Outlook 77.3 | March

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Girls Coding Collaboration builds coding confidence in young girls


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

MARCH 2024
LOOKING FORWARD 11 CONTENTS DISTRICT HIGHLIGHTS In Perfect Harmony 4 Battle of the Brains 5 Spelling Bee Champions 5 IN THE COMMUNITY Knowing Your Worth 6 Creativity on Display 6 An Adventure in Agriculture 7 NEWS All Are Welcome in the Wellness Center 8 A Culture of Community 9 H2O Hackathon Returns 10 Creating Trailblazers 11 Growing Leaders 12 Opening the Doors to Possibilities 13 Heroes in Their Own Story 14 WE ARE SJCOE Carson Cavanagh and Jason Ochoa, Greater Valley Conservation Corps 15 FEATURE Exploring Job Options 16 San Joaquin County SELPA’s new Vocational Skills Lab provides high schools an opportunity to build job skills, get paid, and find their passion. IN THE CLASSROOM Early Literacy 20 Learning to read is foundational to a child’s education. It is a key to academic success and becoming a lifelong learner. Literacy is directly related to job readiness, healthcare access, economic development, and the overall well-being of the community. IN THE CLASSROOM FAQ The Science of Reading 22 The ability to read does not come naturally. Children need clear and organized instruction in a specific order in the five areas shown on this page. 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. 16



JANE CHAMBERLAIN Assistant Superintendent Educational Services

BRANDIE BRUNNI Assistant Superintendent Special Education and SELPA

MELANIE GREENE Assistant Superintendent County Operated Schools and Programs

PETER FOGGIATO Assistant Superintendent Business Services

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.

20 8 6 VOLUME 77 | ISSUE 3 | MARCH 2024 OUTLOOK Let’s stay connected! The Outlook is published by the San Joaquin County Office of Education Public Information Office.
TROY A. BROWN, Ed.D. San Joaquin County Superintendent
TERRELL MARTINEZ Deputy Superintendent Business Services
KAESLIN Associate Superintendent Student Programs and Services
SUBSCRIBE bit.ly/SJCOENews SUBMIT A STORY sjcoepio@sjcoe.net


High school musicians captivate audience at County Honors Concert

More than 280 high school student musicians from 21 schools in nine school districts graced the Atherton Auditorium stage at San Joaquin Delta College during the 2024 San Joaquin County High School Honors Concert on Jan. 13. Led by guest conductors from distinguished music programs, students performed a medley of pieces during the concert.

Students can audition and participate in the honors concert program throughout their high school careers, offering an opportunity to network with music directors and fellow student musicians from across the county. “You may even meet people who you will work with the rest of your life,” said Sidney, a sophomore at Lincoln High School (Lincoln Unified School District) who sang soprano in the Honor Choir and aspires to become a choir director herself.

Ryan, a Lincoln High senior, was among the 26 students honored with the Nelson Zane Four-Year Award, recognizing students who have been accepted into the program for all four years of eligibility. It was a great way to end his Honor Orchestra experience, during which he played viola. “I decided to push myself every year to see if I could qualify,” he said. “I encourage anyone interested in auditioning to do it. Try your best and you will do great!”

Congratulations to each of the 2024 Nelson Zane Four-Year Award recipients! Band

Giuseppe Amato - Tokay High School

Selvin Curin - East Union High School

Melino Halaholo - Lincoln High School

Sergio Lozano - Franklin High School

Jaydin Madriaga - Lincoln High School

Yuzar Oo - Tracy High School

Anshini Parikh - Lincoln High School

Zac Shi - Lincoln High School

Josh Sprinkle - Lincoln High School

Hannah Wampler - Escalon High School

Ethan Williams - Franklin High School

Sonnet Wonacott - Lincoln High School

Matthew Young - Lincoln High School


Archit Bahl - Mountain House High School

Sachnoor Kaur - Mountain House High School

Ranaya Singh - Weston Ranch High School

Dishita Thathapuram - Mountain House High School Orchestra

Ryan Dahl - Lincoln High School

Valente Hernandez - Ripon High School

John Holdaway - Lincoln High School

Keira Imada - Lincoln High School

Justin Martinez - Lincoln High School

Helen Padilla - Lincoln High School

Angeline Redding - West High School

Karol Rodriguez - Lincoln High School

Anthony Wahhab - Tracy High School

The auditions and concert are organized by the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) Visual and Performing Arts department, which sponsors the event alongside the Delta College Music Department and the San Joaquin County Music Educators' Association.

