Concord robotics teacher wins Teacher of the Year award


CONCORD – A huge honor for a teacher from the East Bay as he stands as one of five winners for a statewide award. 

The California Department Education has named Joseph Alvarico as a winner for Teacher of the Year.

For the past six years, Alvarico has taught engineering and robotics at Ygnacio Valley High School in Concord.

“I’m like a proud dad,” he said. “These kids are my family here in the United States, because my actual family is in the Philippines, and that’s why I devote so much of time with them, and here at the school.”

Alvarico was born and raised in the Philippines, where he earned a degree in biology, making a shift to teaching and engineering, and coming to America in 2003.

“I was already 30-years old when I arrived,” he remembered. “And once I started teaching, I was hooked.”

After a brief stint in tech, he became a full-time teacher in the Mount Diablo Unified School District and quickly found out the students he was teaching looked like him.

“They didn’t look like the kids I watched in American movies back home,” said Alvarico. “The community I serve it’s 75 to 80 percent Hispanic, and I love the culture and community, because it similar to the Filipino culture.”

As STEM instructor, he took on the challenge of introduction science, technology, engineering and math to an underserved community.

“It motivated me to teach these kids, because we need more diversity in the STEM field,” he said.

Sara Benegas, who is a senior and one of student leaders of the school’s robotics team, says Mr. Alvarico is more than just a teacher.

“He’s like our parent in a way,” she said. “He’s very calm. He takes his time explaining a subject. He is always taking care of us, making sure we are happy, and we are doing good in our classes and that everyone is passing.”

“He really deserves it (Teacher of the Year),” senior Adreal Malapote  said. “And from my experience, he is a mentor. If you thought of a mentor, it would be him.”

Both Benegas and Malapote say that because of their teacher, they plan on pursuing jobs in mechanical engineering and robotics.

“I’m proud of these kids, and I am proud of the diversity in our class and on our team,” said Alvarico. “We go to robotics competition, and you see the composition of our team compared to other teams, we have Hispanics and Asians, and we also have a lot of women on our team. And it is just proud to show them that we as a team can do this just like all the other teams out there.”

The Teacher of the Year honor was awarded to five teachers in the state of California, with Alvarico as the only representative from the Bay Area and Northern California. The other winners are:

  • Casey Cuny is a high school honors English and Senior Myth and Folklore teacher at William S. Hart High School and Valencia High School in the William S. Hart Unified School District (Los Angeles County).
  • Andrew Lewis is a high school music teacher at Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts in the Los Angeles Unified School District (Los Angeles County).
  • Hannah Rodriguez is a prekindergarten special education teacher at Beardslee Dual Language Immersion Academy in the Duarte Unified School District (Los Angeles County).
  • Gregory Wolf is a high school dual-enrollment U.S. History, dual-enrollment political science, and Advanced Placement psychology teacher at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School in the Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District (Santa Barbara County). 

The Teacher of the Year winners will be celebrated during a gala in Sacramento in January of next year.

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