Outlook 77.1 | September 2023

Page 1


Students and staff across the county are back in school and excited for a great year ahead!

A. Brown, Ed.D., County Superintendent of Schools
Letter from the Superintendent 4 Back-to-School Collage 5 NEWS Supporting Mental Health Services 8 SJCOE Named a 2023 California Green Ribbon School 9 Building Brains Through Early Talk 10 Summer Summits 11 Color the Summer Art Camp 13 WE ARE SJCOE Daria Echeverria, one.Program Alumnus 14 FEATURE Teacher of the Year 15 Teacher of the Year Finalists 17 Classified School Employees of the Year 18 Counselor of the Year and Superintendent Honoree 19 IN THE CLASSROOM Summer of STEM 20 Over the summer, the STEM– science, technology, engineering, and mathematics– Programs department hosted summer camps for students and educators. SNAPSHOT 23 Events, trainings, and 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.
VOLUME 77 | ISSUE 1 | SEPTEMBER 2023 OUTLOOK Let’s stay connected! 15 20 8 5 The Outlook is published by the San Joaquin County Office of Education Public Information Office. TROY A. BROWN, Ed.D. San Joaquin County Superintendent of Schools SCOTT ANDERSON Outgoing Deputy Superintendent Business Services TERRELL MARTINEZ Incoming Deputy Superintendent Business Services
KAESLIN Associate Superintendent Student Programs and Services
STEINKAMP Assistant Superintendent Educational Services
BRUNNI Assistant Superintendent Special Education and SELPA
GREENE Assistant Superintendent County Operated Schools and Programs
Superintendent Business Services
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. SUBSCRIBE bit.ly/SJCOENews SUBMIT A STORY sjcoepio@sjcoe.net


Even before the first day of school, campuses across the county are abuzz with excitement as school staff get ready. Everyone is excited because they love working with students and cannot wait to see them again as they start a new year of school.

Building strong connections with students is so important to their education. Those connections are real, meaningful, and significant to students and staff, alike.

A recent conversation that stands out to me is one I had with a bus rider who works with students in our Special Education Programs department. She shared a story about when she knew she had really made a connection with a student. It was clear how she took the time to get to know this student, who is non-verbal. It happened on the bus one day. A song came on the radio, and she knew it was this student’s favorite. So, she started singing along to the radio. The student’s face lit up and the two enjoyed a shared and joyful moment that marked a milestone in their relationship — this moment would be at the core of all their interactions with each other moving forward.

All educators have moments like these. They are as memorable as they are important to the academic progress and development of students. New connections begin and existing ones grow as students return to school for the new year.

The back-to-school experience does not look the same for each student. Every student has their own story and individual path to success. Making connections is foundational to ensuring that each student has an opportunity to succeed.

There are also connections important to education that do not necessarily happen in the classroom. At the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) and in the 14 school districts and approximately 250 schools in our county — returning teams welcomed new members and reconnected to build bonds and share knowledge to better serve students.

And every year, schools do more to relate with their families, because engaged families are our students’ first and best educational partners.

In education, we learn from each other. At the SJCOE, we have been doing our part over the summer to build important connections, holding events for educators to train and learn while networking with colleagues. Our support in these and other ways will continue throughout the school year, too.

It is always a good time to build stronger partnerships between schools and the community. The students of today are already becoming our community leaders of tomorrow. The more we work together, the better prepared our students will be.

So welcome back, students, families, and educators of San Joaquin County to another amazing year in education. I know you will all have new stories to tell about the connections you have made.

Your partner in education,

A back-to-school message from the San Joaquin County Superintendent of Schools
SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY OFFICE OF EDUCATION | 5 WELCOME to the SCHOOL YEAR! 2023-2024 Here’s what back to school looks like in schools across the county! Banta Unified Escalon Unified Lammersville Unified Discovery ChalleNGe Academy
Venture Academy Stockton Unified Manteca Unified Ripon Unified Special Education New Jerusalem Elementary Oak View Elementary
one.Program Lodi Unified Lincoln Unified
these photos and more in the https://tinyurl.com/SJCbacktoschool23.
Linden Unified


Youth Mental Health Development Academy prepares high school students to support their peers throughout the school year

A group of dedicated students from high schools across the county start this school year trained and ready to support the mental health and well-being of their classmates.