The concerts were livestreamed and are available to watch at youtu.be/7m2siUhiThg



Academic Decathlon allows students to excel



Middle College High School, Lodi Unified School District

Ronald E. McNair High School, Lodi Unified School District


EJ dela Cruz, Stockton Early College Jordan Prawira, Mountain House High 1 2 3

Lathrop High School, Manteca Unified School District



1 2 3

Middle College High School, Lodi Unified School District and Stockton Early College Academy, Stockton Unified School District

Lathrop High School, Manteca Unified School District

Ronald E. McNair High School, Lodi Unified School District

Meet San Joaquin County’s SPELLING BEE

C - H - A - M - P - S


Pranvi Rikkamalle Jefferson School, Eighth Grade

Pranvi, along with runner-up Praneet Kumaravel from Jefferson School, will participate in the California State Junior High Spelling Bee Championship.


Aarush Narahari

Peter Hansen School, Sixth Grade

Aarush, along with runner-up Enna Kaurfrom Brookside School, will participate in the California State Elementary Spelling Bee Championship.



Banta Unified

Escalon Unified

Jefferson Elementary

Lammersville Unified

Lincoln Unified

Linden Unified

Lodi Unified

Manteca Unified

New Hope Elementary

New Jerusalem Elementary

Oak View Union Elementary

Ripon Unified

Stockton Unified

Tracy Unified

The California State Spelling Bees will take place on April 27.



Women Together International: Uniting and empowering women in the workplace

Life’s obstacles and words of discouragement from her high school counselor didn’t stop Leticia Sida. They gave her fuel as she strived forward, moving from Texas to California, pursuing her education, and ascending into her leadership role as the director of Head Start San Joaquin.

Sida was one of the speakers at the fourth annual Women Together International conference. Held online Feb. 1, this year’s theme was “Know Your Worth!” as each of the panelists shared impactful stories that shaped them and guided their career trajectories.

Sida shared her strategies, which included the willingness to take risks and identifying a strong group of others who elevate and support her. “I believe that opportunities are all around us, and we choose to let these opportunities go,” she said. “Ask yourself – what opportunities are before you, and what is holding you back?”

Among the presenters was Mary Ann Sieghart, journalist and author of the book, The Authority Gap, which explores the gender bias regarding resistance to women’s authority and power. “Men are assumed to be competent until they prove otherwise; women are assumed to be incompetent until they prove you otherwise,” she said. When asked how to combat the authority gap in the workplace, Seigart shared the importance of women being allies of other women by modeling affirming behavior when other women are speaking and sharing ideas.

Women Together International is an inspiring collaborative founded by the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) and Lodi Unified School District. Learn more about how to join Women Together International at womentogetherintl.org.


County student art featured in longstanding Haggin Museum exhibit

The doors to the Haggin Museum could not open fast enough for Ari, a first grade student at Colonial Heights School (Lincoln Unified School District). She, alongside her family, was eager to enter the museum’s Tuleburg Gallery for the opening reception of the 93rd annual Robert T. McKee Student Art Exhibition, where her artwork was on display for the first time.

As the country’s longest-running museum-sponsored student art exhibit, the Haggin Museum annually lines its walls with an assortment of student artwork submitted by K-12 teachers throughout San Joaquin County.

The exhibit was first envisioned by the museum’s founding patron Robert T. McKee, who hoped to encourage students by providing a public venue for their artwork to be enjoyed.

This year, hundreds of pieces were on display, including collages, metalwork, oil/paint, bead art, and more. Student artists, their families, and teachers were invited to attend the show’s opening reception, sponsored by the Junior Women’s Group of the Haggin Museum, on Saturday, Feb. 3.

Isabella Morales, a junior from Weber Institute (Stockton Unified School District), and her family were beaming after seeing she had a ribbon beside her framed charcoal and white chalk artwork, distinguishing

that she had won the Palomino Blackwing Upper Division Award. “I created this in memory of my dog, India, who passed away.”

The student art exhibition is on display from Feb. 1 - March 17, 2024. Student artwork is returned following the exhibit closing.



Local third graders attend annual agricultural learning day at San Joaquin County Fairgrounds

Over 2,800 third grade students from Stockton Unified School District and Lincoln Unified School District attended the annual AgVenture at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds to learn about the local agriculture that surrounds our region.

Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapters from across the county volunteered to ensure third grade students are able to participate. These volunteer students ran activities like learning how to use power tools, basic roping skills, and facilitated many of the farm animal displays- including Bobby, the goat!

Kimberely, a Lathrop FFA Sophomore, followed in her sister’s footsteps in joining her high school’s chapter. “I love being part of something bigger than myself,” she said. “Hopefully, I can get into veterinary school or some sort of animal science industry.”

Local agriculture industries agencies were also in attendance to showcase the myriad of opportunities students interested in agriculture could pursue. From the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to San JoaquinStanislaus Cattle Women’s Association, students learned about basic veterinary measures for livestock, the types of food and grains farmers in our region grow, and even how to milk a cow!

San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) STEM Programs and Greater Valley Conservation Corps (GVCC) were also in attendance to teach students about the environmental impact of recycling, and how to track animals and birds.


