Santa Clara County honored its 2018 Teachers of the Year last month, including Egan Junior High teaching assistant principal Coni Cullimore, Mountain View High teacher Sarah Block and Homestead High teacher Andrea Westgate.
Focus on achievement
Named Teacher of the Year for the Los Altos School District, Cullimore has taught math in the past but now teaches leadership classes. She also supports students and teachers in the work of learning and teaching.
“My main job is to work with students from all classes across the school in developing dispositions for achievement in school and in life,” Cullimore said. “Students often see me because they need help seeing how a situation could have been approached with a different perspective, and I work hard to approach problems positively.”
Cullimore noted that her students are going through a crucial stage of their lives.
“I know well how critical the adolescent years are in shaping a lifetime of success and contribution,” she said. “I believe strongly in the impact a teacher can have. That impact begins with knowing students well and building strong, trusting relationships.”
According to Cullimore, many teachers in the Los Altos School District deserve recognition.
“They give freely of their time, above and beyond what duty requires, to make school challenging, engaging, and rewarding for our students,” she said. “To be honored among this phenomenal group is truly gratifying.”
Prior to joining the Egan staff, Cullimore taught high school math and physical education after earning her bachelor’s degree in math as well as teaching credentials in math and PE.
Finding the right path
Honored as the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District Teacher of the Year, Block said she has always wanted to be a teacher.
“One of my first memories is playing ‘school’ with my two younger sisters,” she said. “I was always the teacher and they were my students.”
Armed with a bachelor’s degree in history from UC Santa Barbara and a master’s degree and teaching credential from UCLA, Block has taught a variety of courses, including Contemporary World Issues, World Studies, English Language Development (ELD), Civics/Economics and ELD World History classes at Mountain View High.
Block also joined the group effort that launched Mountain View High’s Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program. She taught AVID classes, was an AVID presenter at local and regional workshops and served as co-coordinator of the AVID program. She also was school improvement coordinator and Western Association of Schools and Colleges co-coordinator at various times in her career at Mountain View High.
Block said she feels lucky to teach in a welcoming environment.
“I enjoy coming to work each day and interacting with students,” she said. “Each day is different, from start to finish. Students have not changed much over the years – they are eager to learn and step up to challenges in the classroom.”
In teaching, Block said her mantra is “There are many paths to student success.”
“I want to help students find the right path for themselves so that the goals they set are met and they are ready to pursue their next steps in life,” she said.
Improving student success
Westgate was on vacation when county officials announced the 2018 Teacher of the Year for Cupertino’s Fremont Union High School District, which 238 students from Los Altos attended in spring 2018, according to a district official.
The majority of the Los Altos students in the Fremont district attend Homestead High, where Westgate teaches math.
Westgate earned a bachelor’s degree and teaching credential in math, and also spent a year abroad studying math and education.
She has taught AP Calculus AB and Algebra I and began teaching Academic Foundations last year.
When the Town Crier reached Westgate via email, she said she has no access to a computer on her trip, but she briefly expressed her appreciation for the award on her smartphone.
“I am grateful and humbled to have received this award,” she said. “It is truly an honor to have my work recognized, but I would not be the teacher I am without amazing colleagues. I look forward to working together to continue to improve our practices to help all students be successful.”