They are all part of the Youth Mental Health Development Academy – a peer leadership program in San Joaquin County that provides training around mental health, suicide prevention, human trafficking, substance abuse, and school violence.

“We felt that students would relate to these conversations if presented by someone they trust, someone their age,” said Jenn DeAngelo, program coordinator with San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE)

Comprehensive Health. “The SJCOE is pioneering the impact of this program, and I have the utmost faith in this academy’s participants as they go back to their individual high schools to cultivate a better understanding of mental health topics.”

The academy was developed by the SJCOE Comprehensive Health department and funded through a Mental Health Services

Oversight and Accountability Commission grant to address and implement schoolbased mental health services and resources. The grant was awarded in 2022 through a partnership of the SJCOE and San Joaquin County Behavioral Health Services.

To learn to become peer advisors at the academy, students first had to apply and commit to thorough training by mental health professionals, as well as monthly trainings and meetings throughout the school year. Over the summer, students were on the SJCOE campus for one week, followed by a week at the Sky Mountain Outdoor Education Center to practice their skills. Instructors from the Mind Body Awareness Project led sessions that included mindfulness techniques, guided meditation, self-acceptance, and destigmatization of mental health services.

Lincoln High (Lincoln Unified School District) student Haley knew from a young age that she wanted to study psychology and counseling. “I am involved in the peer mediation program at my high school and

heard about this opportunity through my counselor,” she said. “Being at Sky Mountain has been peaceful, and gave us a chance to connect with our instructors and fellow peer-mentors.”

When asked what motivated students to apply, fellow Lincoln High student Eleana said, “You do not know what someone is going through– at home or at school. I want to be able to help end unnecessary conflict and disagreements in my school.”

In total, 36 students from high schools across the county applied and trained to be the first class of Youth Mental Health Development Academy leaders.

“It is incredibly uplifting to hear these students’ ideas and understand how attuned they are with the issues plaguing their schools and students around them,” said Nora Hana, director of Comprehensive Health. “This year’s academy participants will change the world, of that I have no doubt.”



Award from California Department of Education recognizes SJCOE for conserving resources, improving wellness, and promoting environmental literacy

It's official. In its policies and practices as an organization and as a leader for the community, the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) is doing its part to make the world cleaner and greener

Earlier this year, the SJCOE joined 14 schools and five school districts to receive recognition from the California Department of Education California Green Ribbon Schools program. Specifically, the SJCOE was named a 2023 California Green Ribbon School County Office of Education Sustainability Honoree.

"The SJCOE is excited to receive this honor. Our organization is committed to reducing environmental impacts and costs of our operations while also embracing efforts to improve the health of students and staff," said San Joaquin County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Troy Brown. "The SJCOE is also committed to increasing environmental literacy in our region through educational programs and building a network of students, educators, and community partners who share in this goal."

The SJCOE received "silver" status because of progress made toward reaching goals in three different areas reflecting a multipronged approach to achieving sustainability. In addition to installing solar panels, adding electric vehicle charging stations, and switching to LED lighting to create a more sustainable infrastructure, the SJCOE also showed progress with projects supporting the physical and mental health of staff and students through providing effective environmental education. In addition to operating the Durham

Ferry Outdoor Education Center near Tracy and the Sky Mountain Outdoor Education Center in Placer County, the SJCOE offers additional programs related to the environment that provide learning opportunities for students and training opportunities for educators. The SJCOE's Teachers College of San Joaquin also offers a master's degree program in environmental literacy.

Read more about the CA Green Ribbon Schools program at https://bit.ly/CAGRSchools.

Go Green!

The SJCOE supports environmental literacy and sustainability efforts throughout the year. On May 1 the SJCOE held its second annual Environmental Literacy Summit for networks of students, educators, and community partners. Here are more ways for YOU to get more involved.

Students, teachers, community partners, and more can join one of several regional networks coordinated by the SJCOE to focus on the environment. Learn more at https://bit.ly/SJCOEGreenNetworks.

Interested in becoming a 2024 CA Green Ribbon School? Our team at SJCOE STEM Programs can help. For more information contact STEM Programs Director Tamara Basepayne at tbasepayne@sjcoe.net.



Technology devices supplement efforts to improve language development in early childhood classrooms

Early childhood educators participating in the Language ENvironment Analysis (LENA) Grow professional development program are making gains toward improving child language development. Data results from classrooms in San Joaquin County using LENA devices have shown that students who were less verbal before using the devices made significant gains in verbal engagement.

LENA devices are small “talk pedometers” worn by children to measure back-andforth exchanges – called conversational “turns” – between children and adults. Rises in these conversational turns are correlated to increases in brain growth and scores on language, executive function, and reasoning assessments.

In the past school year, students in LENA Grow classrooms averaged a 27% increase in conversational turns per hour. Students who were less verbal during the school day compared to other peers experienced a 64% increase in conversational turns on average. Even more impressive, students who began with fewer interactive talks than the national medium had a 129% increase in conversational turns.

The devices use cloud-based software to share detailed data each week to help adults make measured shifts to boost interactive talk and conversational turns. This data analysis is coupled with strategic strengths-based coaching from experts through the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) Early Childhood Education department to provide LENA Grow educators with additional resources and support needed to individualize instruction, strengthen relationships, and improve language skill development.

“It is a wonderful resource for teachers,” said Judy Artellan, site supervisor of the Community Action Partnership of Kern (CAPK) Early Head Start program in Stockton. “It makes all of us more aware of the conversations we’re having throughout the day. You feel like you talk all day long, but you may see that you don’t engage directly with specific students.”

This is the second year that Ann Jackson, a CAPK Head Start teacher, has used the LENA devices in her class. During the latest round, she was proud that she was able to implement techniques to increase conversational turns with two new students who rarely spoke in class.

“My favorite thing about the program is watching the growth students have from week one compared to week five,” Jackson said. “Learning which tools and tips work for each individual student is rewarding.”

Her peers agree. A survey of participating educators showed that 88% reported an increase in job satisfaction following the completion of LENA Grow.

LENA Grow was created following the implementation of LENA Home, a home visiting program where parents use the LENA devices to track conversations with their children. Both LENA Home and LENA Grow are administered by the SJCOE Early Education and Support department and are made possible through grant funding received from the SJCOE Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS). LENA Grow is offered to sites participating in the QRIS.

For more information, visit www.sjcoe.org/earlychildhood or contact Shadaneca Harbour at sharbour@sjcoe.net. OUTLOOK | NEWS


Reaching Higher for Youth in Foster Care

Fourth Annual Foster Youth Education Summit

At the Fourth Annual Foster Youth Education Summit at the SJCOE in May, professionals who focus on improving the lives of children in foster care came together to learn and be inspired. The annual summit brings together professionals and the youth they serve.

Keynote speaker MelissaRoshan “MelRo” Potter kicked off the event, sharing her own story of a childhood spent homeless, in juvenile detention, and in 23 foster placements.

She reminded the attendees working with young people in foster care that they have the power to make a profound impact, even if it doesn’t happen right away. “It’s like you are planting the seeds of hope.”

After the speech, attendees split off into different sessions that included a focus on how to respond to trauma and how to support students continuing their education after high school.

In the college session, a panel of students who had been in foster care shared their experiences and talked about the teachers, counselors, and others who made up their system of support. The panelists were joined by representatives from CSU Stanislaus, Modesto Junior College, San Joaquin Delta College, and the University of the Pacific.

The 2023 summit was organized by a partnership that included these colleges and other organizations, including the San Joaquin County Human Services Agency. Hosted by SJCOE’s Foster Youth Services Coordinating Program, the summit had grown to include a five-county region and was organized in partnership with county offices of education in Amador, Calaveras, Stanislaus, and Tuolumne counties, too.

Home Visiting Workforce Summit

Unseen workforce helps children start off strong

There is a workforce of dedicated professionals who go to the homes of families with children from birth to age 5 and assist with child development, provide families with resources, train parents to be their child’s first teacher, and much, much more.

Since it takes place inside homes, the work goes largely unseen. But in May, they came together for the first Home Visiting Workforce Summit for a day of training, professional development, and networking.

It was organized by the San Joaquin County Home Visiting Coalition, which includes members from the SJCOE, First 5 San Joaquin, and more. At the summit, more than 160 service providers from 26 agencies registered to attend.

“We’re here to celebrate the home visitors and celebrate their hard work,” First 5 San Joaquin Executive Director Marisela Pineda said.

In his work as a home visitor, Brandon Thunn from YMCA of San Joaquin, said part of the work is showing families how creative enrichment activities and access to resources can show progress in child development. The summit was an opportunity to both exchange ideas and build new collaboration that could bring more resources to families, he said.

Home visitation plays a vital role in preparing young children for their futures, said Leticia Sida, director of the SJCOE’s Head Start San Joaquin.

“Home visiting is a critical part of the larger ECE (early childhood education) system that is helping to prepare students for success in school and life,” she said.



Forward to Success

Summit prepares administrators for the new school year

Educators from across the county gathered for the first annual Administrators Summit in July. The day of learning was focused on inspiring and empowering administrators, both new and seasoned, as they head into the new school year. Nearly 20 sessions were offered around topics like equity-based grading, the art of having difficult conversations, leading change, and more.

During the keynote presentation, Dr. Rebecca Branstetter of Thriving Students Collective comedically shared 10 practical ways for educators to avoid burnout throughout the year. Tips included using a post-work ritual to transition into “down-time brains,” boosting positive energy by surrounding oneself with inspiring people, and having “adult recesses” by taking designated breaks and lunches.

A panel discussion was also held around building and maintaining school culture during difficult times, self-care, and time management tips. Panelists were:

• Dr. Troy Brown, San Joaquin County Superintendent of Schools

• Greg Leland, Retired Principal, Lathrop High School

• Lisa Pettis, Superintendent, Galt Joint Union High School District

• Bruce Sawyer, Coordinator, San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) Continuous Improvement and Support/ Former Principal of Central Catholic High School

• Jane Steinkamp, SJCOE Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services

“I feel like this is a good way to kick off the year," said Leah Grant, vice principal of Cordes Elementary School (Lammersville Unified School District). Grant and her colleagues from her district were grateful that the Summit also provided a chance to talk with administrators outside their organization.

The event was organized by the SJCOE Continuous Improvement and Support (CIS) team and held at the Teachers College of San Joaquin. Find out more about upcoming trainings and resources CIS provides at www.sjcoe.org/CIS.

Conference for educators by educators

TCSJ hosts first EduGrowth conference

More than 100 educators from across the Central Valley gathered at the Teachers College of San Joaquin (TCSJ) for EduGrowth 2023, TCSJ’s first-ever conference for educators by educators. The mission of the conference was to build a network of professional development opportunities, supports, and resources to prepare and inspire educators for the upcoming school year.

“EduGrowth 2023 represents our college’s commitment to empower educators with the tools and strategies they need to shape the minds of tomorrow's leaders,” said Dr. Girlie Hale, TCSJ president. “Our goal is to inspire and prepare educators for the upcoming year so they can nurture the talents and potential of every student."

The conference featured over 30 unique sessions to address the needs of every attendee. Session topics were grouped to align with TCSJ's core values: Rigor, Relevance, Relationships, and Reflection.

Among these sessions was, “Umbrella of Need from our Students’ Perspective,” presented by Caity Carter, an education specialist teacher at Sequoia Grove Charter. This session provided teachers with a deeper understanding of the psychological and physical needs that students may be silently facing.

“This session was a great study in human development and how people learn,” said Kristen Frisk, who runs an after-school program at St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Manteca. “One of the most notable takeaways was that, as educators we must go into the students' world before you can pull them into yours.”

In addition to the conference sessions, attendees had the opportunity to hear from keynote speaker, Rushton Hurley, author of three books on learning and schools, and the founder and executive director of Next Vista for Learning, an educational nonprofit.

TCSJ is the only regionally WASC-accredited institution of higher education that is a department within a county office of education. For more information, please visit www.teacherscollegesj.edu.



Color the Summer Art Camp returns to Sky Mountain Outdoor Education Center

The second annual Color the Summer Art Camp took place in June at the San Joaquin County Office of Education’s (SJCOE) Sky Mountain Outdoor Education Center! Students in fourth through eighth grades spent time expanding their art skills and knowledge with numerous exercises and art sessions led by talented high school instructors.

“It is critical to engage our students with art,” said Erika Chapman, who coordinates student activities and events at the SJCOE, including the summer sleepaway camp focused on the arts. “They are growing in a digital world where creativity is driving the workforce. We want to foster these young artists and guide them in their journey to self-expression.”