FFA is a youth organization preparing its members for leadership and careers in the science, business, and technology of agriculture. Nationwide, there are nearly 1,000,000 student members who embody the motto of “Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, and Living to Serve.” To learn more about California FFA and our local chapters, visit calaged.org/index.php/.



The new Wellness Center at Venture Academy Family of Schools creates a calming environment where students can come to de-stress, regulate their emotions, and connect with school counselors or other resources to support mental health.

The space is warm, inviting, and hosts a variety of activities for studentsincluding sensory sand, snack area, a friendship bracelet station, coloring books, and journaling space.

The Wellness Center also aims at destigmatizing students needing assistance surrounding mental health issues. Each area of the center was thoughtfully curated with student interaction and wellbeing in mind. It offers everything from group therapy, to 15-minute “decompression” sessions during the school day, to just a calming area to study or do homework.

Funded by the Student Behavior Health Incentive Program (SBHIP) grant, the Wellness Center celebrated its opening during a November ribbon cutting ceremony at Venture Academy Family of Schools, a San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) charter school.

At the ceremony, students serving as Wellness Center teacher assistants (TAs) led the tour for attendees and SBHIP grant partners and shared what the Wellness Center meant to them. For Venture senior, Claudio, the sensory sand is a calming activity. Claudio was asked to become a student TA for the Wellness Center due to his welcoming presence and ability to connect with fellow students. His goal for the Wellness Center is “to have a place where students do not feel alone.”

Venture Academy Family of Schools Division Director Joni Hellstrom reminded attendees during the ceremony of the pressures students are facing. She compared their every day to a computer with too many tabs open that it becomes nearly impossible to process information.

“Sometimes, we all need a reboot,” she said. “Venture is committed to ensuring the overall wellbeing of our students, whether they need a 15-minute break to decompress or to talk to one of the counselors about an issue. We believe in the Wellness Center and hope everyone can see its value.”

“The Wellness Center is an extension of our school community motto- which strives to provide a place where students can be

themselves, belong, and be clear of distractions from life in order to focus on learning,” said Wellness Center counselor Jeremy Sinclair. “This space has been a truly student-centered project From the design, setup, and now day-to-day operations, we wanted our students to be involved to increase validation of the services, as well as offer a sense of welcoming to those who visit.”

The SJCOE partnered with Health Plan of San Joaquin, Health Net of San Joaquin, Behavioral Health Services, and the SJCOE Comprehensive Health Department for the SBHIP grant funding.



.Program grows restorative practices team of trainers

One by one, each of the six educators sitting in the circle provided Juan Alvarez, a mental health clinician, with constructive and positive feedback on his presentation. Like them, Alvarez was practicing the training presentation he would soon give his colleagues as a new member of the one.Program restorative practices team.

Trained by an expert from the International Institute for Restorative Practices, Alvarez and his peers participated in a two-day training to equip themselves with the strategies necessary to guide fellow educators and support staff across the one.Program in implementing restorative practices on their respective campuses.

This train-the-trainer approach is how the one.Program is working toward its goal to provide 100% of its staff with training and support in restorative practices.

Restorative practices focus on fostering a sense of community on campuses and

allowing staff and students to build and maintain relationships. And as a proactive approach to discipline, it can prevent issues that could lead to disciplinary measures from appearing in the first place.

The effectiveness of restorative practices has been shown in research, and one.Program administrators have seen how it works in schools in San Joaquin County. Since being implemented on select campuses in 2018, schools have reported a positive impact on school relationships, classroom climates, and overall campus conflict.

“A pillar of the one.Program is building connections first, so this restorative practice work is perfect for us,” said Yvette Menchaca, coordinator of County Operated Schools and Programs at the San Joaquin County Office of Education. Menchaca is also a member of the restorative practices team.

Central to the restorative practices team training is the emphasis on preventative

circles. These circles create safe spaces for participants to engage in dialogue, fostering trust, open communication, and stronger bonds. Not only do these circles contribute to community building– they play a role in mitigating behavioral issues.

“The circles showed that I am approachable,” said Alvarez, noting he’s seen an increase in students seeking his services.

Beyond circles, the restorative practices team teaches other strategies including affective statements, impromptu conversations, and restorative conferencing.

The restorative practices team now includes 15 staff members who train and support staff across every one.Program campus. Learn more about the one.Program at sjcoe.org/AltEd/Default.aspx.



The Seventh Annual H2O Hackathon on May 4 calls on high school and college students to compete for cash prizes in their own divisions to build apps or create multimedia campaigns that help solve California's tough water issues.

This year's challenge calls on students to “Hack the Flood," targeting an issue that periodically causes damaging impacts across San Joaquin County. The heavy storms of early 2023 caused localized flooding, downed powerlines, raised water tables that flowed into basements, and stressed the levee system protecting the county from catastrophic floods.

Teams compete for thousands of dollars in cash prizes, including the CalWater Golden Spigot grand prize. A panel of water experts and community leaders will judge contestant entries. The competition receives support from business, regional water districts, and educational institutions.



Last year’s college winner of the coding competition also took home the grand prize for an app designed to make protecting the water supply a game that involves the community. Team Tigres Del Sol from the University of the Pacific took those winnings and poured them into a student-led project to build a solar-powered car.

When finished, they plan to take the car to competitions across the nation and globe. The $6,500 in H2O Hackathon prize money accelerated their solar-car project, and they expect to have a completed car this spring.

“We wouldn’t have been able to do it as quickly without the Hackathon prize,” said Alecksei Macatuno, who was part of the winning Pacific Team. He’s still part of the Pacific Solar Car Club, and will be back again to compete in the Seventh Annual H2O Hackathon on May 4 at the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE).

Last year, two teams from San Joaquin Delta College took the top spots in the multimedia competition. Some of those students will be back again this year, said Adriana Brogger, the teams’ coach and Delta’s digital media professor.

Competing in the event drives home to students the real-world application of what they are learning in audio/video production, social media, and other digital media classes. “It was a culmination of all the skills they had been working on.”

In the high school division app-building competition, McNair High School (Lodi Unified School District) took first and second place. Not all those competitors were graduating seniors, so members of the second-place team plan to return to hack again this year.

in either the app-building competition or the multimedia competition.

No coding experience necessary in the app-building competition. Competitors may use the Code.org App Lab or any other coding platform to solve the challenge outlined on the day of the event. In the multimedia challenge, students will develop a strategy to market the winning app or raise awareness to the challenge presented using at least two forms of media, such as videos, podcasts, graphic design, and social media to create an engaging messaging campaign. Individuals and teams may register now at h2ohackathon.org

The H2O Hackathon is open to high school and college students competing in two separate divisions in a daylong competition on May 4 at the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE). Students in both divisions may compete


Girls Coding Collaboration builds coding confidence in young girls

Whales, seaweed, and other underwater life squeezed into the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) FabLab, filling the entire space until Lola, a fifth grade homeschool student, pinched her fingers together on her tablet, shrinking them to fit comfortably on her desk. Using augmented reality technology – which combines the real and virtual worlds – she explored what her unique sea life creations would look like in real life.

The activity was one of several that Lola and 80 other girls in grades 3-8 experienced during the fifth annual Girls Coding Collaboration. The event theme was “Trailblazers,” and the day started with a video featuring trailblazing women from history and presentday San Joaquin County. Activities throughout the day centered around visualizing data using science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Instructed by Steffany Zanini, coordinator in the SJCOE STEM Programs department, students started their day designing mermaids, frogs, or any other aquatic life they wanted within the TinkerCAD app. Once designed, they loaded the creations, already linked to small scannable chips, into 3D-printed hermit crab shells and viewed them using augmented reality technology. Students ended the day using the coding language Python and a circuit board to illuminate small sea life structures.

Trailblazing women coders and leaders from Codestack Academy and SJCOE STEM Programs floated around the room, assisting Lola and her peers throughout the day. When the day was done, each student was encouraged to pack up their sea shells and sea life structures to continue tinkering with them from home.

“This event is one of my favorites because it’s motivating and inspires girls to further explore STEM in their classrooms and as a career,” Zanini said. “They leave the event excited because they created something themselves, and they were able to ask questions of the female engineers and STEM pros about their careers.”

This was precisely why Jennifer Brewster, a teacher at Monroe Elementary School (Stockton Unified School District), brought 10 of her students to the event. “I want my students to become more confident in their abilities so they can take more leading roles during classroom activities,” she said. Noticing the giggles and collaboration happening at each table, she added, “When you’re having fun, you forget you’re learning sophisticated technology.”


Some of the 3D-printed hermit crab shells provided during the Girls Coding Collaboration event were originally created for Hermes, a permanent resident of the SJCOE Fablab’s BioLab. Nicknamed the “Fab Crab,” the small crustacean has been a focal point for the biology research conducted by Stephen Callahan, SJCOE STEM Programs director.

Callahan and his team’s research use a combination of AI, coding, and 3D scanning to create potential shells for Hermes to consider when he outgrows the current one. Differing in size, shape, and color, Hermes always selects between a 3D-printed or new natural shell.

The BioLab is inspired by the partnership that SJCOE STEM Programs have with UC Davis CITRIS following a presentation on urban gardening by Professor Shamim Ahamed in 2023. It includes four different experiments: a yeast habitat, which uses data to grow better sourdough; an aquatic habitat that pumps water from a fishtank to grow chard and edible flowers; GardenBots, which use automation and data to keep succulents alive; and the Fab Crab, Hermes.



