OUSD Honors Teachers of the Year

(Chris Louie, Photographer)
Orinda Union School District’s outstanding Teachers of the Year were recognized during a May 10 event sponsored by the Rotary Club of Orinda. The five honorees represent each of the district’s schools and each received a plaque and a stipend award. (L-R) Rodney Lal, president of Rotary Club of Orinda, Michelle Pinney, Orinda Intermediate School, Gretchen Loughran, Del Rey Elementary School, Alicia Doyle, Wagner Ranch Elementary School, Diana Owens, Sleepy Hollow Elementary School and Erin Miller, Glorietta Elementary School, also recognized as OUSD District-Wide Teacher of the Year.

    The Orinda Union School District (OUSD) named five Teachers of the Year recipients during a board of trustees meeting in April. The honorees, nominated by staff from their respective schools, are in consideration for the 2022/23 District Teacher of the Year.
    Alicia Doyle, Gretchen Loughran, Erin Miller, Diana Owens and Michelle Pinney were recognized for their contributions.

Alicia Doyle
    For 21 years, Doyle has been part of the “great team” at Wagner Ranch.
    “I’ve been very fortunate to really hone my craft in second grade,” said Doyle. She shared a mantra learned from a mentor: “Mistakes equal information. This plays into an open growth mindset that, if learned by students now, can equal success later in life.”
    New social and emotional needs arose after the pandemic, said Doyle, and educators are learning how to handle those issues along with the usual curriculum.
    Her work never gets boring and is always challenging. Her goal is to “keep on keeping on with all of the things that are changing.”

Gretchen Loughran
    With 30 years in education, including overseas and as a principal, Orinda is a good fit for Loughran, an instructional support instructor at Del Rey.
    Loughran calls special education more of a marathon than a sprint with new challenges keeping it exciting. Working with students from kindergarten to fifth grade requires her to pivot a lot.
    “It’s always a moving target; that’s what I love about teaching,” said Loughran.
    Her job involves flexibility and meeting students where they are, said Loughran, who aims to “curate my teaching to what they need.”
    Learning and continued collaboration with general education teachers are among her goals.

Erin Miller
    Miller teaches first grade at Glorietta. With 25 years of experience, her personal passion lies in literacy, which aligns with the literacy intervention specialist position she begins next year. She’s also learning to teach phonics in sequential patterns.
    “There really is a sense of finding your people when you’re teaching,” Miller said of her colleagues, highlighting the importance of finding those who are in the profession because it feels good. “It’s very rewarding.”
    At Glorietta’s Back-to-School Nights, Miller makes a point to tell parents their children are with a person who really does love their role.
    “I do truly enjoy it,” she said.

Diana Owens
    Owens is a kindergarten and first-grade teacher at Sleepy Hollow, which she calls a friendly and warm place with wonderful colleagues. Teaching for 18 years, Owens said she loves little kids and considers the connections forged with families rewarding. Fun and engaging classroom activities are a goal, she said, with plenty of art, singing, music and games.
    While the pandemic presented challenges, she noted there was a unique opportunity to peek into a student’s home life. Getting to know the family pets was a favorite aspect of the online meetings with her youngsters.
    “It’s always been my dream job,” said Owens. “I just love it.”

Michelle Pinney
    Teaching sixth-grade core at Orinda Intermediate since 2015, Pinney wants to instill excitement in students to learn about different cultures. She works with the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) Club to foster those values with the group, staff advisors and students from all grade levels.
    This year, Pinney enjoyed splitting her days, working half with a sixth-grade core class and half with another class, giving her the opportunity to become acquainted with more staff and students.
    “I would love to give a shout out to all of my students, past and present, who have made teaching so much fun and enjoyable,” said Pinney. “They are the reason I do what I do!”

Andrea Madison can be reached at drea.madison.05@gmail.com.

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