Eighth grade camper Sirius was a first-time attendee this year, but she cannot wait to come back as an instructor. “I have a love of art in general – the expression of drawing characters and backgrounds,” she said. “I hope to apply as a student leader next year.”

Why high school instructors?

“We wanted to connect to students in a relatable way,” Chapman said. “As well as encourage high school artists to not only continue expanding their craft, but to receive real-life work experience too.”

Sophia, a student from Mountain House High School (Lammersville Unified School District), taught a lesson on pointillism – the technique

of painting small, distinct dots in patterns to form an image. She loved the challenge of teaching her craft to the younger students.

“Teaching is different than just creating,” she said, “I have to be mindful of the time and have to stop to explain my process to my students.”

Activities for students ranged from making resin jewelry and wire sculptures to using watercolors and bubble art. Each of the activities were strategically implemented to ensure students learned key art lessons and specific techniques like 2D-to-3D building, color exposure, and the seven elements of art.

In total, 153 students were guided through 12 activities. In between, students had free time to swim, canoe, sing campfire songs, and play games with fellow campers.

In order to remove financial barriers to attending the camp, scholarships were available for every student through funding from the SJCOE, Changing FACES Theatre Company, California Arts Council, Linden Unified School District, and Manteca Unified School District.

Learn more about Art Camp and other offerings from SJCOE Student Events and Activities at www.sjcoe.org/studentactivities.



one.Program Alumna

Daria Echeverria’s educational struggles began before she became a teenage parent her junior year of high school. Her grades started slipping in middle school and, for a time, she dropped out of high school, she said.

But having her son convinced her she needed to change her path. Being in the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) one.Program made it possible.

“My son did give me the motivation to graduate and go further with my education because I needed to provide a better life for him,” she said. “Having that program definitely made sure that it happened, because I had a lot of support.”

At one.New Start and then, one.Choice, she was in a program designed to provide access to childcare and other supports for students with children. That included teaching parenting skills, such as how to become their own children’s first teachers.

“She was thriving as a parent and also as a student,” said one.Program Teacher Shelly Contreras, who taught Echeverria.

Today, Echeverria is 26 and her son, Kyle, is 9 years old and an avid reader. “He’d rather do that than anything else,” said Echeverria, who also has a 3-year-old daughter named Kaylee. “When children are introduced to literacy early on, they’re more interested in it. He has better reading skills because he was introduced so early.”

Echeverria’s expertise in early childhood education comes from more than just being a parent. After graduating from the one.Program, she got her associate’s degree in the subject at San Joaquin Delta College. She’s now working toward a bachelor’s degree in child development at Sacramento State, has worked as a preschool assistant, and has recently been hired as a transitional kindergarten assistant.

Her passion for early childhood education started in the one.Program, where she volunteered in her son’s childcare center, operated by Child Abuse Prevention Center (CAPC), which partners with the program. “It inspired me,” she said.

The one.Program offers many opportunities for students, Echeverria said. It wasn’t just the services and supports, she said. It was the people who made a connection with her.

“That makes all the difference,” she said. “All a student needs is one person to care about their education, and I got that from the program.”


We Are SJCOE is a regular feature in the Outlook to celebrate members of the San Joaquin County Office of Education community. If there is someone you would like featured, email sjcoepio@sjcoe.net. #WeAreSJCOE



Lodi Unified educator named county Teacher of the Year for dedication to building positive classroom and campus cultures

As a child, Debbi Crawford would bring home extra papers at the end of the school year so she could “play school” during summer vacation. The engaging lessons and positive classroom culture provided by several teachers in her education inspired her to play the role of a teacher until she eventually became one herself.

Crawford now teaches fifth grade at Wagner-Holt Elementary School (Lodi Unified School District), where she was one of the school's founding teachers in 1989. Her dedication to creating a learning environment in which every student can thrive is one of the reasons she was selected as the 2023 San Joaquin County Teacher of the Year.

"Ms. Crawford once told me that teaching is hundreds of small victories," wrote Wagner-Holt Elementary Principal Carmelita Goldsby when nominating Crawford. "These small victories, accumulated over the course of her 41-year career, have positively touched and changed the lives of generations in our school community."

In Crawford’s classroom, there is a high sense of student pride. Walls are covered in student artwork and projects, and student collaboration can be observed throughout most instructional opportunities. "She believes that students need to feel cared for, safe, and accepted to learn," Goldsby wrote. "She strives to build a culture of learning in her classroom where students learn from each other as well as from her."