Retreat brings together students in the Youth for Environmental Literacy network

More than 30 sophomores from 17 high schools in San Joaquin County who are passionate about the environment and the outdoors headed into the mountains in November for a twoday retreat to connect and learn from each other.

They were part of the Youth for Environmental Literacy (YEL) network, which is coordinated through the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) STEM Programs department. The overnight retreat at the SJCOE’s Sky Mountain Outdoor Education Center was designed to bring together students with a shared passion and help them work together and build leadership skills.

“I’m excited to meet new people,” said Celeste, who learned of the retreat from her green technology teacher at Merlo Institute (Stockton Unified School District). “I hope that I can learn something and can bring ideas to Merlo.”

Students took part in activities to build a network and grow as leaders, said Tamara Basepayne, STEM Programs director. They also pictured what the ideal sustainable school would look like, then worked toward identifying achievable goals to move their own school in that direction. “We’re just hoping that the kids had an opportunity to connect with nature, build their own environmental identity, and be able to start seeing themselves as leaders in the environmental literacy world at their school site.”


In addition to the YEL group, the SJCOE also coordinates the Community Partners for Environmental Literacy (CPEL) and the Teachers for Environmental Literacy (TEL) networks that also remain active throughout the year. In one November outing, TEL teachers went on a behind-the-scenes tour of the Mosquito and Vector Control District headquarters, where they met with an etymologist, learned how the agency protects health, and then discussed how to provide real-world examples to students by connecting them to the agency and its experts. Learn more at environmentalliteracy.sjcoescience.org/Home.



Early Childhood Education Conference embeds strategies to advance language and literacy

Teachers, childcare providers, and other early childhood professionals from San Joaquin County and beyond gathered for the 7th annual Early Childhood Education Conference, hosted by the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) Early Childhood Education department.

The theme of this year’s conference was Language and Literacy: Opening the Doors to Possibilities. Through five learning tracks, a panel discussion, and a powerful keynote address, the two-day conference offered strategies for supporting children and families in different facets of language and literacy.

Dr. Annie White, an assistant professor in the Early Childhood Studies program at California State University, Channel Islands, struck the tone of the conference during her talk on the first night. White introduced participants to a framework called “Learning Stories,” a transformative approach to completing state-required formative assessments of students in a way that engages families.

It works like this. First, a teacher observes a student in the classroom. Next, the teacher

writes an engaging, descriptive, and personalized narrative about the observation, directed toward the student.

The narrative includes an analysis of the behavior, its significance to the student’s learning and development, and how the teacher will support this growth. The learning story, accompanied by a photo and catchy headline, is then presented to the student and their family as a glimpse of the student’s growth. Families are also encouraged to respond with a learning story of their own to offer teachers a glimpse of learning at home. The process deepens connections.

“Learning stories celebrate what children can do, not their deficits, and honor the unique way each student learns,” said White, whose research shows that families and students reference the stories for years to come.

The theme of storytelling and its impact on families, the community, and education continued into the second day of the event, which began with a panel discussion on the topic. Panelists highlighted their personal stories and experiences before sharing final pieces of wisdom.

“Keep on honoring the stories of the families that you’re serving, and your own,” said Raquelle Deyto, recruitment, marketing, and communications manager at the Teachers College of San Joaquin.

Attendees then visited the exhibitor room to test the latest sensory toys and equipment, learn about professional development, and receive free books for their classrooms before settling into workshops. By the end of the conference, attendees applied foundational lessons learned through different handson activities, like creating accessible books, drafting learning stories, and more.

The event was sponsored by Lakeshore, the University of the Pacific, and Kaplan Early Learning Company. To learn more about the learning stories framework, visit SALSA-global.org.

“Everyone has a story to tell; help them find it,” said Hector Calderon, program manager at the SJCOE.


Students recognized with Every Student Succeeding Awards

Isaac Basurto, a freshman at River Islands High School (Banta Unified School District), was just 11 years old when diagnosed with an extremely rare form of jawbone cancer, with only 38 cases in the world. He underwent a complex 12-hour surgery and several subsequent surgeries. As of last winter, Isaac can now say he has beaten cancer and is pursuing his passion for performing arts and singing.

Alexander Rodriguez Garcia, a freshman at Venture Academy Family of Schools (San Joaquin County Office of Education), lost the ability to speak during his battle with a brain tumor in eighth grade. Determined to be able to communicate, he taught himself sign language in both English and Spanish. When asked why, he said one reason was that he wanted to be able to say ‘thank you’ to everyone helping him.

Isaac and Alexander were just two of the fifteen exceptional students presented with the Every Student Succeeding Award from the San Joaquin chapter of the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA). The award honors inspirational students who have succeeded against all odds and beyond all expectations.

