Wednesday, August 24, 2005

A Vacaville pep rally for educators

Article Launched: 08/24/2005 07:31:40 AM

A pep rally for educators
Event inspires district staff

By Julie Kay/Staff Writer

Hundreds of teachers and others listen Tuesday morning to comments from guest speakers like 2005 National Teacher of the Year Jason Kamras during the Vacaville Unified School District's back to school assembly at Travis Credit Union Park. (Rick Roach/The Reporter)

Hundreds of Vacaville Unified School District staff members filled the bleachers of Travis Credit Union Park on Tuesday morning to start off a new school year with coffee, bagels and a few words of inspiration.

"For many students, you will be the most significant influence in their young lives," Assemblywoman Lois Wolk told the crowd assembled around the baseball diamond beneath the rapidly warming sun.

Wolk, who represents Solano and Yolo Counties, once served as a teacher herself. She called the field of education "the most important one I can think of."

"Our children are, indeed, our future," she said.

The annual back-to-school breakfast brings together the district's entire staff, including teachers, principals, administrative staff, therapists, psychologists, maintenance workers, and custodians. Speakers, who included Solano County Superintendent of Schools Dee Alarcon, Vacaville Mayor Len Augustine and National Teacher of the Year Jason Kamras, echoed a common theme.

"Thank you," began Kamras, the event's keynote speaker.

The two words, he said, are not said enough to education staff.

"Thank you for offering your abundant talents not to those who pay you the most, but to those who need you the most," he said. "Thank you for building dreams, and fortifying self-confidence."

Kamras, a Sacramento native, has taught math at John Philip Sousa Middle School in Washington, D.C., since 1996. About 90 percent of his students live in poverty, he said. He told stories of some of the students who have most inspired him, and called unequal access to good education "the greatest social injustice facing our country today."

"We must be (students') voice, their advocates, their champions," he said, eliciting a standing ovation.

Fulfilling the breakfast's Hawaiian theme, those in attendance sported colorful tropical shirts and plastic leis. Alarcon greeted staff with an "aloha," and closed her speech with a "mahalo."

The audience also got to hear from the district's teacher of the year, Brian Riley, a history teacher at Vacaville High School. Explaining he was most used to asking questions, Riley gave those attending a brief interrogation.

He asked: how many of them wished they were in their classrooms getting ready for school? How many of them had been to half-hour faculty meetings that seemed to last 29 minutes too long? How many of them knew they had touched the life of a student?

"In my opinion, you are all teachers of the year," he told them.

Julie Kay can be reached at

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