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Bridging the Digital Divide, District Highlights, and More!


Teacher Teamwork

IN THE CLASSROOM: Mental Health Matters


VOLUME 74 | ISSUE 2 | NOVEMBER 2020 Outlook is published bimonthly, September through May, by the San Joaquin County Office of Education Public Information Office.

SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY OFFICE OF EDUCATION 2922 Transworld Drive, Stockton, CA 95206 (209) 468-4800 | www.sjcoe.org


San Joaquin County Superintendent of Schools


Deputy Superintendent of Business Services


Associate Superintendent of Student Programs and Services


Assistant Superintendent of County Operated Schools and Programs


Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services


Assistant Superintendent of Special Education and SELPA

MISSION STATEMENT 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’s most at-risk students, and strives to create an environment in which every student, regardless of circumstances, has an opportunity for a quality education.


Zachary Johnson and Carly Sexton



Lisa Bryant, Lucy Greaney, Ty Hendricks, and Veronica Tova


Louie Ambriz, Joanne Marie Rocafort, Ernestina Rodriguez, Saul Suazo Portillo, Miguel Vernis, and Shane Williamson


SUBMIT A STORY |sjcoepio@sjcoe.net








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Stepping Up to the Plate Safe Places to Learn

NEWS 6 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Bridging the Digital Divide 60 Days of Literacy Teaching Parents to be Teachers Taking a Shot Life Skills Opening Doors to Small Groups Bright Futures 24/7 Tutoring The Online Courtroom Tech Summit Powers On STEM Teacher of the Year Innovating the Future Build Your Own Path Pacific Mini-Grants


Teacher Teamwork


Mental Health Matters




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In the News Calendar of Events Snapshot


OUTLOOK District Highlights


Tracy Unified Food Services Department Continues to Provide Nutrition to Students Since Start of the Pandemic

Within two weeks of school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, San Joaquin County schools and districts restructured traditional meal services to ensure that children in the local community had unwavering access to healthy meals, serving over 220,000 meals in 14 days. When COVID-19 came, the county’s 14 districts stepped up to the plate, feeding students through the summer and into the new school year when distance learning continued. Tracy Unified School District (TUSD) Food Services Department’s dedication to keeping its community fed is just one example of the nutritional safety net created by local schools during the pandemic. Like other districts and charter schools in San Joaquin County, TUSD in March found a way to continue providing essential meal services to students and families. Through daily curbside “grab-and-go” meal services offered at seven schools around

Tracy through the Seamless Summer Option (SSO), TUSD Food Services distributed roughly 6,000 free lunch meals and 2,000 free breakfast meals daily for all children through the age of 18 during the summer, including children who did not attend school in the district. Because the pandemic disrupted on-site meal service to students during the school day, the demands on food service workers completely shifted. The 118 employees of TUSD Food Services adapted and made it happen. Cafeteria seating areas were closed, food preparation systems had to be adjusted, and delivery to students had to be physically distant but still accessible. “Food Service staff are flexible and can easily adapt to changing situations, even in a pandemic. Most Food Service staff worked the front lines to feed the children,” TUSD Director of Food Services Brandy Campbell said. “To successfully bring meals to students, Monday

through Friday, takes each and every single Food Services employee, and I truly appreciate their dedication to feeding kids.” TUSD Superintendent Brian Stephens remembers witnessing car after car lined up in the West High School parking lot during the summer, waiting for their turn to approach the curbside meal pick-up station. “The lines would go down the street. It was so great seeing that we were serving kids of the community that really needed it,” said Stephens, who praised employees for making sure TUSD students were fed. “It is truly honorable work.”

The work continues into the new school year, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) extending accessible meal programs through June 30, 2021. Serving breakfast, lunch, and after-school meals for all students who approach the outdoor service stations through the extended SSO program, TUSD Food Services ensure that students in need have the opportunity to receive full bags of food with multiple meals daily, including extra snacks for the weekends. “If we can help families with a critical need during a time like this, then we ought to do it,” Stephens said.

Schools play a significant role in fighting food insecurity and providing families with healthy, delicious meals through various free or reduced-price meal eligibility programs. In 2020, districts were able to apply for waivers allowing flexible summer meal programs to continue. Waivers allow meals to be served at no cost, permit meals to be serviced outside of typical group settings and mealtimes, waive meal pattern requirements as necessary, and allow parents and guardians to pick up meals for their children. The USDA announced that these services will be extended through June 2021. Visit fns.usda.gov and sjcoe.org for more information regarding free meal services for children in San Joaquin County.



OUTLOOK District Highlights

Stockton Unified School District Opens Day Camps for Children of Essential Workers

Stockton Unified School District (SUSD) opened a few of its classroom doors to students of essential workers in SUSD in September. In partnership with the YMCA of San Joaquin County, the SUSD began hosting “Day Camps” so students could focus on their education while their parents went to work.

have their temperatures taken prior to program entry. Gloves, masks, and sanitation tools were provided, and desks remained six feet apart. All areas and rooms were disinfected before and after programming. Bathrooms were also disinfected every hour throughout the day.

The program expanded SUSD’s after school programs. Hosted at four school sites, the day camps offered a safe, conducive learning environment for students in transitional kindergarten through eighth grade.

At the end of the day, the day camp staff led students through wellness checks, and restorative circle talks focused on student support and mental well-being.

“These camps are being offered to support SUSD essential workers so they can actually go to work, and their children can have a structured, supportive, safe place to attend school virtually,” SUSD Director of Educational Services Janet Yarbrough said. Safety and sanitation were key at SUSD day camps. All students and staff were required to wear appropriate face coverings and

Melissa Sanchez, a special education assistant at Stagg High School, acknowledged how helpful the program was for her and her family. “I was having my parents watch my children, and they’re in their late 60s. They don’t really understand the new technology, so I needed a place for my children to go that was less stressful for my parents, less stressful for my kids, and less stressful for me,” Sanchez explained.

Sanchez’s fifth-grade son was able to set up his computer at the day camp, focus on distance learning, and be supervised while Sanchez was at work. “It’s a huge stress reliever.”

interaction with other students. With only five to six other students in the room with him, Sanchez felt reassured that the SUSD day camps provided a COVID-19-safe atmosphere where her son could enjoy learning.

Sanchez also appreciated how her son could have some social

Did you know that there are 14 school districts in San Joaquin County? Banta Elementary · Escalon Unified · Jefferson Elementary · Lammersville Unified · Lincoln Unified Linden Unified · Lodi Unified · Manteca Unified · New Hope Elementary · Ripon Unified New Jerusalem Elementary · Oak View Union Elementary · Stockton Unified · Tracy Unified


BRIDGING THE DIGITAL DIVIDE The SJCOE Supplies Technology Access through Grants and State Programs

As the new school year began online and the demand for technology access and WiFi grew, schools and districts throughout San Joaquin County and the state mobilized to close the now apparent and detrimental digital divide. The digital divide illustrates the need for technology and WiFi access in the home, and the negative consequences the lack of these items creates on student academic performance. A survey conducted by the California Department of Education (CDE) before the school year found that more than 700,000 California students lacked computing devices, and another 300,000 lacked hotspots to connect to the Internet. As the start of the 2020-21 school year approached, the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) worked to close the digital divide through multiple avenues to support students and teachers in its programs as they embarked on distance teaching and learning.

Through the EmpowerEd 2.0 Program, a joint project between T-Mobile and Google, the SJCOE’s County Operated Schools and Programs (COSP) division provided home internet access to 265 students and families who needed technology assistance for educational purposes. A one-year contract guarantees an unlimited data plan and content filtering, with the first 90 days free. The SJCOE is committed to paying for the monthly service fee and ensuring that this service is of no cost to families who qualify.

classrooms in the SJCOE Special Education Programs. T-Mobile for Education helps to connect up to 1 million California students to the Internet.

A survey conducted by the California Department of Education before the 2020-21 school year found that more than 700,000 California students lacked computing devices, and another 300,000 lacked hotspots to connect to the Internet.

In addition, COSP applied for multiple programs through the CDE, acquiring 50 hotspots and 1200 iPad devices with builtin Long-Term Evolution (LTE) service for


Hundreds of Kajeet SmartSpots have also been offered to students-inneed attending Venture Academy Family of Schools, one.Charter, and the Come Back Kids program, an educational program through COSP that helps adults earn their high school diploma. “As families encounter needs, we fill the gap,” Information Technology Division Director Ed Babakhan said.