Nominated by administrators and staff who supported them, each student honoree has overcome adversity, such as medical issues or disabilities, sudden illness, family tragedy, or inner challenges like depression and anxiety.

“No matter the struggle, all the students here today are the heroes of their own amazing stories of perseverance and achievement,” said Terrell Martinez, deputy superintendent of Business Services at the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE).

Students were honored during a special breakfast event organized by the SJCOE College and Career Readiness team and attended by honorees, their families, and the school staff who have supported the inspiring students throughout their journey.

Isaac Basurto

Banta Unified School Distric

Andrea Hernandez

Rachel McDonald

Escalon Unified School District

Ky’Anna O’Rear

Lincoln Unified School District

Alexis Leanos

Ishmael Peoples

Linden Unified School District

Kendra Temgo

Manteca Unified School District

Nicholas Shareghi

New Jerusalem Elementary School District

Lisa Jimenez

Skyler Ortiz

Ripon Unified School District

Alexander Rodriguez Garcia

Gabriella Saucedo

San Joaquin County Office of Education

Yamilet Nolasco-Lopez

Stockton Unified School District

Adrian McCullar

Camila Reyes Minero

Tracy Unified School District




The work Greater Valley Conservation Corps (GVCC) does in cities and in wilderness areas makes a difference. Neighborhoods are cleaner, wildfires have less fuel to burn, and recyclable materials are kept out of landfills. This, and so much more, are possible because of the nearly 100 members of the GVCC.

For the young adults ages 18 to 26 who are the corpsmembers, GVCC offers a place where they can earn a wage while gaining work experience and other skills to help reach their career and life goals.

And each year the GVCC recognizes two corpsmembers who reflect the GVCC values and mission with a $1,500 scholarship to accelerate attaining their dreams.

“Once I entered the program, things started getting on track,” said Jason Ochoa, one of the two scholarship winners. Based in the GVCC’s Stockton headquarters, Ochoa has learned to appreciate the environment while doing the work to improve it, on a variety of projects such as working on a GVCC crew on a Cal-Trans highway

Along the way, he learned how to operate specialized equipment and develop new skills. His view of his future changed, and he has his sights on becoming a firefighter after obtaining his high school diploma and enrolling in San Joaquin Delta College. “This is something I didn’t think was possible in the past.”

Carson Cavanagh, the second scholarship winner, also sees firefighting as an option for his future. That’s what he thought when he first entered the GVCC, but the experience he gained had him considering careers in forestry and construction, too. He also plans to attend college.

The GVCC didn’t just teach GVCC technical skills or help him earn professional certification. Having a full-time job helped him learn time-management skills and finding a work-life balance. He also honed problem-solving skills working on challenging projects.

“My time at GVCC has helped me find who I am and who I want to be,” he said.

Cavanagh and Ochoa received the scholarship at the GVCC’s annual appreciation breakfast for its corpsmembers in December 2023 at the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE).

Part of SJCOE, the GVCC also provides educational opportunities, supportive services, and opportunities to grow and make a difference.


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

project and putting in pipe and wire for a sprinkler system in a neighborhood park.



San Joaquin County SELPA's new Vocational Skills Lab provides high school students an opportunity to build job skills, get paid, and find their passion

When he arrived at the new Vocational Skills Lab at the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE), Jordy clocked in before talking to his work supervisor about the tasks he would take on for the day.

That task was to place a series of colored tags onto a pegboard. It needed to match the pattern on a photograph. Jordy quipped that it was just like the board game Battleship as he deftly placed the pegs in the exact pattern as in the photo.

“Your accuracy is perfect,” said Frank Souza, Jordy’s supervisor. “You’re good at this. I can see why you liked it,” said Souza, who is also a program support specialist for San Joaquin County Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA), which is part of the SJCOE.

In the Vocational Skills Lab, the placing of the pegs wasn’t as important as the skills used to do the task, which would correspond to processing and packaging skills in the workplace.

New this year to the SJCOE, the Vocational Skills Lab uses a curriculum and assessment to build skills while also measuring how adept a student is at a particular kind of task. They clock in, clock out, earn a paycheck, and learn about everything else that comes with holding a job — from what is appropriate workplace behavior, from when to take a break to how to interact with their coworkers and managers.

“What makes the Vocational Skills Lab so valuable to our students is the work exploration,” Souza said. “The students that we’re looking at are 16 to 18 years old, and often they haven’t had an opportunity to explore different jobs.”

The Vocational Skills Lab has started serving students in SJCOE programs across San Joaquin County, but it is open to students from schools and districts within the San Joaquin County SELPA, too.

The lab prepares students for what will come next which could be a first job or a career path. It will also better prepare students to enter the WorkAbility I program. This well-established program places students in jobs with community employers.

What both the Vocational Skills Lab and WorkAbility I have in common, is they work toward a goal to give students in special education more opportunities to become more independent.

