of all ages come up with ideas that blow him away and inspire his own art, he said. “When I paint, myself, I try to paint like a little kid,” he said. “I love my job. It’s a blessing just to be around these kids and the teachers and learn with them.”

Grab a piece of paper and pencil and join Mr. Mario to learn how to draw a rabbit driving a carrot car at bit.ly/RabbitSketch.




“It’s his communication and rapport with the students,” she said. He’s approachable and open in the classroom, and he is flexible enough to change the day’s art lesson to connect with what the students are interested in or learning on that particular day, she said.

“He can change very quickly,” she said. “The students buy-in because they feel they are part of the planning.”

WE ARE SJCOE is a regular feature in the Outlook to celebrate members of the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) community. If there is someone you would like to see featured, contact the Public Information Office at sjcoepio@sjcoe.net. #WeAreSJCOE


OUTLOOK | SNAPSHOT In this issue,

WE ASKED . . . Mark Condit

What’s your favorite memory from when you were a student?

Venture Academy Family of Schools “Freshman year of high school at Manteca High, three of my friends and I dressed up as the band KISS, complete with face makeup, and lip-synched ‘Rock & Roll All Nite’ and won the $1.98 Talent Show. There were people there with real talent, and they did not appreciate us winning. But we put on a great show to win it!”

Chris Vaughns

Cherie Pruitt

County Operated Schools and Programs “Spending time with my friends and drama teacher rehearsing lines for ‘Heaven Can Wait.’”

Head Start San Joaquin “Joining different after-school clubs and having the opportunity to participate in multiple activities. This allowed me to travel and compete with children of all ages throughout California.”

Lindsey Clark

Alternative Education “The first day of kindergarten. I was six years old and thrilled to be starting school. My mind was blown when I walked into the classroom and realized that we would get to sit on the colorful rug, sit in the tiny chairs, and read the wide variety of books that lined the bookshelves. My kindergarten teacher made school engaging and fun, and I have loved learning ever since!”

Kristin Adams

Foster Youth & Homeless Services “One of my favorite memories from school is in seventh and eighth grade, me and my best friend led the pledge of allegiance and morning announcements every day over the intercom. We made it fun!”

Araceli Verduzco

Migrant Education “My inspirational teachers. I was a good student, but there were teachers that helped shape my self-love and confidence to explore my hobbies outside of schoolwork. Gracias, Mrs. Anderson-Woo, Mrs. Erceg, Ms. Gold, Mrs. McGuire, and Mrs. Wallace, to name a few. I hold you in my heart.”

Enrique Lopez

Special Education “It was when I was on Sierra High School’s basketball team. We lost a teammate to a car crash. This tragedy taught me that I would face challenging times in my life that I would need to deal with, and sometimes there’s no manual to guide you. I was lucky that my coaches and school supported us all through this event. School staff are not only educators. They go above and beyond and look out for the wellbeing of their students.”

Sonnette Anderson

Teachers College of San Joaquin “Being involved in school activities, such as cheerleading and interacting with my peers. I am glad to work at TCSJ here at SJCOE and interact with our future and current educators!”

Ebicalina Casillas

College & Career Readiness “Science Camp in fifth grade -- best field trip ever! It was my first time being away from my family and my first-ever camping experience. Science Camp is where my interest in nature began.”