OUTLOOK News One way this has been made possible has been through the California Teleconnect Fund (CTF) program. Operated by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the CTF partners with the CDE to provide reduced rates for data and advanced communications services through carriers like T-Mobile, Google, Verizon, and Apple. These funds “support transitional kindergarten through twelfth-grade pupil academic achievement and mitigate learning loss related to COVID-19 school closures.”

fund has been distributed to school districts around California to help acquire devices, strengthen distance learning, and address learning gaps. Through providing additional academic services and technology funding for students, the Learning Loss Mitigation Funds remove barriers inhibiting student access to technology and a conducive, virtual learning environment. The amount allocated to schools, districts, and charter schools in San Joaquin County amounted to more than $132 million.

Learning Loss Mitigation Funds from the state further opened doors for students to access needed technology. The $5.3 billion

“It’s our responsibility as educators to make sure our students have equal access to the internet,” said COSP Academic Resources

Coordinator Jason Brown. With help from SJCOE County Business Services and Purchasing, devices like headphones, web cameras, smart tablets, Chromebooks, and more have all been provided to students who need them to begin distance learning. “Not everyone has the same resources as their next-door neighbor,” said Jane Steinkamp, SJCOE assistant superintendent of Educational Services. “Having that frank conversation about what we need to give them in order to be ready to learn is significant. This is another opportunity to provide support for all students.”



In the United States, nearly 30 million people are unable to reap the benefits of the digital age because they lack access to high-speed internet, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Bridging the digital divide means providing access to those who need it to thrive in modern society. Broadband is critical to economic opportunity, job creation, education, and civic engagement. In urban areas, 97% of Americans have access to high-speed fixed service. In rural areas, that number falls to 65%. And on Tribal lands, barely 60% have access.

The Learning Loss Mitigation Funding (LLMF), authorized by the California 2020–21 budget package, appropriates $5.4 billion from three different funding sources to be allocated to local educational agencies (LEAs) in order to support pupil academic achievement and mitigate learning loss related to COVID-19 school closures. One way schools and districts have been using this funding has been to purchase technology to help close the digital divide while providing distance learning to students. The amount for public schools, including charter schools, in San Joaquin County was about $132 million.




The Stockton Record’s Family Day at the Park Brings Virtual Storytelling, Interactive Projects, and Entertainment into San Joaquin County Homes The Stockton Record brought its 23rd Annual Family Day at the Park to homes around San Joaquin County, celebrating literacy online with interactive projects, storytelling, and entertainment for everyone to enjoy virtually from the end of August through early November. With clowns, music, published authors, and face-painting adding to the fun, the family-friendly event brought hundreds of readers to the Weber Point Events Center in Stockton last year. Due to COVID-19, the activities moved online, promoting literacy through videos, livestream events, and activities. “Literacy, learning, and family are key components of our community, and we support those whenever we can. Given that we cannot gather in person, a virtual event was the next best thing for us to continue to pour something good into San Joaquin County residents,” Record Editor Don Blount said.

The event had more than 20 sponsors, including the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE), which also participated in the Education Expressway and Alphabet Alley in previous years. This year, the SJCOE Early Childhood Education Department partnered with First 5 San Joaquin to provide approximately 200 books for families. Staff crafted and shared videos during the virtual event that encouraged the love of reading. The department also reached out to parents, providing them information on how they could get more involved in their child’s early education through the Ready4K service. The Ready4K is a free, research-based textmessaging system that sends out easy tips and fun facts that parents can use to boost their child’s learning.

Tune-Up Tuesdays, promoting active movement like yoga and jazzercise with local businesses.

Wacky Word Wednesdays, providing a “secret word” on social media and giving anyone speaking it at the Friends of the Stockton Public Library Book Store the opportunity to select a free book.

The Greater Valley Conservation Corps (GVCC), a certified local conservation corps operated by the SJCOE, also participated, adapting its popular Recycling Education Outreach booth virtually. The GVCC engaged children with recyclable materials to create birdhouses and other crafts through YouTube videos and storytime videos. SJCOE STEM Programs also shared remote, asynchronous lessons with students related to science, technology, engineering, and math.

Family Fun Fridays, bringing local authors, musicians, storytelling, music, and more to families’ computer screens for free, interactive fun.

Learn more about this free, family fun annual event at www.familydayatthepark.com.

Family Day in the Park included:



TEACHING PARENTS TO BE TEACHERS FamilyWORKs Offers Virtual Home Visitation for CalWORKs Parents to Assist with Child Development New parents don’t have to feel alone. Even with safety restrictions in place due to COVID-19, the FamilyWORKs program has continued to offer free, virtual home visits and developmental screenings to assist families with children from before birth through age 3.

to support CalWORKs recipients and their families.

“We understand that it can feel isolating being home with a newborn, which is why our curriculum is designed to support you,” said Elias Barajas, outreach specialist for FamilyWORKs with the Child Abuse Prevention Council of San Joaquin County (CAPC). “Our virtual home visits are great for families who have complicated schedules or feel safer engaging in visitation through virtual means.”

Along with being a partner program with the SJCOE, FamilyWORKs collaborates with various other community agencies, including Family Resource and Referral Center, El Concilio, Mary Magdalen, and CAPC.

The real-time video conferencing with parent educators are adaptations of the program’s traditional home visits. Raheela Shinwari, a FamilyWORKs parent, said that she feels grateful to have someone to talk to about her children’s development and that the resources have been beneficial. The mother of a 3-year-old and a 2-month-old said that both she and her children enjoy the virtual visits. FamilyWORKs offers family support through home visits, family engagement, and parent education, and is designed to promote children’s social and emotional competence as well as connect families with financial and educational resources. Parent educators work closely with families to meet each child’s unique needs and facilitate child development screenings. They look at a child’s gross and fine motor skills, emotional intelligence, and evidence of childhood trauma, then guide the families towards building productive coping mechanisms and better learning practices for the child. Virtual home visits are also available for families prior to the child being born; FamilyWORKs parent educators are trained to help support families with any prenatal concerns by answering questions and connecting families to the services that will best help them prepare for their child’s birth.

FamilyWORKs utilizes the Parents as Teachers (PAT) curriculum, which provides parents with an opportunity to learn valuable caregiving skills and prepare their child for school. “Having a PAT visit within the first five years of a child’s life can drastically improve the success -- mentally and academically -- in the child,” said Barajas. The program also provides parents with parent activity kits, which introduce new props, concepts, and activities into the home for academic, emotional, and cognitive development. “We don’t just work with the kids, but we work with the families as a whole. Anything we can do to help them as a family, we are there,” said Esmeralda Hernandez Rubio, one of FamilyWORKs’ PATcertified parent educators. FamilyWORKs further supports families through resumé development, job searching, mock interviews, and finding community resources, such as food banks and housing. The program also offers referral services for CalFresh; Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); and free or reduced meal services.

The program was created through the collaborative efforts of the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) and First 5 San Joaquin

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT FAMILYWORKS? Call FamilyWORKs at (209) 244-0135 or visit sjckids.org for additional resources.




Schools Offer Drive-Thru Flu and Tdap Immunization Clinics In a black mask and superhero T-shirt with a lightning bolt across his chest, 8-year-old Bahir held his arm out the car door to get his flu shot. He had been a little nervous about the needle earlier, while waiting with his family for the drive-thru flu and Tdap immunization clinic for River Islands Academies in Lathrop to begin on Sept. 16. But he acted as heroic as he looked when it was time to get the shot to help protect him from catching the influenza virus and spreading it to others. Everyone in his family did the same. “I think it’s the right thing to do,” said Bahir’s father, Jit Singh. “It’s a good opportunity to keep people safe for the flu season that is coming up,” said Angel Mendoza, assistant principal of River Islands Technology Academy, which along with NextGeneration STEAM Academy, makes up River Islands

Academies and its approximately 1,600 students. “We opened it up to all our families,” he said.

the vaccine, either because they have other health conditions or are too old or too young.”

grader who got his flu shot. “I’m trying not to get sick, so I’ve been staying at home,” he said.