“It doesn’t matter if you are a student with a disability or you’re a student without a disability, you want that independence, right? That’s why you go to school,” said Souza, who also coordinates the SJCOE WorkAbility I program.

The Vocational Skills Lab uses the Practical Assessment Exploration System (PAES) curriculum. It lays out a series of increasingly challenging tasks in the following areas: construction, processing and production, computer technology, business marketing, and consumer service.

The first thing to remember is that when students enter the lab, they aren’t just students. They’re employees.



Once they clock in, the students pull out a folder that shows them what their job is going to be for the day, said Michele Faamausili, SELPA job developer and job coach. There’s a card for each task, and each task will take place in a room that has the equipment the employees will need to complete the task.

In one room, students can find the tools to measure a piece of wood and saw it down to a specific length. Another room has more resemblance to a kitchen than a workshop, and students measure out cups of flour or perform other tasks useful in the food industry. There are computers and other trappings of office work in other parts of the lab.

All of it supports the system to explore careers, try things out, and measure skills.

“We assess all of the students and their teams, their quality of work, the rate of work, their interest, the work, and how many trials they did,” Faamausili said. “That creates their whole assessment in the database and shows their accuracy and shows what they like.”

Those skills the students are developing don’t just help students find their job-niche. The skills often correspond directly to the skills that students are working on with their teachers in the classrooms. For teachers, the data from the Vocational Skills Lab provides further documented progress toward reaching goals laid out in a student’s IEP (individualized educational plan).

What makes the Vocational Skills Lab so valuable to our students is the work exploration.

Those IEPs include transition plans for after high school, said Angela Musser a teacher at Venture Academy Family of Schools who has students who are employees in the Vocational Skills Lab.

“We try to help prepare them for that moment as best we can, and this lab helps immensely with that because they learn skills that they didn’t know that they would like to do,” she said.

The data from the lab goes back into the IEP and is part of the conversation between educators and parents, too. It helps show where students are and where they want to go, she said. “This helps them see other avenues.”

Jordy, the Venture Academy junior, had some prior job experience, but he loves the opportunity to explore what he finds in the Vocational Skills Lab.

“I don’t know what job I really want to do. So, here, I can see the kind of jobs I like,” he said. “I can try something that I’ve never even heard of or tried in my life, and maybe I can see I might want to do this as a career.”



Students in special education from across San Joaquin County sold studentmade holiday gifts and decorations at the Eighth Annual Entrepreneurial Business Holiday Boutique at the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) last December.

The high school students and young adults participating in the Holiday Boutique learn valuable skills while making gifts and interacting with customers. The skills prepare students to be more independent.

The Holiday Boutique was sponsored by the WorkAbility I program through the San Joaquin County Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA), part of the SJCOE, and the Stockton Unified School District.

WorkAbility I is a state-funded program that provides students ages 12 to 22 with vocational services, and places students 16 and older in paid positions with local employers. WorkAbility I staff partner with parents, teachers, employers, and agencies to provide a variety of services that help students learn the skills needed to become valuable employees. Some of these services include job preparation, job searching skills, job training, placement services, and job coaching.

Employers interested in hiring students in the WorkAbility I program can learn more by contacting Frank Souza at fsouza@sjcoe.net.



Learning to read is foundational to a child's education. It is a key to academic success and becoming a lifelong learner. Literacy is directly related to job readiness, healthcare access, economic development, and the overall well-being of the community.

This month's In the Classroom feature focuses on literacy by looking at the science of reading and sharing examples of how districts are incorporating research-based methods to teach reading in their classrooms. This is part of the current and growing focus on literacy in San Joaquin County, where all school districts have joined the San Joaquin County Office of Education in a new initiative to work together through a community of practice toward a goal of ensuring students will be able to read by the time they leave the third grade.


Lodi Unified School District

First grade teacher Victoria Bartholomew went through a list of -- one by one -- that she wanted her students to spell.

"What's the first sound?" she asked her class at Sutherland Elem School (Lodi Unified School District). They responded in unison, out the "r" sound that begins the word "rip." The students ran through each of the remaining sounds before writing down how they would spell the word, which the teacher also wrote on a large video screen, then moved to the next word.

"Ready? Steady?" she said. "Let's sound it," she said as she moved through the list of words, engaging the students with just enough fun banter to add some giggles into the mix as students sounded out and spelled words.

Every part of the lesson was deliberate and used the SIPPS (Systematic Instruction in Phonological Awareness, Phonics, and Sight Words) curriculum, which is based on the science of reading and is part of the way reading is taught across the school. "It is consistent from classroom to classroom to classroom," Principal Elizabeth Horton said.

And it is consistent across Lodi Unified, too, where SIPPS classrooms are just a part of a districtwide early literacy effort that includes a research-backed framework, regular assessment, data analysis, continuous professional learning, and more.

example of steady improvement.

