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Excellence in Teaching Award increased to $50K
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Two years ago, Manteca High School teacher Doug Obrigawitch was one of four in San Joaquin County who received the Cortopassi Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching Award.

With the distinct honor came $10,000 in cash - $5,000 for Obrigawitch to use with no strings attached, and the remaining $5,000 presented to the school for improving math and science programs benefiting both teachers and students in those classes.

This year, five high school teachers instead of just the traditional four will be selected to receive the prestigious award. Four of the awardees will be chosen from the county’s “outstanding public or charter high school educators in Science and Math,” with the fifth awardee to be a teacher from “an alternative or non-comprehensive high school setting,” said Excellence in Teaching coordinator Carla Donaldson.

The fifth award is “really an acknowledgment of the fact that there are good teachers out there” who are not getting the recognition that they deserve, Donaldson said. “So many of them are doing a great job at educating the kids, and it didn’t seem fair to exclude them.”

These are teachers in continuation schools who are working with at-risk kids, helping and guiding them until they graduate from high school, Donaldson said.

Nominees must be full-time classroom teachers in public or charter high schools in San Joaquin County, and must have at least two years teaching experience in Math, Science, or alternative education. Nominations must be submitted by the teachers’ current principals.

Deadline for receiving nominations is January 31 with the finalists to be announced on February 13. The names of those selected for the award will be announced on February 25. The recipients will be honored at a dinner awards ceremony to be held on April 11 at the Stockton Golf and Country Club.

The $5,000 awarded to the winning teachers are given “with no strings attached; it’s theirs to do as they wish,” explained Donaldson. The $5,000 given to the recipient’s respective school is presented with the proviso that the money not be included in the school’s “general account” and should be used to purchase something that will help both the teachers and the students in that department. Last year, for example, one school used the money to purchase iPads for the classroom, Donaldson said.

Obrigawitch was recognized in 2011 for his use of “new technology and cutting-edge educational techniques to keep his students engaged and help them succeed.” In the nearly two decades he has taught at Manteca High, he has helped the school post “the highest math test scores in the district.”

Nomination forms and informational packets can be downloaded at, or simply go to the San Joaquin County Office of Education website and click on the Quick Links tab.

For any other questions, contact Gary Dei Rossi, deputy superintendent of student programs and services, at (209) 468-9027.