‘Rockstar’ Ygnacio Valley engineering teacher Joseph Alvarico adds state honor to resume

Joseph Alvarico (right) has had quite the fall, first being named Contra Costa Teacher of the Year and then last month adding a title of 2024 California Teacher of the Year, the only Northern Californian among the five tabbed for state honors. This photo from September 2019 was at the dedication of the Ygnacio Valley High School Innovation Center on the Concord school’s campus. The room is the center of the school’s engineering, robotics and STEM ­programs spearheaded by Alvarico. (Pioneer file photo by Jay Bedecarré)

CONCORD, CA (Nov. 9, 2023) — Joseph Alvarico of Ygnacio Valley High School has the added distinction of being a 2024 California Teacher of the Year after earlier being named a Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year.

Alvarico was called by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond telling him of the state honor. He was the only Northern California teacher among the superintendent’s five honorees this year with the other four teachers residing in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties.

“I am proud that one of our Contra Costa County teachers of the year has been named one of the state’s top educators,” Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Lynn Mackey said.

“Joseph is a great example of the high-quality teaching and learning going on in Contra Costa County schools every day and it’s a great honor for him to be selected as a California Teacher of the Year. Congratulations to him, his colleagues and MDUSD for the support they have given him throughout this process and his career.”

Mt. Diablo Unified School District Superintendent Adam Clark was so impressed with Alvarico on a recent KTVU Fox 2 news feature that Clark sent the video to all District staff with the message: “I will continue to celebrate this huge accomplishment. A true professional who inspires students to reach amazing heights! Thank you, Mr. Alvarico.”

Dr. Clark also lauded Alvarico during his Superintendent’s Report to the school board, calling him “a model of what we should strive to be.”

“I am both thrilled and humbled at the same time to have been selected as one of the 2024 California Teachers of the Year. This distinction is a reflection of the long hours and unwavering commitment that I have put into my teaching career,” Alvarico said.

“My gratitude extends to multiple people in my life who have guided me along my professional path and supported my classroom every step of the way. Maraming salamat sa inyong lahat! Without you, I wouldn’t be able to give my students the greatest service that I possibly could. I am excited to continue making a positive impact on the lives of my students, our local community, and the educational world at large.”

Alvarico was able to send the voicemail recording of Thurmond’s phone call to his family in the Philippines. “It made them very proud,” he said.

Ygnacio Valley High Principal Jonathan Pike says, “We are thrilled that Joseph has been recognized for his dedication and impact on our school, students and community at multiple schools. He is truly deserving of this award, and we believe he is only one of many teachers at our school that believes in our students and opens doors of opportunity for them to achieve their goals.”

Didn’t aim to be a teacher

Joseph Alvarico.

Both of Alvarico’s parents are teachers but he did not set out on a path to become a teacher until receiving a full-ride scholarship to a college in Manila. The scholarship required him to study education and work as a teacher for at least one year.

With a short-term commitment in mind, he became a teacher intern in the 1990s and has been “hooked” on teaching ever since. He taught in the Philippines for four years before answering an ad from MDUSD for a teaching position.

District human resources staff visited him in his homeland, and, following an interview with a school principal, Alvarico took a job at Oak Grove Middle School and seven years ago moved to Ygnacio Valley.

In his KTVU interview Alvarico, who is also an adjunct professor in the CCAP-STEM program at Diablo Valley College, says that he loves “the rockstar feeling of being a teacher.”

He explains that “I have to know what the student is feeling in order to teach them. I’ve seen what the kids need and that’s what drives me,” Alvarico said.

Alvarico and colleagues have reached out to community groups and businesses to help fund and develop the award-winning engineering and robotics program at Ygnacio Valley which has the name Project 212, in honor of the former shop classroom it calls home on the Concord campus.

He’s especially proud of getting more female students into his engineering classes.

Alvarico is the second Mt. Diablo Unified School District Contra Costa teacher of the year in a row after Mt. Diablo English teacher Nathasha Paul was similarly awarded for 2022-23.

3rd MDUSD honoree

This is the third time a MDUSD teacher has won the state teacher of the year award. The other two are Janet Gower in 2002 and Rosie Reid in 2019. Reid was also the state’s nominee for national teacher of the year.

Alvarico has a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and a Bachelor of Secondary Education degree. Prior to immigrating to the United States, he started the process of attaining master’s degrees in both Business Administration and Biology.

He has received many awards and accolades over the years; however, it is the impact he leaves on students that matters most to him. “Seeing my students work toward and achieve their dreams is the biggest reward I get from teaching,” Alvarico said. “The icing on the cake is for my students to return as professionals and give back to this community I serve.”

With his on-the-job experience in the tech industry, he weaves real world experiences into his lessons. Teaching teenagers, being a lifelong learner and building a community with his students is the secret sauce that has turned his robotics and yearbook students into design and engineering professionals.

While helping underserved students for the past 23 years, Alvarico strives to show them their potential and the possibilities available when they leave high school.

Jay Bedecarré
Jay Bedecarré
Sports and Schools Editor at The Concord Clayton Pioneer | sports@pioneerpublishers.com | Website

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.