Her past students agree. One student contacted Crawford 30 years after being in her classroom to share that she was pursuing a master's degree in nursing and that Crawford had a tremendous impact on her when she was her student. “I teach students to believe in themselves and do my best to provide what each needs to succeed,” Crawford said. “Students remember most how you made them feel. I love that they come back to visit and share their stories.”

Crawford is also a leader. In 2008, she became one of the first AVID elementary teachers in California and encouraged colleagues to do the same, making Wagner-Holt Elementary one of the first to implement a school-wide AVID elementary program. She serves as a mentor for new teachers and organizes the school's annual Olympic Day, an end-of-the-year event to make students feel recognized and celebrated.

As San Joaquin County Teacher of the Year, Crawford received $1,000 from Self-Help Federal Credit Union. Crawford's nomination was submitted to the state for consideration as California Teacher of the Year.



Clockwise from top : Crawford (center) with retired Lodi Unified Superintendent Dr. Cathy Nichols-Washer and County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Troy Brown, Crawford in the classroom helping a student, Crawford receiving a $1,000 check from Self-Help Federal Credit Union after being named Teacher of the Year, Crawford (center) with County Superintendent of schools Dr. Troy Brown and Self-Help representative Ennis Frost, and Crawford leading a lesson in the classroom.


Only a handful of extraordinary educators are named Teacher of the Year finalists. In 2023, they are :

RICHARD NEWTON North Elementary School

Tracy Unified School District

“Mr. Newton believes every student who enters his classroom should feel like and ‘know’ they have every opportunity to be successful, not only in his classroom, but in life -- forever!!” said North Elementary School Principal Susan Hawkins.


San Joaquin County Office of Education

“Rebecca has been called a teacher, counselor, mentor, coach, and mother by multiple students because she takes the time to build that all-important relationship and will adjust her approach to meet the need of every student,” Come Back Kids Director Doug McCreath said.

ANN PENDLETON Ripon High School

Ripon Unified School District

“Her hands-on approach ... technology-based lessons, and realworld applications have instilled a love for science amongst her students,” Ripon High Principal Keith Rangel said. “Ann has become somewhat of a celebrity around the area, as she produces ‘Superfan’ videos ... promoting events, athletic results, and many other activities.”

TULIA COBIÁN Collegeville Elementary School

Escalon Unified School District

“Maestra Cobián ... learns her students’ likes and dislikes and makes use of that knowledge to engage them. Her classroom management is nothing short of outstanding. She projects and models calm and care, and the results are easily visible when students are with her,” Collegeville Elementary Principal George Megenney.



Classified employees play key roles in our schools. These individuals help create environments that support the development of the whole child and promote student achievement, health, and safety. This year, seven San Joaquin County classified employees were honored. Each Classified Employee of the Year received $500 from event co-sponsor Self-Help Federal Credit Union.



Transportation Jefferson School

Enna Black, an RSP Instructional Aide at Jefferson School, begins and ends each day transporting students. “What I appreciate most about Mrs. Black is that she takes the time to get to know the students personally, addressing not only their academic needs, but their socialemotional needs as well,” Jefferson School Principal Jason Strickland said.

Pamela Mendoza

Technical Services

San Joaquin County Office of Education

Information Technology System Specialist

Pamela Mendoza has worked fulltime for the San Joaquin County Office of Education IT department for 24 years. “Pam reaches out to help those who need it, often before they ask,” SJCOE IT Division Director Ed Babakhan said. “She thinks of others more than herself, and that is evident to all who work with her.”

Gustavo Albisu

Custodial and Maintenance Services

Mossdale Elementary School

Gustavo Albisu has been Head Custodian at Mossdale Elementary School for more than seven years. “Perhaps the quality that stands out most in Gustavo is his humility. He is a quiet leader. Someone whose strength speaks through his character and actions,” Mossdale Principal Anthony Chapman said. “Not a day goes by when a visitor to Mossdale doesn’t compliment the school and its cleanliness.”

Joseph Camacho


Jacobson Elementary School

Joseph Camacho has been a paraeducator at Jacobson Elementary School in Tracy for 12 years. “Students appreciate that he is kind, funny, and always willing to help while also holding students accountable. He teaches using realworld, relevant examples that make the material relatable to students,” Jacobson Elementary School Principal Derek Sprecksel said.

