CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, CA (Sept. 24, 2023) — County Superintendent of Schools Lynn Mackey announced Joseph Alvarico of Ygnacio Valley High School (Mount Diablo Unified School District) and Annalouisa Gonzalez-Ortega of Freedom High School (Liberty Union High School District) as the 2023-2024 Contra Costa County Teachers of the Year.
The announcement was made Thursday night during the county’s 51st annual Teacher of the Year Celebration, which was held at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, CA. The pair are now entered into the California State Teachers of the Year program.
The 51st Annual Teachers of the Year Celebration was supported by Corporate Sponsor Travis Credit Union and Visionary Sponsors Chevron, Lesher Community Foundation, and Martinez Refinery Company. A total of 21 Contra Costa Teachers representing 16 school districts were honored during a VIP Donor Reception at The Garden in Walnut Creek and a celebration at the Lesher.
“Congratulations to the County’s 2023-2024 Teachers of the Year,” Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Lynn Mackey said. “Joseph Alvarico and Annalouisa Gonzalez-Ortega exemplify all the extraordinary public-school teachers in our county. Next stop is the state’s Teacher of the Year program, and I am delighted to root for these two educators as the California Department of Education decides California’s Teacher of the Year. All of our teachers deserve to be recognized for being excellent educators. We appreciate them for investing and believing in the children they teach; these relationships help shape consistency, confidence, academic achievements, and lifelong goals in scholars throughout our county.”
County Teacher of the Year Joseph 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 for attaining master’s degrees in both Business Administration and Biology. Alvarico has also 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.”
Alvarico was born into a family of educators but did not set out on a path to become a teacher until a full-ride college scholarship in his native country, the Philippines, was awarded to him. The scholarship required him to 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. After immigrating to the United States, Alvarico has spent multiple years instructing middle school and high school students in Mt. Diablo Unified School District.
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.
Gonzalez-Ortega is a first-generation Mexican American who was raised by parents who always emphasized the importance of education. She was a translator for her family at an early age and learned to become her own advocate early in her educational journey. After being dismissed by her high school counselor when she asked for help with her college applications, she went on to become the first person in her family to apply, be accepted, attend, and graduate (with two bachelor’s degrees) from St. Mary’s college.
While working on her graduate degree, she worked as a high school teacher and soon realized her passion was to advocate for students like her. She has focused her 26 years of teaching on being a role model for students who need help navigating the educational system. She is a firm believer in giving back, paying it forward, being humble, and helping others. Gonzalez-Ortega is highly active in Freedom High’s English Learner Advisory Committee and participates in numerous volunteer opportunities and programs to support English Language Learners in her community.
In looking back at all her education career, Gonzalez-Ortega believes the lifelong relationships she has made are her greatest contributions and accomplishments in education. “My students become my kids and these kids become my family,” Gonzalez-Ortega said. “I have been a former student’s maid of honor, been in the delivery room, attended baptisms, weddings, birthdays, first communions, college graduations, and even gave a final to a student at juvenile hall.”
Alvarico and Gonzalez-Ortega were selected as winners from four finalists that were announced in the spring. The other two finalists were Danya Townsend formerly of Olympic High School (Mount Diablo Unified School District) and Patricia Ogura of Hercules Middle and High Schools (West Contra Costa School District). The finalists were selected from the 21 district teachers of the year who represent 16 school districts, the Contra Costa County Office of Education, and the Contra Costa Community College District.
Alvarico and Gonzalez-Ortega will represent Contra Costa County at the California State Teacher of the Year competition. The state will announce its Teachers of the Year in mid-October.
The county teacher of the year program is coordinated by the Contra Costa County Office of Education.