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Livia Thomas, Fremont's Teacher of the Year

By Miriam G. Mazliach

June 8, 2010

Right away you notice the excitement and energy emanating from Livia Thomas when she speaks with and about her students. But the students know something is happening in their classroom today, when several adult visitors appear.

“We are here today to recognize someone very important,” says Alameda County Superintendent of Schools, Sheila Jordan, who stopped by to congratulate Thomas. “We have the best teacher in Fremont; your teacher Livia Thomas is Teacher of the Year.”

Twenty-eight teachers were nominated for Fremont’s Teacher of the Year. At the Fremont Unified School District Board meeting on May 12, Thomas was announced as this year’s winner.

She asks the students, “So, who would you vote for?” They all answer in unison, “Miss Thomas!”

Thomas is the Title I Specialist at Grimmer Elementary, a “Distinguished school,” and has been at Grimmer since 1989. Grimmer is one of two Title I schools in Fremont. Fifty-four percent of their students are socio-economically disadvantaged and approximately the same percentage are English learners.

She has worked as the Title I Specialist for the past 11 years. “I work solely with underserved kids, students with the greatest need - those who are English learners and/or who are performing below grade level standards. I teach language arts intervention classes and English Language Development classes. This year, I am working primarily with 3rd, 4th and 5th graders. These students are my passion and my joy,” says Thomas.

“We have amazing students and teachers and really the students in these classes have set many goals for themselves. They strive for excellence and take risks,” says Thomas. “They persevere when assignments are difficult. The students are curious and set goals for high achievement. They have only been here a short while and are learning English quickly.”

“This is fantastic,” says Fremont Superintendent of Schools, Milt Werner. “I’ve known of Thomas for quite a while and what an outstanding teacher she is.”

“It’s such a wonderful example when you can see the learning that has gone on in a relatively short amount of time,” says Jordan. “The students are proud of their heritage and their new learning skills. Excellence at every level is so very exciting.”

Grimmer Principal Donna Tonry explains, “These boys and girls, had failed to strive and now they are interested and involved. These kids used to be the ones not seen or heard in class. Now they carry themselves with pride and speak up in class. Their regular classroom teachers say to Thomas, “You’ve transformed my student!”

It’s a mutual admiration society as Thomas expresses the support she has felt from Tonry and the school as a whole. “She’s an amazing principal who has a wonderful relationship with the staff, teachers, parents and other administrators. We are lucky to have her and she makes the culture of school so supportive. Donna brought us together.”

Thomas adds, “I am proud to say that the teachers at Grimmer look deeply at our beliefs surrounding the concept of equity and cultural proficiency, use best practices to allow access to the curriculum for all students, and collaborate regularly to inspire our students to be the best that they can be. And isn’t that what quality public education is really all about? I have the best job in the world.”

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