Isaac Raya, a history and digital media teacher at Petaluma’s Kenilworth Junior High, has been named Sonoma County’s Teacher of the Year.
The Sonoma County Office of Education announced the honor this week. Raya will go on to represent the county in the state’s Teacher of the Year program.
Raya started teaching 12 years ago and has been at Kenilworth for a decade, according to SCOE. While there, he has become known for bringing history alive and making historic events relevant to his students’ world. That includes a simulation where students experienced what it was like to work in an 1800s factory.
He is “one of the most outstanding history teachers I have ever met,” said Kenilworth Principal Emily Dunnagan.
Raya has also been been a pioneer in using digital tools in the classroom. He’s encouraged students to create multimedia productions about U.S. History. For instance, under his guidance, a group of English language learners produced a video about the Mexican-American War.
Raya also teaches a digital media class where students learn to tell stories with through video. He then showcases their work in an annual film festival. This year, a group of his students earned top honors at the Sonoma County Five-Minute Film Festival.
Collaborating with his colleague Laura Bradley, he oversees the student-led production of a daily, live news broadcast.
Raya has also shown a commitment to helping English learners succeed in school, according to SCOE. In collaboration with other teachers, he has helped raise achievement and promotion rates for his school’s English learners.
Raya is also head wrestling coach for the school. He sees coaching as an important avenue for helping students build confidence and teaching them about integrity, sportsmanship, and teamwork.
Meanwhile, a fifth-grade teacher at McKinley Elementary in Petaluma, Matthew De Lucia-Zeltzer, took second place.
He teaches a self-contained Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) class where nearly 40 percent of the students are socio-economically disadvantaged and/or second-language learners who have been re-designated as English proficient. He was recognized by the review panel for his commitment to serving low-income and English-learner students, providing creative and carefully crafted instruction to engage them in learning, and leading his school in the use of technology as a 21st century learning tool.