The school has had flu clinics before but opening for the whole family was new this year, which was why some cars were filled with parents, siblings, and grandparents, all waiting for their vaccine shots or nasal mists. The drive-thru service was new this year too: a necessity because of the mandated safety precautions in place to stop the spread of another virus, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The Tdap vaccine protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis, also known as whooping cough. Additionally, the Tdap vaccination is required for students in California before they enter the seventh grade.

Hadiel Kotb and her family waited for a few minutes to get a flu vaccine. The wait will be longer for a vaccine for COVID-19. “It’s what we are waiting for with COVID. But for now, let’s get this box checked,” she said. Her family has been staying at home, washing their hands, and wearing masks. “People are trying to do whatever they can to help the situation. Now it means getting the flu shot.”

“The flu kills thousands of people a year. Vaccinations can offer protection, especially for those who are the most vulnerable,” said Jessica Red, the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) school nurse assigned to River Islands Academies. “It protects the person getting the vaccine, and it protects all our population who are not able to get


The fewer people coming down with the flu this year will also help schools as they reopen campuses closed due to COVID-19. Students and staff members will be sent home or asked not to come to school if they are showing COVID-19 symptoms, which are often the same as flu symptoms. It’s important to keep your child’s And in the community, somebody who contracts both viruses could become sicker than if they just caught one of the illnesses, Red said. That was on the mind of Gary, an eighth

immunizations up to date, and this year it is more important than ever to get vaccinated for the flu. Contact your healthcare provider to learn more about immunizations or visit https://vaccinefinder.org/ to find a location near you.


Free Online Course Teaches Students Life Management Skills for College Credit

The San Joaquin County Office of Education’s (SJCOE) County Operated Schools and Programs (COSP) division offered all one.Program students an opportunity to concurrently enroll in a new San Joaquin Delta College course for the Fall 2020 semester. The course is exclusive for COSP charter, court, community, and Discovery ChalleNGe Academy (DCA) students interested in learning valuable lessons about decisionmaking, conflict-management, organization, and more. Life Management (FCS-2) is a free, 100% online course that introduces students to essential life skills and personal development. Taught by Delta

College professor Melinda Westland, the course delves into a variety of exciting topics and skills one needs “on this life’s journey.” From values and beliefs, goal setting, and communication to conflict resolution and time management to health, nutrition, and exercise, the class allows students to learn how to structure their daily lives in healthy ways and prepare for their futures. “We could all use a little help in figuring out how to manage or balance life,” Westland said. The course includes weekly chapters and requires students to review PowerPoint slides and videos covering the material taught that week. Assignments and weekly

reflections encourage students to pause and process what they learned, similar to keeping a diary to track improvement and collect the life lessons they encounter throughout the semester. The skills students learn in this class will benefit them in their futures, said Westland, who has taught the Life Management course at the San Joaquin Delta College for over five years and has collaborated with the SJCOE for the past several semesters to offer the class to one.Program students. “I learn from my students as much as they learn from me,” she said. Westland added that adapting the class virtually has encouraged

her to be creative in making connections with students. Students can also earn high school or college credit for completing the course; the three credits earned are transferable to any California State University. The 17 week-long course equips students with techniques to improve self-understanding and maintain healthy, interpersonal relationships. “We want to allow students to build their college portfolios,” COSP Division Director Sean Morrill said. “The more experience students have before they graduate, the more likely they are to pursue higher education.”



OPENING DOORS TO SMALL GROUPS SJCOE Special Education Programs Welcome Students Back to School Preschool students were back at McFall School in Manteca for in-person instruction for the first time since last spring. Staff, students, and families followed new procedures to ensure a safe return to the classroom, including mapping out how people would arrive at the school and get to class while maintaining physical distancing.

for SJCOE Special Education Programs, which operates McFall School. “We’re very excited. That social-emotional component is very important for students who are now able to interact with their peers.” The return to in-person instruction at McFall was the first step. Special Education Programs continued to resume instruction to small groups of students at its other sites across the county over the next several weeks.

That wasn’t all that was seen on Monday morning as students arrived at McFall.

Nine classes at McFall resumed in-person instruction. They include those students with extensive support needs and students in the Connections! program which focuses on students with autism.

“The students were certainly happy to be here,” said Kristi Baysinger, autism coordinator

To keep the number of students in the classroom small, the school opened on a hybrid

model, opening the campus up to different groups on different days. Some students will be in class on Mondays and Tuesdays, while other groups will be on campus on Thursdays and Fridays. Students learn remotely on days they aren’t in the physical classroom. Families have also been provided with a 100-percent distance learning option. On the first day back at McFall, 24 students were at the school, along with teachers, educational assistants, and other staff. All staff members are required to wear face coverings. Preschoolaged students are encouraged, though not required, to wear face coverings. McFall School is following guidance from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). Monday’s return to the classroom was not as simple as just opening

the doors to students. From providing protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies to the addition of new safety protocols to taking care of the smallest detail in each room -- it took weeks to prepare to safely welcome students back into the classroom. Even though the campus was not open at the start of the school year, the students had been learning remotely. That meant educators who were teaching remotely were also doing the work to get ready for the return to in-person instruction, which continued as McFall prepared for the return of in-person instruction on that Monday. “I’m proud of my staff and all they have done to prepare the classroom while still maintaining distance learning,” said Shelly Garrett, McFall School principal.

On Oct. 13, San Joaquin County reached a benchmark in California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy by remaining in the Substantial (red) tier for two weeks. This allowed public, charter, and private schools to resume in-person instruction beyond the limited options available in the more-restrictive purple tier. More information: https://covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy/.



$65,000 Awarded to Local Students After a senior year, unlike any other, many graduates of the class of 2020 took their first steps into their futures with help through scholarships like the Friedberger Educational Fund. The Friedberger Educational Fund scholarship awarded 23 graduates of the Class of 2020 a total of $65,000 to assist them in continuing to pursue their education. Established in June 1963 by William Friedberger M.D., the Friedberger Educational Fund has provided more than $2.9 million in awards to graduates

of public and private high schools in San Joaquin County. Recipients are chosen based on their character, scholarship record, and leadership capacity, as well as a demonstrated need for financial assistance. The latest award for each student was $2,826, divided into four installments, to be distributed over four years. The awards committee was made up of representatives of the San Joaquin County Office of Education, Stockton Unified School District, and the San Joaquin County Board of Education.

“This scholarship will allow me to go into the next step of my educational journey as an English major at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. I hope to use what I have learned to help my community later on as I pursue a career in civil service and law enforcement. I would like everyone from this fund to know that your belief in my growth and capabilities will motivate me to always strive for excellence in myself.”



Friedberger Educational Fund Scholarship Awardees Nestor Acosta, Franklin High School, Stockton Unified School District Andrea Arreola, Weber Institute, Stockton Unified School District Garret Bryan, Ripon Christian High School Lourdes Ceja, East Union High School, Manteca Unified School District Lea Cha, Cesar Chavez High School, Stockton Unified School District Britney Heras, Tokay High School, Lodi Unified School District Maha Kamran, Stagg High School, Stockton Unified School District Nadine Koochou, Tracy High School, Tracy Unified School District Yanki Ma, Manteca High School, Manteca Unified School District Natalie Mangskau, West High School, Tracy Unified School District Jayden Nieves, Kimball High School, Tracy Unified School District Avani Partap, Aspire Benjamin Holt Academy Gloria Rodriguez, Escalon High School, Escalon Unified School District Geovany Serrano, Health Careers Academy, Stockton Unified School District Maliha Shahzad, Middle College High School, Lodi Unified School District Audrey Svay, Aspire Langston Hughes Academy Kameron Tankhamvang, Edison High School, Stockton Unified School District Sabrina Ton, Weston Ranch High School, Manteca Unified School District Emma Torres, Bear Creek High School, Lodi Unified School District Chalyn Valdez, Lodi High School, Lodi Unified School District Diego Villanueva, Stockton Collegiate International Secondary School Megan Wirzberger, Lincoln High School, Lincoln Unified School District Grace Zhen, Sierra High School, Manteca Unified School District

- Natalie Mangskau, West High School, Tracy Unified

24/7 TUTORING Air Tutors e-Learning Service Promises On-Demand Academic Help with a Single Click Air Tutors is a homegrown, 24/7 online tutoring service led by mentor-minded educators determined to use technologies to help students succeed in school.

students learn collaboratively, Air Tutors offers students assignment help, essay editing, test preparation, college admission application assistance, and more.

