PLEASANT HILL, CA — County Superintendent of Schools Lynn Mackey announced that high school teachers Kristen Plant of Miramonte High School (Acalanes Union High School District) and Michelle Wilson of Dougherty Valley High School (San Ramon Valley Unified School District) were named the 2021-2022 Contra Costa County Teachers of the Year.
The announcement was made Thursday night during a live stream broadcast that was simulcast on edTV, which is available throughout most of the county. The pair become eligible to apply to the California State Teachers of the Year program.
Supported by Title Sponsor Chevron and Visionary Sponsors Lesher Community Foundation, Martinez Refinery Company, and Saint Mary’s College of California, the Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year Program seeks to honor and recognize teachers throughout the county for the amazing work they do every day.
With the county Teacher of the Year program dating back to 1973, Plant is the first-ever recipient of the award from the Acalanes Union High School District (AUHSD) and Wilson is the fourth winner from San Ramon Valley Unified School District (SRVUSD) in five years. Last year, two teachers from the SRVUSD swept the county’s top honors.
“Congratulations to Contra Costa County’s newest Teachers of the Year,” Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Lynn Mackey said. “This community thanks Kristen Plant and Michelle Wilson for being such stellar representatives of the teaching profession and we wish them luck as they participate in the state Teacher of the Year program. All 21 teachers who were honored this evening and each of their colleagues throughout the county deserve thanks and appreciation for the work they do to support students, especially in this unique and challenging time.”
Plant is a 19-year veteran at Miramonte High School and is currently teaching English and Visual and Performing Arts. A former speech competitor, she leads a nationally recognized public speaking and debate program which operates as both an academic elective and an extracurricular competitive speech and debate team. Plant is a graduate of Georgetown University and earned her teaching credential at Cal State East Bay.
She holds leadership positions in several associations including the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) and California High School Speech Association (CHSSA), and was named CHSSA Coach of the Year in 2016. She is also recognized as being a “tireless and compassionate advocate for racial equity on her campus,” AUHSD Associate Superintendent Amy McNamara said. “She is one of the teachers I most admire in the district: she is thoughtful, positive, steps up to leadership opportunities, and is always thinking about how to make Miramonte High School a great place for all students.”
“As a public speaking teacher, Ms. Plant goes above and beyond to support her students,” Miramonte high school senior Isabelle Bennette, who also introduced Plant in the broadcast, said. “While in Public Speaking, I developed confidence and writing due, in large part, to Ms. Plant’s guidance. She has been an incredible ally to marginalized student groups. Ms. Plant creates and atmosphere of empowerment, trust, and hope for all her students to grow and strive in.”
Wilson is a 20-year teaching veteran, spending the last 11 years at Dougherty Valley High School. She is a ninth- and 12th-grade English teacher, also teaching AP Language and Composition. She is a member of the National Council of Teachers (NCTE), California Teachers Association (CTE), National Education Association (NEA), National English Honor Society (NEHS) and California Scholarship Federation (CSF).
A graduate of Ohio University, earning her teaching certificate from San Francisco State University, she is a co-curriculum leader in the English department at DVHS and is a member of the district-wide Grading Reform Committee. She was named the SRVUSD Secondary Teacher of the Year in 2020-21 and earned the Yale University Education Award in 2013.
“Ms. Wilson is a teacher who embodies the notion that teaching is not just a profession but an art. From her detailed, thoughtful lesson design to the relationships she builds with students, her artistic teaching talents are evident,” Dougherty Valley High School Assistant Principal Sarah Acosta Landry said. “Her practices are ones that I often encourage our new teachers to observe because I know that there is so much to be gleaned from the techniques she uses to engage her students in creative and innovative ways.”
“While there are so many wonderful qualities about Michelle, one of my favorites is her creativity,” fellow DVHS English teacher Rachael Hernandez said. “She pushes students to think outside of the box, to make meaningful connections to what concepts she is teaching with what is going on in the real world, regularly helping students see that what they learn in school often has far-reaching effects beyond the four walls of the school building. She is, hands down, the most brilliant educator I’ve ever had the privilege of working with.”
Plant and Wilson were selected winners from four finalists that were announced in the spring. The other two finalists were Alisha Douglass from Liberty High School (Liberty Union High School District) and Christina Zenzano from Rancho Medanos Junior High School (Pittsburg Unified School District). The finalists were selected from the 21 district teachers of the year which represented 16 school districts, county office and community college district.
Plant and Wilson go on to represent Contra Costa County at the California State Teacher of the Year competition. The State Teachers of the Year are expected to be announced in mid-October. The county teacher of the year program is coordinated by the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE).