CONCORD, CA (Oct. 13, 2021) — Teacher Yuri Buechler and counselor Keegan Pittman were both feted last month in San Diego with top awards from the California Continuation Education Association for their work on the faculty and staff of Olympic High School in Concord.
Buechler was awarded California Teacher of the Year and his colleague Pittman was Counselor of the Year for the 2019-20 school year. They were notified of their honors months into the pandemic last year but CCEA, the state association representing about 500 continuation high schools in California, was unable to have an in-person presentation until their annual conference this September.
Speaking to the two men last week at their school on Salvio Street it was readily apparent they enjoy their jobs and the students they serve at Olympic, Mt. Diablo unified School Distrcit’s continuation high school founded in 1965.
Olympic Principal Lynsie Castellano nominated the social science teacher as teacher of the year and said, “Mr. Buechler has a natural ability to relate to students. His easygoing, structured classroom creates a welcoming environment. His knack for building relationships shows in his student’s admiration for him as a person they can rely on for instruction in the classroom and real-world advice outside.
“[Buechler] is a trailblazer when it comes to curriculum. He is often the first to implement new teaching strategies. Yuri is able to structure project-based units that are rigorous and at the same time accessible. He has a keen ability to focus lessons on student interest and relate said lessons to the lives of our students.”
10 Years at Olympic
Buechler has been at Olympic for a decade. This school year he is teaching world history and service learning. Buechler is especially proud of the service learning program which sends Olympic students to a Mt. Diablo Unified School District elementary school near their home to serve as teacher’s assistants.
For five weeks the student spends Monday through Thursday as a TA. On Fridays they are back at Olympic to review their progress. During the program the high school student keeps a journal to record their reflections on how it is benefiting them and the students (primarily kindergarten through fourth graders) in the classroom they are assisting.
His principal also lauded Buechler for regularly attending education conferences and leading staff trainings on current teaching methods and strategies. He is on the Olympic High leadership team and is the head of the Curriculum and Instruction Committee.
Young counselor honored
Buechler nominated his 29-year-old colleague Pittman for the CCEA counselor award using a sports analogy, saying he “is so much more than a counselor to Olympic High School. Keegan is like the athlete that does not always show up in the stat sheet yet is essential to the success of the squad.
“He does all of his work and often the work of others with the same attention to detail, professionalism and enthusiasm. He does so happily, never complaining that his plate is too full or that he has already done his fair share. When someone is in need, he is always there for both students and staff.”
Pittman and Paula Barker share counselling duties for the approximate 400 students who matriculate through Olympic each year.
The school year is divided into eight terms since some students attend Olympic for awhile before returning to their comprehensive high school in MDUSD and other students come to Olympic at various times during the school year.
Pittman explains that much of his counseling work goes beyond academics and revolves around “getting students resources to remove obstacles” from achieving success in the classroom and life. He is in his fourth year at Olympic and says his Masters degree in marriage and family therapy is put to good use in his current role.
Buechler concluded his nomination of Pittman saying, “Keegan is a mentor and a role model. His attitude and advice are infectious, and his impact on the campus is notable by those in the know and newcomers alike. Keegan is an integral cog in our complicated machine. Moreover, although he has not been in education for that many years, he is like a guru who has found his calling.”
Jay Bedecarré is a long-time resident and writer in Concord and Clayton. He began his newspaper writing career while still a senior at Mt. Diablo High School and he has been part of The Pioneer since its inception in 2003. Jay also operates Bay Area Festivals, presenting events around the San Francisco Bay Area including Bay Area KidFest annually in Downtown Concord.