Matching students to tutors based on an academic subject, students’ unique learning styles, personality, and approach to effective learning emphasizes positive relationship building and customized teaching strategies. From one-on-one tutoring sessions to group classes where

Hasan Ali, the CEO and founder of Air Tutors is from Stockton. The organization has collaborated with local schools, including partnerships with Stockton Unified School District (SUSD) and Aspire Public Schools. At Edison High, Air Tutors supported over 60 tenth grade students in

More information at www.airtutors.org.

math and English courses since the start of the 2018-2019 school year, supplementing curriculum from inside the classroom with additional practice with tutors. “The tutors are very competent and responsive to the input from the students and the teachers. We saw across the board that students showed improvement in the lessons they were tutored in,” Edison High Principal Mr. Christopher Anderson said. “Students performed higher in the following testing period, some

even by multiple grade levels.” Air Tutors has also provided more than 100 hours of live stream instruction to students in Cyber High and Academic Performance Excellence (APEX) programs throughout San Joaquin County. Air Tutors has continued to offer virtual help to students in their homes since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, making education a much-more virtual place.



THE ONLINE COURTROOM Venture Academy Hosts Virtual Mock Trial for Local Junior High Students When COVID-19 forced the cancellation of a mock trial competition for junior high students last spring, the high school students on the Venture Academy Family of Schools mock trial team went virtual, allowing the competition to continue and sharing their love of mock trial from behind a computer screen. For Venture Academy senior Connor Wright, mock trial offered an after-school pastime that combined professionalism and fun. In this competition, he could sharpen his courtroom skills and engage in an activity he loved. That is why he loved being a part of the team that organized the first virtual Venture Academy Mock Trial Training and Competition for junior high students in and around San Joaquin County. Participants still had the opportunity to show off their skills and compete for prizes, even though they had to do it virtually. Wright understood just how important it was to continue these tournaments in an online format for younger students. “It’s not just fun; mock trial helps you develop important skills, like public speaking and being professional,” he said. When the in-person junior competition, scheduled last May, was canceled due to COVID-19, Wright and his teammates hoped

to maintain and strengthen the competitive mock trial spirit by taking the competition online. They drew from their own mock trial experiences to compose an original, fictional court case to be the focus of the formal competition. The young participants were invited to train with the high school students on scheduled Zoom meetings and receive advice on their presentations. Wright says that transitioning the traditional team competition from a courtroom setting to individual computer screens presented unique issues and technical concerns but being able to perform from home had its advantages. “With the Zoom format, it takes all of the nerves away.” Ten students competed in the online format, submitting videos of their opening statements, presentations, and closing arguments through Google Drive.


Sutton Joi Edeal, a ninth-grade student at Big Valley Christian High School, received first place and Reem Safein from Peter Hansen Elementary received second place. An anonymous donor provided glass trophies and acrylic plaques for the winning students. “The virtual competition was very different from our in-class work,” Edeal said. “It pushed me to rely on my own abilities and ideas while working independently.” The winners enjoyed the virtual tournament so much that they wanted to meet Wright and the

other Venture Academy students who put on the competition. “The Venture Academy coaches were very helpful. They taught me a lot. I couldn’t have done this without their help,” Edeal said. This year, the Venture Academy mock trial team is preparing to take part in competitions throughout the 2020-21 school year, including the virtual Empire New York World Championship tournament in November and the San Joaquin County tournament in February.

Pictured above: Sutton Joi Edeal (left) with Connor Wright (Right).


TECH SUMMIT POWERS ON Educators Learn New Tech Tools in Virtual Summit The San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) Tech Summit has been a place where educators come together to learn new tools from technology experts who are often educators themselves. The fifth-annual summit on Sept. 12 brought the same experiences; only it took place virtually. Attendees’ faces bounced from Zoom meeting to Zoom meeting as they tried out different breakout sessions that mirrored the virtual classrooms many had been conducting for their students during their workweek. Still, they all logged in at the Saturday conference to sharpen their skills for their students. “We are so glad that you have decided to join us today. We know the weeks are long with so much going on with distance learning,” SJCOE Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Jane Steinkamp said while kicking off the summit.

“We see you. We hear you. So, we’re glad that you are here, taking some time for yourselves and taking some time to advance your learning.” The topics covered at the Summit touched on ways technology could enhance in-person learning and support teachers looking for new tools for distance learning. “Building relationships with students is really the foundation for great instruction,” presenter Brandy Byers said to the teachers in her session: Tips & Tricks for Connecting with Students Virtually. “If you have that strong relationship, they will do the work. They are engaged in learning. We see better student-teacher wellness, mental health wellness, more respect between students and teachers, and then positive communications with students and families.” In her session, the teachers shared how they would

build those relationships in the classroom, like greeting students at the door, learning their names right away, playing games to get to learn things about one another, or just being silly together. “There are ways we can translate the way you connected to kids in the classroom to distance learning,” she said. Just one of the examples she used was to ask students to share a “boring fact” about themselves by sharing videos of themselves on Flipgrid, an online, interactive discussion platform popular in virtual classrooms even before the pandemic. SJCOE STEM Programs Coordinator Stephen Callahan, a Tech Summit organizer, also conducted a session on finding and using video and other kinds of engaging content for students, whether they are in the classroom or distance learning. “The more we give our kids a chance to find something to be

excited about, (to) love, and have a reason to come to school -- or log into school at the dining room table -- it is all gain,” he said. Educators from further afield were able to attend this year’s Tech Summit. The more than 230 people who registered came from 31 school districts from 12 California counties and five states. The summit also included some pre-recorded sessions and an “unconference” where the attendees gathered in themed breakout rooms and shared their knowledge. “I’m not sure who is an expert or a guest, but I assume we are all gamification enthusiasts,” said Richard Woodruff, one unconference moderator, SJCOE continuous improvement and support coordinator, and Central California Esports League commissioner.





NCVSC STEM Center Picks Hank Chau for Distinction Hank Chau believes that students learn best with their hands. In his seventh- and eighthgrade STEM classroom at Elkhorn Elementary School in Lodi Unified School District (LUSD), he engages his students with interactive and inventive projects, opening their eyes to the world of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. His enthusiastic approach to teaching STEM concepts, as well as his devotion to improving his community through these lessons, has earned him the North Central Valley STEM Center’s (NCVSC) 2020 Albert Brocchini Memorial STEM Teacher of the Year award. “Hank is a dedicated, passionate STEM teacher at Elkhorn School who strives to bring the most innovative, real-life

curriculum to his students every day,” Elkhorn Principal Pat White said. From underwater Remote Operated Vehicles (ROVs) to rubber band-powered cars, Chau combines ambition, passion, creativity, and determination in his assignments. “There is never a point when Mr. Chau would give up. He has taught us how to be resourceful and inventive. If we struggle, he helps us refine our ideas, so our project is reachable,” wrote eighthgrade students Caden and Haroon when nominating Chau for the award. Beyond the classroom, Chau’s passion for education reaches into his community and leaves lasting impacts. After partnering with the Stockton Center for the Blind, Chau worked with his students to create prototypes of walking canes that vibrate when objects


are near. He also showcases coding, electronic ROV cars, a mechanical claw, and more, always drawing a crowd to his STEM-centric table at the annual NorCal Science Festival.

“The kids really add so much happiness to my life. When I am here, I’m filled with so much joy,” said Chau. “Being a teacher is such a blessing ... What a great place to be.”

Representatives from the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) and LUSD joined Elkhorn staff to congratulate Chau for being selected as the NCVSC 2020 STEM Teacher of the Year in his classroom in August. Principal White, LUSD Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education Scott McGregor, LUSD Board Member Gary Knackstedt, and SJCOE STEM Coordinator Bret States surprised Chau during his Exploratory Science STEM class. The surprise visit allowed Chau’s eighth-grade students to attend the award presentation ceremony virtually.

Representing NCVSC, States presented Chau with a custommade plaque and a cash award of $1,000. “You’re not just teaching lessons, you’re teaching skills and passion,” States said as he congratulated Chau and read the nomination essays aloud. The North Central Valley STEM Center is a regional collaborative partnership of area leaders in education, industry, and business and has issued the award for the past six years. The plaque and cash award were sponsored by the NCVSC, Brocchini Farms, Kristine Brocchini, and the Cardenas family.


INNOVATING THE FUTURE SJCOE Educational Technology Coordinator Named Google Innovator Stephen Callahan knows how to teach science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). As a former classroom instructor, he has taught science, math, and engineering to high school students, and as a San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) educational technology coordinator, he teaches other educators how to develop their skills to spark a love for STEM education in their students and themselves. Callahan has recently been named one of Google’s Education Certified Innovators, which is only the latest addition to his bona fides as a tech teacher. He also collaborates with Microsoft as a Microsoft Innovative Educator and MakerBot as a Curriculum Creator. His drive is to encourage enthusiastic learning with technology. By inspiring students and teachers alike, Callahan is paving the way for a future of educated, innovative individuals who use their knowledge of STEM to make the world a better place. “Our world is better not only because people have more opportunities to be involved with

STEM, but also because we are able to serve each other better and interact with our world because of it,” Callahan said. Callahan’s approach to STEM searches for the intersection between education, technology, and computer science. At the SJCOE, he manages the Fabrication Laboratory (also known as the FabLab) and organizes STEMbased learning opportunities for visiting K-12 grade students and students at the SJCOE’s Teachers College of San Joaquin. Callahan has also partnered with the University of the Pacific to host an artificial intelligence institute for teachers interested in learning coding, artificial intelligence technologies, and data science. At the event, attendees create chatbots using the program platforms TensorFlow and Collaboratory. The goal is to inspire students and teachers to use technology, engineering, and computer science to solve problems in their world, Callahan said in his project proposal video to Google.

As a Google Innovator, Callahan networks with over 2,200 other educators in over 50 countries, advocating for an immersive and stimulating technological experience in the classroom. Through ongoing leadership development and mentorship, Google Innovators use Google technology to identify and combat various educational challenges within their communities. Callahan’s signature project involves teaching educators computer science so they can implement it in their classrooms. “We often hear that teachers should learn to code because the coding will empower the students’ futures, which is a really great motivator. But I want teachers to

get more out of it. I want to make it meaningful for the teachers as well; I want teachers to be able to use computer science to enrich their own lives,” he said. Using Google Apps Script and Blockly programming software, Callahan hopes to teach educators how to customize and program their Google Suite and other Google Apps to supplement their teaching materials. For the next year, Callahan will have the guidance of other Google Innovators to coach and perfect his project before it is finalized and released to educators around the globe.



BUILD YOUR OWN PATH The Greater Valley Conservation Corps Opens Doors to Careers in the Construction Trades

Justan Hughes remembers dialing the number for the GVCC and feeling like he’d been given a second chance.

them to hands-on work in construction and supports them as they earn industry-recognized certification.

A hard worker but in need of skills, Hughes struggled to make the connections to get on the right path. Once he enrolled in the Greater Valley Conservation Corps (GVCC) Tuolumne Cohort Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program, he finally had the opportunity to “bridge the gap.”

The program is devoted to removing barriers that impede students’ paths toward getting out and becoming productive, income-generating members of their communities, GVCC Director Nicholas Mueller said.

Part of the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE), the GVCC operates in five counties, specializing in natural resources and recycling services while assisting youth 18 to 25 years old with academic instruction, employment opportunities, green job training, life skills, and more. The pre-apprenticeship program offers students a multi-week training program that introduces

Funded by a renewable three-year grant by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), the Tuolumne Construction Pre-Apprenticeship Program is the result of collaborative efforts between the SFPUC, GVCC, and other local community partners such as the San Joaquin County Probation Office and the Department of Social Services. “Doing that program and learning the skills I learned there, I was

able to connect with the right people and take myself in a direction in life. I am very happy with right now. It’s probably the best thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Hughes said. Hughes’ time training in both the classroom and the warehouse earned him multiple safety and handler certifications that he has taken into the construction field. Now, he is involved with a labor union and works full-time for Sierra Mountain Construction, where he has been employed for two and a half years. “I think the world would be so much better if there were more places like GVCC,” he said. Due to COVID-19, the program site shut down three weeks into training, and all in-person instruction was paused for the 12 students in the fifth cohort.

Despite the closure, GVCC staff and students adapted their interactive classroom to comply with physical distance requirements, and some aspects of the GVCC’s pre-apprenticeship program training turned virtual. Students were able to contact staff over the phone for help with certification or job searches. Computers were lent out to students so they could complete their coursework from home. Instructors even led Zoom sessions for students to participate in twice a week and complete their carpentry modules, meeting all prerequisites to receive multi-course curriculum certification on schedule. “It was pretty remarkable. Our program’s success is truly a testimony to those students. We’re very, very proud of them,” said Zelda Saeli, labor relations specialist of SFPUC.

Get Your Boots Dirty with the Greater Valley Conservation Corps The Greater Valley Conservation Corps helps youth 18 to 25 years old with academic instruction, employment opportunities, green job training, life skills, and much more! To learn more and to apply to become a corpsmember, visit www.greatervalleycc.org.




University of the Pacific Mini-Grant Recipients The recipients of this year’s $10,000 mini-grants included: Mary Magdalene Community Services: This mini-grant will fund programs that focus on early literacy for Black families.


Beyond Our Gates Awards Mini-Grants to Support Early Childhood Literacy Mini-grants from the University of the Pacific Beyond Our Gates initiative sustains and uplifts young readers and scholars by investing in local education. In September, Beyond Our Gates gave out a total of $75,000 in minigrants to nine agencies in San Joaquin County that support local literacy programs and improve early childhood literacy. Awards included grants for San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) LOCkER online education projects and to the SJCOE Educational Foundation, which will buy distance learning materials and promote high-

quality instruction at the Teachers College of San Joaquin. “Grade-level reading by third grade is such a key indicator of future academic success,” Pacific Community Relations Director Mike Klocke said. “We want to give out these grants to those who are really focusing on work in early childhood literacy in our community.” Through a sponsorship from the James Irvine Foundation, Beyond Our Gates has given out approximately $325,000 in grants to local agencies over the past five years.

Child Abuse Prevention Council (CAPC): CAPC will use the minigrant to screen for and identify adverse childhood experiences and develop toolkits for classrooms that assist with coping strategies. SJCOE LOCkER: 36 videos with content that supports distance learning and education will be created for the SJCOE’s Learning Outside of the Classroom Enrichment Resources (LOCkER) collection using these funds.

The recipients of the $7,500 mini-grants included: Read to Me, Stockton!: The $7,500 will go towards mailing free books to registered children throughout Stockton. Family Resource and Referral Center (FRRC): This mini-grant will maintain funding for laptops used for online learning resources that supplement literacy development. Tau Chapter, Delta Kappa Gamma: The funds from this minigrant will support the Books for Babes program, which gives books to families of newborns at San Joaquin General Hospital and St. Joseph’s Medical Center. Evolution Skin Care Salon: The Beauty and Literacy program will receive this mini-grant to combine the importance of literacy with self-care. SJCOE Educational Foundation: This mini-grant will fund literacy training enhancements for teachers enrolled at the San Joaquin Teachers College. Visionary Home Builders: This mini-grant will create Little Free Libraries at various Visionary Home Builders sites to share a love of reading with visitors.

Beyond Our Gates Initiative Through the Beyond Our Gates initiative, University of the Pacific is working collaboratively to improve the social and economic health of our region. Learn more at www.pacific.edu/community/beyond-our-gates.



TEACHER TEAMWORK The Bonds Between Veteran and First-Year Teachers Are Strengthened Through Residency@TCSJ Program

Sometimes crickets chirp in Diana Wing’s virtual classroom. When students sit silently, leaving questions about exponents and algebra unanswered, Wing doesn’t hesitate to address the quiet. “I don’t want to hear crickets,” she said, hoping to engage her students in a recent online lesson. Suddenly, the silence broke with the chittering of virtual crickets from a clip played by a student. Laughing at her screen, Wing looks across her Tracy High School classroom at her resident and partner teacher-in-training, Laarnie Del Rosario, who is also chuckling at the perfectly timed sound effect. “Haha. How funny,” Wing jests.

training, student-teachers model after their assigned master teacher in the classroom while taking courses to earn a preliminary teaching credential. What makes the Residency@TCSJ program so special; however, is its emphasis on partnership, teamwork, and relationships between master teachers and residents. Not only does it give the teaching resident an experience guided toward reaching career goals, but it provides both the master teacher and resident with a confidante in the classroom. “Residents get to see their master teachers expertly model the skills of flexibility, innovation, perseverance, and advocacy,” Program Coordinator Karin Compise said.

“Who did that?” Del Rosario asks the class with a smile. More crickets. Del Rosario and Wing share another glance and turn back to their computers, snickering with the rest of the students. “Okay then, I’ll be watching next time,” says Del Rosario as she peers into the camera. The mystery of the identity of “Mr. Crickets” remains a running joke throughout the class. In their shared classroom, Wing and Del Rosario make room for humor and fun to engage with students -- and each other -- between lessons and quizzes. Master teacher Wing and teaching resident Del Rosario shine as an instructional duo, both through their banter and their tag-team teaching. They built this chemistry after pairing up through the Residency@TCSJ program, offered by Teachers College of San Joaquin (TCSJ), which is part of the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE). In the program, resident students have a unique opportunity to learn how to be teachers while working alongside a veteran educator. As part of their

A dual credential teaching preparation program, Residency@ TCSJ offers residents the opportunity to earn a General Education Preliminary Credential and a Mild/Moderate Education Specialist Credential in one year. The program launched in fall 2019. While most traditional teaching programs give candidates one semester of classroom experience, Residency@TCSJ guarantees an authentic, year-long clinical opportunity, constructed around the schedule of TK-12 schools in the region. Residents thrive in their training and become immersed in the culture of teaching, Compise said. The program also focuses on equity and inclusion, combining general and special education learning experiences in coursework and practicum. Residents engage with experienced teachers and build their pedagogical toolbox alongside their mentor, all while fostering valuable relationships with their master teacher and other teachers in their cohort. The connections made between the


Pictured: Tracy High School master teacher Diana Wing (left) with teacher resident Laarnie Del Rosario.


WATCH THE FEATURE VIDEO master teacher and the resident are special; the master teacher leads their resident towards growth and professional development, and in their master teacher, residents obtain a motivational leader and supporter. Resident Jocelyn Nunez and her master teacher Mavis Thomas teach students at McFall School in the Connections! program for preschoolers with autism. Every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday during distance learning, Nunez and Thomas greet their students over Zoom, working together with several instructional assistants in the classroom. “It was like it was all of our first years teaching in a way since everything is virtual and new,” Nunez said. “Even though I don’t see the students physically, I can at least see what the teachers use in the classroom to help the students learn.” Beyond teaching together, Nunez and Thomas’s partnership has grown into a friendship inside the classroom, too. “Not only are we similar in culture, but we really relate to each other. I love that she is so understanding, too. She makes sure I feel comfortable always,” Nunez said. Though distance learning was not the first-year teaching experience Nunez was expecting, she is grateful that Thomas tries her best to recreate that feeling for her and remains positive during times of struggle. She also strives to create a classroom atmosphere-- for both her preschool students online and her mentee-- that is comfortable and encouraging of consistent, passionate learning. “It’s great to bounce


ideas off of each other and to have an extra set of eyes, ears, and hands in our virtual classroom,” Thomas said. The Residency@TCSJ program was designed that way. Learning from each other benefits both teachers. And in a school year where all teachers -- veterans and new teachers, alike -- needed to adapt to distance learning, there was plenty of opportunities to explore and exchange ideas. “Our residents are experiencing what teaching during a pandemic looks like. After this year, they will be ready for anything!” Compise said. Even though the year would be different, resident teacher Del Rosario was excited to begin her career as a teacher, something she knew she wanted to do from a very young age. She remembers feeling early on that her pairing with Wing at Tracy High was a good fit. Wing had been involved in the teaching profession since 2000, and she continues to inspire other educators around her as she engages with special education students at Tracy High School. “Mrs. Wing planted the root for me, and all I needed was to grow. And she’s been helping me grow and letting me become more independent ever since. I’m so grateful for that,” Del Rosario said. Both worked as paraprofessionals in the classroom before becoming teachers. Wing and Del Rosario said that their common teaching history allows them to relate to each other on another level. Their

OUTLOOK Feature similar teaching styles recognize the importance of creating positive relationships with students one-on-one, and it helps them work together to find the best way to connect with and teach each student. “I understand where she’s coming from, being a ‘para’ and crossing over to the other side of the classroom and wanting to be a teacher. I can see both sides. We get along really well because we have that same background,” Wing said. “It’s crazy; she’s just like me.” For the ninth-grade math students in a survival math course for students with mild to moderate disabilities at Tracy High, Wing and Del Rosario work as a team. Del Rosario contributes to Wing’s lesson plans with new exercises and engaging warm-ups for students. “Sometimes I lead the class off, and we are both on camera together with the students, like we would in the classroom. And other times, Laarnie creates her own lessons, and I will sit back and let her get her own classroom experience teaching by herself,” Wing said. Even though their desks are in different corners of the classroom, Wing and Del Rosario are closely connected in their shared virtual classroom. They rally back and forth in their teaching; each taking turns leading lessons and sharing materials with the students. After class, the pair consult each other to discuss student participation and prepare for the next lesson. Del Rosario’s help in the classroom is “instrumental” to making sure things run smoothly, Wing says, especially during distance learning. For example, when Wing has trouble navigating Microsoft Teams-- the platform she uses to teach her students virtually-Del Rosario has lent her a hand, saving the school day with her technology skills and helpful nature. Del Rosario feels that she is learning how to best connect with her students by working alongside someone with so much experience in special

education. For her part, Wing knows that through her time as a master teacher, she has gained a friend and colleague who is just as passionate about serving students as she is. “They’re our kids,” Wing said. “I know Mrs. Del Rosario is going to do such a great job in her own classroom one day. I see this program as something that is needed and something that should continue. And I’ve made a new friend. She’s such a wonderful person, and I’m very fortunate to know her.”

The San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) is one of 33 local education agencies (LEA) receiving funding from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing to jumpstart the Residency@TCSJ program, allocating $517,973 towards its development of special education, math, and science teachers. The Intrepid Philanthropy Foundation supports further expansion of the program through annual grant funding of $100,000, which provides tuition assistance and pays for exam fees. Upon completion of the program, residents in the Residency@TCSJ program are eligible to apply for both a General Education and a Mild/Moderate Education Specialist Credential. Residents who commit to teaching for a minimum of four years in special education, math, or science setting are eligible to receive additional grant funding. The program also allows students to earn 9-12 units that count towards a Master’s Degree in Education. For more information, visit www.teacherscollegesj.edu.

Top to Bottom: Spanos Elementary master teacher Kathleen Moody (right) with resident teacher Julisa Cardenas (left). Edison High master teacher Yvonne Suavecito (left) with resident teacher and Edison graduate Jay Sanidad (right). River Islands Technology Academy resident teacher Marie VerSteeg on her first day of virtual teaching kindergarten. Connections! master teacher Mavis Thomas (right) with resident teacher Jocelyn Nunez (left).


OUTLOOK In the Classroom

MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS New Methods Help Venture Academy Support Students’ Mental Health and Wellness A student logs into a virtual classroom using the screen name, “please help me.” Is this a request for academic assistance? Is the student fooling around? Or does it indicate something more serious? This scenario is one example that actually did happen in a school in the region during distance learning, said Jeremy Sinclair, part of the counseling team at Venture Academy Family of Schools. Educators investigated, and it turned out the student was fine, he said. “They weren’t in crisis at that time, but they know that someone is going to see and respond.” Looking out for students’ health -- mental as well as physical -- is an established role for educators that has become more challenging as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced schools across California to start the school year offering only distance learning to students. “In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the important link between our mental wellness and our ability to be focused and productive, and I think the situation we are facing in the pandemic has really put a spotlight on this and its importance,” he said. The strategy at Venture Academy is to use a combination of being both reactive and proactive. Being reactive can mean being available to students and parents in various ways and times that work best for them, he said. “In terms of being proactive, it starts with all staff being mindful and vigilant in looking out for any concerning red flags,” he said. Venture Academy teachers, counselors, campus monitors, and other school staff receive training to look for how to spot red flags, both in person and virtually. Those indicators could be something that somebody sees in the work a student is turning


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for 24-hour service Teen Line: Call 1-800-TLC-TEEN (852-8336) or text TEEN to 839863 San Joaquin Warmline: (209) 468-3585