When they were in first grade in 2022, the midyear assessment used by the district showed 23 percent of this cohort of students at least met the proficiency level they were expected to attain by the end of the school year. When they were second graders in 2023, that midyear assessment showed proficiency jumped to 38 percent.

Now those students are in third grade, and that number jumped again to 52 percent at midyear for 2023-24, which puts the class in a good position to reach proficiency by the end of the school year.

In her 36 years of teaching, Sutherland first grade teacher Gale Southard has seen a lot of reading programs. She says the SIPPS lessons she uses are good at teaching students the basics of reading. "It seems to be working very, very well."

Ari, age 6, said he has a lot of fun in Southard's classroom. Sometimes when reading, he needs to slow down and look at the letters when he comes across a new word, he said. But that doesn't keep him from enjoying reading stories, he said. "There are a lot of adventures."



Stockton Unified School District

Stockton Unified School District educators in a classroom during a districtwide training broke down words into their component parts, sounded them out, and responded to questions in unison like their own K-3

The teachers, instructional coaches, program specialists, and other educators were doing more than just sampling phonics lessons for their students -- they had signed up to take a deep dive into the research and science behind learning and teaching how

Offered through the district, the LETRS (Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling) training requires a two-year commitment to complete and is akin to a master's level course in education, district officials said. Approximately 300 teachers, administrators, and other educators districtwide have made that commitment so far this year.

"If we do the work, the kids will succeed," said Shante Allen, Hoover Elementary School program specialist, in one districtwide LETRS class with a team from her school. "It is so important to have a program like this, so kids can learn to read effectively."

This intensive course is the tip of the iceberg of the teacher training that has been just a part of a multi-faceted focus on literacy in the district. It includes layered curricula as well as assessments to meet students where they are. Professional learning focusing on the science of reading is an integral part of that plan.

The district bought materials, added more training, and SIPPS spread across the district as part of its literacy efforts. "We will continue to scale up and evolve our practice."

Teachers and students have noticed an impact, said Jennifer Ryan, an instructional coach at Roosevelt Elementary School

"Even from the beginning, I had teachers saying, 'My kids are getting it,'" she said. "I had kids running up to me and sharing with me that they are feeling more confident in themselves."


In October 2023, the superintendents of all 14 San Joaquin County school districts, the president of the Teachers College of San Joaquin, and the superintendent-president of San Joaquin Delta College joined County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Troy Brown in signing a declaration of support for a new countywide initiative to lift up students and the community by working together to advance early literacy.

Additionally, 750 district educators have had at least one training session in SIPPS (Systematic Instruction in Phonological Awareness, Phonics, and Sight Words), according to district officials. This training has been added to the onboarding process for new teachers and the goal is for all educators to receive training in SIPPS by the end of next school year.

SIPPS rolled out in a limited number of district school sites about 2 1/2 years ago. It started getting results that drew attention from administrators and teachers, alike. "Teachers were hearing about it and wanting it, and sites were hearing about it, too," Stockton Unified Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Kasey Klappenback said.

The declaration was the first step in creating the countywide Early Literacy Community of Practice, a workgroup to foster professional development, guide countywide efforts, and collaborate on best practices.

Working together, the representatives in the community of practice will recognize and support individual district goals and early literacy actions for students in the TK- third grade, as well as embrace new standards. Educators throughout the county will meet regularly to learn with and from one another to improve literacy education in schools, as well as investigate how to utilize community partners and engage families.

This declaration affirmed each district’s commitment to aligning literacy instruction with the science of reading to ensure students are proficient by the end of the third grade.

To read the full Early Literacy Declaration of Support and learn more about the developing Early Literacy Community of Practice, please go to sjcoe.org/ Superintendent/earlyliteracy.aspx.



The ability to read does not come naturally. Children need clear and organized instruction in a specific order in the five areas below.


The ability to identify and play with individual sounds in spoken words. The beginning sound of the word boy, or If you change the /b/ sound in boy to a /t/ sound what word does it make?


Understanding the link between letters and sounds. Teaching children phonics enables them to decode words by connecting sounds with letters and spelling patterns.


Knowing what words mean and how to use them correctly. A strong vocabulary is key to comprehension and overall reading achievement.


Understanding and interpreting the meaning of what is being read. Being able to think about and answer questions from a book helps us know a child is understanding, or has reading comprehension.


Fluent readers can read smoothly without too many mistakes and can add voice and expression while they read that matches what is happening in the story.



Each December, the SJCOE holds two graduations. The Disocvery ChalleNGe Academy Class 14 graduation was held on Dec. 9. The Come Back Kids and Building Futures Academy graduation was held on Dec. 18. Congratulations to all of the graduates for their perserverance and hard work!

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