Peter Lilienstein

Skilled Trades

Lodi Unified School District

Peter has been a mechanic with the Lodi Unified School District for 30 years. “He is a very determined, talented, motivated individual who takes great pride in his work,” Construction Project Specialist Marc Karim said. “I have always admired his willingness to learn new things, his resourcefulness, and his inner determination to hang in there and get the job done.”

Chad Simas

Security Services

Sierra High School

Chad Simas has been Sierra High School campus monitor for more than five years. “He is the epitome of what every comprehensive high school should seek in a campus monitor. His dedication to the students he serves, and the Sierra High School campus as a whole, is second to none,” Sierra High Assistant Principal Anne Marie Shaw said. “He goes above and beyond to provide help and assistance to all students.”

Karen Ventura

Clerical and Administrative Services

Waverly Elementary School

Karen Ventura is a school secretary at Waverly Elementary School and has worked for Linden Unified School District for 32 years. "Karen always gives 100-percent effort and truly runs the office so that it is a well-oiled machine," Waverly Elementary Principal Jessica Riley said. "Our families always feel comfortable speaking to her, and she puts them at ease."




Live Oak and Needham Elementary Schools

Lodi Unified School District

School counselors make up an integral component of our educational system. Preparing our students for success requires a focus on the whole student – not just academics. Counselors show the way, helping students manage their emotions, cope with trauma and crisis, overcome obstacles to learning, make decisions, and more. For the first time in 2023, there was a San Joaquin County School Counselor of the Year.

Erica Contreras-Suarez has been a school counselor for 19 years and has a breadth of knowledge gained by working at the elementary, middle, and high school levels – and at the collegiate level as a bilingual instructor. Erica is well-versed in using data, and she was essential in helping the district’s elementary school counselor team approach the work through a data-driven lens and was instrumental in the creation of Lodi’s Comprehensive School Counseling program.



Lodi Unified School District

While recognizing excellence among the teachers, counselors, and classified staff in local education, the SJCOE also celebrated Lodi Unified School District Superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer, who retired after a long career devoted to education in San Joaquin County. She served as superintendent of Lodi Unified for 15 years and Manteca Unified for four years. She was the first woman to hold the top position in both districts.

Under her leadership, Lodi Unified experienced significant growth, and positive change. She has also created a non-profit (Giving Opportunities to Kids), presented to local and state audiences on women in leadership, is an advocate for supporting girls in developing leadership skills, and is a founding member of Women Together International.




Over the summer, the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) Programs department hosted over sixteen summer camps for students in the FabLab for coding, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and technological advancement; one instructional leadership class for educators to bring robotics into the classroom; and nine Let’s Play Outside camps to engage students in outdoor play and learning. The FabLab is a unique engineering classroom with high-end equipment such as laser cutters, 3D printers, robotics arenas, more than 100 computers, 3D augmented reality workstations, and more!

From Summer 2022 to Summer 2023, the number of courses and camps provided for students and educators nearly doubled as staff, led by STEM coordinator Stephen Callahan, curated curriculum to include game engineering with Nintendo Switches, computer graphics and augmented reality, engineering wearable technology, microscopy, and more.

“Coding, engineering, and AI are the future for our children,” Callahan said. “We are proud to offer these camps and programs to specifically enhance their exposure and knowledge of these technologies.” When asked where he finds inspiration for the courses he designs, he said, “From my own personal experience. For example, I tried coding with my children last year on their Nintendo Switches and found a way to build a class around this fun and engaging tool.”


Summer of Computer Science

Educators from Tracy Unified, Manteca Unified, Lincoln Unified, and Oakdale Joint Unified attended the Summer of CS camp at the FabLab in June. This camp provided teachers a hands-on learning experience with robotics and coding with the goal of incorporating the technology in their own classrooms. Groups were separated by grade block– Kindergarten through fifth grade and sixth grade through eighth grade– to learn specific skills related to their students.

Artificial Intelligence

New and ever-changing technology is allowing us to explore new realities and grow technologically. This camp allowed high schoolers to investigate Artificial Intelligence and create robots that respond to what it sees. Additionally, students will be able to train a Tensor Flow model by building their own circuit board.

Primary Coding

Primary Coding was designed to introduce first and second graders to the world of coding and engineering. These students learned basic coding skills with OSMO tablets, and well as Dash and Dot technology to build solutions to problems.

Nintendo Switch Game Engineering

Elementary students in third to fifth grade enrolled in this course to learn how to program Nintendo Switch and Sphero devices. With Nintendo Labo, some simple coding, and a giant makerspace, students were able to engineer fun inventions –like how to code rock, paper, scissors, or a whack-a-mole game!



The Let’s Play Outside outdoor education summer camps give students the opportunity to engage and convene in nature. Activities range from archery to hiking to paddleboarding to team-building exercises. At the end of the week-long camp, students have bonded with their group, leaders, and feel more confident in their abilities.

Kristine Stepping, Outdoor Education and Environmental Literacy Coordinator with STEM Programs, knows the importance of investing in outdoor education. “To teach students about the local ecosystems and how we can impact the native plants and wildlife is crucial to the continued success of these areas,” she said. “And to see how the students respond to the activities is rewarding. Some students have never been on a proper hike, let alone a paddleboard!”

Let’s Play Outside activity leaders were comprised of high school seniors and those recently graduated. “Let’s Play Outside gives our leaders work experience for their resumes,” said Stepping. “We want these students and young adults to come back, to work in education. This summer gives them an idea of what it could be like.”

Alaba, a recent Lathrop High School graduate, and Jabari, a recent Discovery ChalleNGe Academy graduate, were tasked with numerous projects and group activities, including hikes, paddle boarding excursions at Lodi Lake, and the “campfire” drum circle to promote unity.

“This is my first year as an activity leader,” said Alaba. “But I have always wanted to work with kids. When I was at Lathrop High, I took Careers with Children as an elective and worked with kindergarteners.”

Stepping and her team managed and implemented nine Let’s Play Outside summer camps for students from Stockton Unified, Manteca Unified, Banta Unified, and New Hope Elementary Unified, as well as students from across the county enrolled in Migrant Education programs.

To learn more about the STEM Programs department, visit sjcoescience.org.



We have developed a strategic plan for the SJCOE to define us as an organization and steer us as we move ahead over the next five years. Our strategic plan is called Building to Serve because all that we do at the SJCOE is rooted in service. Building to Serve will guide our work and support our core values. It will act as our compass and allow us to align our efforts as we reach for our common goals.

At the heart of Building to Serve are five priorities. Identifying and defining these strategic priorities is just the beginning. They build on progress we have made in these areas, and they light the way forward as we coordinate our efforts working toward common goals. And we will move forward together. For each one of these priorities, a team consisting of employees from across our organization will meet frequently to keep us on track.

To learn more about SJCOE’s Building to Serve: a five-year Strategic Plan, visit www.sjcoe.org.

Here’s a snapshot of what you’ve been missing if you’re not following the #SJCOE on social media! and Scan to
Facebook! Scan to
SJCOE on Instagram!
Proud to be SJCOE! More than 400 Special Education Program team members joined together for the final Kick-Off before the school year! A night of fun in Downtown Stockton! National Night Out attracted hundreds of community members, numerous SJCOE programs, and law enforcement. Time for the next adVENTURE! Venture Academy Family of Schools graduates walked the stage at University of the Pacific and started their next journey. Building for the future! CodeStack’s new headquarters will be located in Downtown Stockton and increase access for students learning to code.

Outdoor Education


Looking for fundraising opportunities to help your students participate in Outdoor Education?

The San Joaquin County Office of Education Educational Foundation invites your school to participate in the Outdoor Education Fundraiser. Your school will receive 100% return for their efforts towards the trip to Outdoor Education (formerly known as Science Camp) or other outdoor education activities.

It is simple! Students sell tickets for $5 each for a chance to win one of three prizes: $3,500, $1,000, or $500. The three lucky tickets will be drawn in April, but your students are the real winners because your school will receive 100% of the ticket sales to help send kids to Outdoor Education. This fundraiser is open to all schools in San Joaquin County.

To find out how your school can participate or to purchase a ticket, call (209) 468-4802.

Sales will be ongoing through Friday, March 29, 2024. Make all checks payable to SJCOEEF. Winners will be announced at www.sjcoe.org on Friday, April 19, 2024. Winners will be subject to pay all applicable Federal and State gambling taxes prior to taking possession of prize. No refunds.