OUTLOOK In the Classroom in or from the fact that students aren’t turning up on the screen. For example, teachers who come across something concerning in a student journal will run it by the counseling team. Sometimes it’s just a misunderstanding or a passing feeling that a student needed to express at the moment, Sinclair said. But some have indicated more significant problems that need to be addressed, he said. When this happens, the Venture Academy team is there to help and support the student. Whether in a classroom or a video chat, teachers observe their students for other indicators. Before the school year began, staff training focused on teaching what to look for in those virtual classrooms. When the virtual classrooms started meeting, counselors held regularly scheduled socialemotional learning lessons for the K-5 Ventureland Academy

students, focusing on identifying and coping with feelings. The lessons are supported with feedback from students and their families. Stacy Ames, the mother of a high school junior, said when her daughter transferred to the BrainworX Academy, she received a lot of attention and support as she made the transition. Ames said that it continued, not just with attention to academics but to everything else, too, including initiated contact and checking in. “They really do keep track of the kids, I feel, and to really watch out and be there to try and help them,” she said. Toni Blackburn, a Venture Academy parent, said the people at the school get to know the students very well, and that knowledge helps them go beyond just providing academics. Blackburn’s connection to the school stretches back to when

her oldest child, Alyssa, now a high school senior, came to the school as a first grader. “I feel there is support,” Blackburn said. “They have done a good job staying in tune with their students.” She mentioned how last spring, as Venture Academy entered into distance learning that a teacher noticed a change in the mood of her youngest son, Joseph, who was a third grader at the time. Because of his autism and a medical issue, Joseph’s screen time was strictly limited. During distance learning, a day in the virtual classroom reached that limit. It left no time for Joseph to spend any of his free time on the computer or playing video games, activities that he loves. The teacher, Dominique Teixeira, noticed that Joseph was sad and wanted to find out why. “She instantly made an accommodation for him because she realized she didn’t

want to rob him of his free time,” Blackburn said. “She realized that his mental health and physical health had to be a major factor ... her priority for him was the whole student.” Blackburn is also Ventureland Academy’s library technician and the chairperson of the Venture Academy’s Advisory School Council, which includes teachers and students among its members. The Council has been meeting virtually since the pandemic began. Even in these meetings, the group teachers make sure they end with a well-being check to make sure everyone is doing OK. “It is important for us to be looking through the lens of mental health and wellness in all our interactions,” Sinclair said. “In our parent phone calls, in our announcements -- there should be a reminder of taking care of oneself and taking care of others.”

LIFE-SAVING TRAINING LivingWorks Youth Summit Aims to Turn School Communities into Suicide Prevention Safety Networks

Emma Benoit said she did not remember the exact moment of her suicide attempt, but she remembered what happened next and that she immediately had deep feelings of regret. “I have never wanted to live more than the day that I was dying,”

she said during the LivingWorks Youth Summit, which was streamed for students and educators across California on Sept. 15. The summit was just one piece of a coordinated plan to help turn school communities into suicide prevention safety networks. LivingWorks Start provides training to both school staff members and students by teaching them how to look out for students at risk for suicide.


“You don’t need to be a doctor or have a degree to learn the skills to save a life,” Benoit said at the summit. “Anyone can do it, and the (LivingWorks) Start program is the best place to start.” Benoit was heading into her senior year of high school when she attempted suicide. Her story will be the subject of an upcoming documentary, “My Ascension.” She was just one of the presenters and entertainers

at the summit selected to reach teens. Others include “Little Fires Everywhere” actress Lexi Underwood, slam dunk champion Kenny Dobbs, and TikTok star Caitlin Reilly. There were musical performances by Tate McRae and Fuego and card tricks by Shin Lim; a two-time America’s Got Talent winner. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the second

leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 34. A 2019 CDC survey showed that nearly 1 in 5 high school students reported seriously contemplating suicide. Certain groups of people are more at risk. The Trevor Project’s 2020 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health reported that 40% of respondents had seriously considered suicide. LivingWorks Start is a training designed to equip people with the knowledge and skills to recognize when someone—a friend, family member, student, or co-worker—is experiencing thoughts of suicide. Learners are equipped to ask that person directly, engage them in a brief conversation to show they are taking the issue seriously, and then connect them to help, such as a counselor, mental health professional, or a crisis line. As more and more people are trained, they develop a “safety network” for their school communities, making it more likely that someone’s distress will be identified, and they can be kept safe.

Training for school staff in San Joaquin County has been available in the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) as part of a statewide effort coordinated by the California Department of Education (CDE) and the San Diego Office of Education (SDCOE). After the educators began taking the 90-minute online training, students followed suit and strengthened their school’s safety net. Teachers, counselors, and other school staff interacting with junior high and high school students at Venture Academy Family of Schools took the training. “I think it is going to be really valuable for our staff to have,” Venture Academy Counselor Jeremy Sinclair said, who has taken the training. Through an interactive platform, it addresses how to deal with red flags, whether they are observed in face-to-face meetings, text messages, or social media posts, he said. “I really felt it was

You Are Not Alone

pertinent to the circumstances we are living in now.” The LivingWorks Start training will be part of an overall awareness push at the school. Like last year, there will be a peerto-peer awareness campaign and training for parents conducted by the Child Abuse Prevention Council of San Joaquin County. This year the school is considering bringing students into the training for parents. That way, it will be the students themselves, talking to parents about the importance of open communication, checking in, and taking their child’s comments seriously, Sinclair said. The Venture Academy students who watched the summit and took the training include some in the Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA) club. Nathaniel, a club member and a ninth-grader at Delta Vista Academy signed up to take the training.

After he started it, he said the training showed how to detect signs when someone was in crisis and what to do to help. “It’s a hard topic. You have to be serious about it and say the right thing,” he said. “You need to be calm and nice to the person.” Previously, as an eighth-grader, he presented information to classmates about suicide prevention and said he would like to help spread the word if given a chance. It’s important, he said. “The more people who know, the more people can help.”

Watch the Youth Summit at www.lwyouthsummit.com.


Restorative Practices Continue Online to Open Doors for Conversation and Classroom Community Familiar music from the popular online trivia game Kahoot hummed in the background while red, blue, yellow, and green squares illuminated 52 computer screens of one.Dream Academy students in the Dream Hub, a daily virtual homeroom session to jumpstart the school day. “Aw, man!” “Ohhh!” and “Yes!” could be heard from the speakers as students triumphed after each round and prepared for the next question of the friendly competition.

At the end of the game, some students noted that many of the Kahoot questions targeted “girl topics,” like pedicures, makeup brands, and acrylic nails. English teacher Vicki Lock explained that she purposely made the questions biased, choosing to write them in a way that gave the girls in the class an advantage over the boys.

and it wasn’t fair, right? But you can change things that aren’t fair,” Lock said to the class. The conversation shifted to how students can respond to biased situations in responsible and strategic ways. “The goal is to empower you to see when things are unfair, to notice when things aren’t right, and to stand up against them.”

Why? “I was deliberately trying to be biased in the questions,

Kahoot games are common bonding activities for the

#DreamTeam, the selfproclaimed name of one.Dream Academy students and staff in the Dream Hub. The class, virtual with distance learning, brings students together in community, conversation, and fun every morning, with positive behavioral interventions and support (PBIS) as well as restorative practices used in their daily classroom culture. Restorative practices act as a


