THE BEST — Mary Jo Kinser of Pleasant Hill Christian School, Joe Maloney of Laguna High School and Sydnee Mardell of Twin Hills Charter Middle School are this year’s Rotary picks for teachers of the year.

The Sebastopol Rotary Education Foundation and the Rotary Club of Sebastopol recognized their three teachers of the year in west Sonoma County.

This year, the foundation introduced two new categories for the awards. One selection is now focused on people who have taught for three years or less, but who have already distinguished themselves by their performance in the classroom. A second is now recognized for their championing an innovation in the classroom or school that has significantly improved academic performance or school climate. And the third is based on the criteria that the foundation has previously used: a career of excellent performance and leadership.

This year’s winners are:

• Mary Jo Kinser of Pleasant Hill Christian School for a career of great performance and leadership. Kinser has been teaching there for 38 years. She is a founding teacher of the school. Over the years, she has become known for both her high standards and her loving attitude for her students and her leadership with her fellow faculty members.

• Sydnee Mardell of Twin Hills Charter Middle School for her stellar performance as a new teacher. Mardell has demonstrated great enthusiasm, a terrific work ethic and a love of students every day since she first set foot on campus. She has brought with her great understanding of how to use technology to improve education, and she has shown real leadership in solving school challenges, like how to continue teaching in a stay-at-home environment.

• Joe Maloney was chosen for his innovations to improve curriculum and career opportunities for students at Laguna High School. Maloney has for many years sought to give his students new and exciting career paths. Most recently, he facilitated the opening of a chapter of the North Bay Construction Corps in west county, and he serves as its faculty member.

Dan Rasmus, the president of the Rotary Education Foundation, praised the selections and lamented the inability to give every teacher nominated recognition.

“We were delighted with the number of nominations in all three categories. Every nominator wrote a passionate and persuasive essay in support of their candidate,” he said. “It was difficult to choose.”

The winners of the Teacher of the Year Awards each receive a check for $1,000. Traditionally, they would have been invited to a lunch meeting of the Sebastopol Rotary Club for the presentation of their award, but that has been scrubbed in light of the current stay-at-home order. They would also normally be invited to ride in the Apple Blossom parade, but that, of course, has been cancelled as well

The Teacher of the Year program was created to provide community recognition to the hard-working educators in west Sonoma County. It is part of the foundation’s and club’s commitment to local education.

The Foundation this year introduced the new categories for the Teacher of the Year awards in the hopes of recognizing great young teachers who are often overlooked and those who have fought to take advantage of new ideas in education. The selection committee was pleased with the size of the response in each category, confirming their belief that there are many new and innovative teachers who should be encouraged by community recognition.

Foundation Board member, Diana Rich, who oversaw the selection process, commented: “We are delighted to find that there are so many administrators and parents who value the teachers they know. It was hard to distinguish one glowing recommendation from another, but we are certain that the people we’ve selected are really wonderful teachers who deserve the recognition and appreciation they have earned.”

In addition to the Teacher of the Year Awards, the foundation has agreed to funding for the next three years the North Bay Construction Corps, a program of the North Coast Builders Exchange that introduces students at all three west county high schools to the construction trades. And the Sebastopol Rotary Club separately funds the Mark Sell Rotary Teacher Grants, the Overcoming Obstacles Awards, Interact clubs at Analy and Twin Hills, and the Santa Rosa Junior College Scholarships for west county residents.

— Submitted by the  Rotary Club of Sebastopol

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