OUTLOOK In the Classroom framework for building a safe, welcoming community where connections can be made, and communication is encouraged. The San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) County Operated Schools and Programs (COSP) division has implemented restorative practices in many of its classrooms’ curricula to support student well-being and socialemotional health. The need for this kind of support only increased during the shift to distance learning during the pandemic. The #DreamTeam virtual meetups are just one way educators adapted and looked for new ways to support the social-emotional needs of students while engaged in remote learning. Restorative practices are critical in trauma-informed approaches to education and support, Coordinator of Multitiered Systems of Supports (MTSS), and COSP Restorative Practices trainer Yvette Menchaca said. These methods promote prosocial behaviors that improve school culture and climate, as well as foster healthy relationships among students. Compassionate understanding, validation, communication skills, and trustworthy relationship-building facilitate individual healing and

conflict management through conversation, Menchaca said. Restorative circles, for example, are one of the many restorative practices that provide students with a comfortable space to express their thoughts, feel understood, and empathize with their peers. “Everyone within a circle is meant to support one another through their brightest and darkest days,” Briana Zafranovich said, who is a teacher at one.Charter - Main in Manteca and a COSP restorative practices trainer. Zafranovich lets her students know that her restorative circles are a place of acceptance and understanding, where everyone is welcome to share their thoughts and experiences no matter how raw they might be. Real-time virtual streaming, emotional check-ins, short video answers, and more have brought restorative practices to students’ homes during distance learning to offer social and emotional support during the pandemic. “With the pandemic, we are further isolated with even more stressors on all of us: physical, mental, and emotional. Now more than ever, it is vital for us to make connections and have a place to vent our frustrations,

knowing that those listening will be there to support us,” Zafranovich said. Come Back Kids Program Teacher and COSP Restorative Practices trainer Mary Johnson uses “snail mail” to write notes to students to build bonds with them. Johnson also sends encouraging text messages to check up on students and motivate them throughout the week. “I enjoy building relationships with my students and coming up with small things in my Google Classroom for students to share,” Johnson said. “I believe that as we make the effort to build connections, whether in school or out, students benefit.” At one.Dream Academy, students use the fun of virtual games and follow-up conversation to open up with each other in the Dream Hub. Addressing issues of bias, privilege, and inequality, Lock guided the conversation to encourage students to confront situations in their lives that aren’t fair and to find a way to work around them to succeed. Guest speaker and one.Dream Academy Campus Security Technician Crystal Figeroa inspired students with a personal story from when she was a one.Dream Academy student. “You have to stand strong; you have to keep pushing

against the current,” Figeroa said. The conversation remained lighthearted and full of banter throughout the class, making the atmosphere feel comfortable and inviting, even virtually. Lock also made sure to “read the energy of the room” and connect with individual students to check up on them during the conversation, with the help of teachers and fellow one.Dream staff members Phillip Kimble and David Bruce. Lock said their open-forum format of class encourages everyone to feel free to speak whenever they want to contribute. The students used the Google Meet chat function to engage and unmuted their microphones to participate in the group discussion. “The Dream Hub creates that restorative place for students. At one.Dream we’re all about giving students a voice, and we create an environment where everyone feels safe to use it,” Lock said. “We want you to be real, be authentic, be transparent. Know that you can be vulnerable and safe here.” With students bringing in topics of discussion, Lock and other faculty utilize the Dream Hub to navigate real-world issues that their students face and to restore students’ sense of self, identity, and community. “It’s a chance to heal whatever ails you.”

YOUR STORY ISN’T OVER Sierra High School Walk for Hope Raises Awareness About Mental Health and Suicide Prevention

Walking along the Tidewater Bikeway in Manteca in September, you could find painted rocks, chalk messages, posters, and purple and teal

ribbons every few steps, each placed in its own spot to remind you that you matter and that your life is important.


The messages of support were all part of the Sierra High School Walk for Hope on Sept. 6 through 12, an annual event to encourage students and their families

to participate in an advocacy walk to raise awareness about mental health and suicide prevention. This year, the event took place virtually and

OUTLOOK In the Classroom physically distanced. Families were invited to walk around their neighborhoods or along the four designated areas on the Tidewater Bikeway in Manteca to show their support. “It is important for people to know that there are resources available for them and that they are not alone,” said Arveen Birdi, a Sierra High student and Associated Student Body (ASB) President. The Sierra High School ASB leadership class and peer resources class came together to organize the virtual Walk for Hope events. A live Zoom event brought Manteca City Councilmember Gary Singh, a Sierra High alum, to the group, leading a discussion on the importance of mental health. Participants were also invited to join in social media challenges, such as the Create Your Own “Happy” by Pharrell

Music Video Challenge, learn about prevention through statistical awareness posts, and watch an IGTV video, sharing one teacher’s personal testimony. “Suicide affects all ages, all races, and all communities,” said Tyler Ryan, a teacher at Sierra High School, in the IGTV video. “If you are having thoughts of taking your life, reach out, and ask for help. We want you to ask for help because you matter, and you have a purpose.” The week concluded with a virtual event honoring the lives lost to suicide and reminding participants why Sierra High School walks for hope. “From counseling to teachers to community support, it is important to remind people that there is always an answer,” said Jared Rio, Sierra High teacher, and event organizer.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or text TALK to 741741. SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY OFFICE OF EDUCATION | 29

OUTLOOK In the News

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT MOUSALIMAS ANNOUNCES PLANS FOR RETIREMENT San Joaquin County Superintendent of Schools James Mousalimas will retire June 30, 2021, after 35 years in education. Read more about Mousalimas’ career and the appointment of his replacement, current SJCOE Associate Superintendent of Student Programs and Services Troy Brown, in The Record’s story at http://bit.ly/SJCOESuperintendent.

HOW TEACHER OF THE YEAR FOUND PATH TO TEACHING In September, Fox40 caught up with Rachel Hernandez, the 2020 San Joaquin County Teacher of the Year. In the segment, Hernandez shares how she began her 19year teaching career and delivers a heartfelt message to her students at home. Watch the piece at http://bit.ly/2020SJCTOY.

CLOSING THE DIGITAL DIVIDE As the new school year began with students engaged in distance learning, schools in San Joaquin County had been working to provide devices and internet connectivity to students attending school at home. In an article on Sept. 6, The Record spoke with the SJCOE and officials from school districts across the county about what has been done to close the digital divide. Read the story at http://bit.ly/ SJCDigitalDivide.

PREPARING FOR FLU SEASON With the flu season on the horizon, public health officials across the state urged Californians to get vaccinated against influenza. In a Sept. 3 article about the issue, Cal Matters noted how schools were getting the word out about the importance of getting the flu vaccine and spoke with SJCOE Comprehensive Health Director Sheri Coburn about the effort in San Joaquin County. Read all about it at http://bit.ly/SJCFluSeason.


RED TIER ALLOWS FOR IN-PERSON LEARNING Oct. 13 marked an important day for local schools. That was the day San Joaquin County met the health metrics to remain in the California Blueprint for a Safer Economy for two consecutive weeks. It meant schools were allowed to resume in-person learning while following state and local health guidelines. County Superintendent of Schools James Mousalimas was quoted in a Lodi News-Sentinel article on Sept. 29, when the county first entered the red tier. Read the story at http://bit.ly/SJCRedTier.


SJCOE Calendar of Events

OUTLOOK Calendar

Check out some of the SJCOE’s latest news and media highlights!

Did you know that youTHE can DIGITAL DIVIDE find meetings, trainings, and In Sept., The Record covered workshops for educators like how San Joaquin County the Opening Doors to Equity school and districts are working to bridge the student Access Curriculum virtual meeting connectivity gap. on November 19 to activities and events for county students on the SJCOE Events Calendar? FIND INFORMATION ON UPCOMING ACTIVITIES AND EVENTS AT


DO YOU LOVE ACADEMIC EVENTS AND ACTIVITIES AS MUCH AS WE DO? The 2020-2021 San Joaquin County Office of Education Student Events Catalog is your guide to countywide student competitions! The competitions may look a little different this school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so make sure to check out the catalog for more information about Math Tournaments, Spelling Bees, the Academic Decathlon, and more.


OUTLOOK Snapshot

San Joaquin County Teacher of the Year Rachel Hernandez picking up her award at the SJCOE. Way to go, Rachel!

Flu season is here! Teachers College of San Joaquin Recruitment, Marketing, and Communications Manager Katie Turner prepared by getting her flu shot at the clinic for SJCOE employees and families.

Meet Carolina Soza! Carolina is Operations new receptionist who greets visitors and more at the Nelson Administration Center!

This is what dedication to education looks like! Special Education Programs Connections! Teacher Tina Derksen teaching remotely from her classroom at McFall School in Manteca. We spy Connections! Teacher Lena Rajaphone disinfecting playground equipment. Thanks, Lena for your work implementing these new safety measures!

How do you spend your break? We found County Operated Schools and Programs Intervention and Prevention Specialists Hector Calderon and Monica Bermudez taking a stroll along the Connectivity path!


Greater Valley Conservation Corps’ Jessica Mendoza accepting her award as the Sept. Corpsmember of the Month.


Profile for WeAreSJCOE

OUTLOOK 74.2 | NOVEMBER 2020  

The San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) Outlook celebrates education across San Joaquin County! The Outlook is published bimonth...

OUTLOOK 74.2 | NOVEMBER 2020  

The San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) Outlook celebrates education across San Joaquin County! The Outlook is published bimonth...