Sonoma County Office of Education

Employee Spotlight: Vanessa Johns Wedderburn

11/16/2020 -

Name: Vanessa Johns Wedderburn

Years at SCOE: 2 years in January

Job Title: Community Engagement Specialist

What is one thing that has helped you get through 2020? 2020 has been quite difficult for me as a newlywed and extrovert. My husband has obviously helped keep me sane and entertained. Other main sources of comfort include my pets, neighbors, and watching Harry Potter movies when I feel down.

How do you describe your job to people outside SCOE? Describing my job is always interesting because my role is multifaceted. The main descriptors that I use include working directly for the County Superintendent, supporting all 40 school districts and school boards through communications and public information, being the appeals expert, and having an active role in emergency response as the schools liaison for the Emergency Operations Center (EOC).

Where did you grow up? I spent my first 12 years in the Cupertino/San Jose area before moving to an agricultural town in the Central Valley called Hanford. I have lived in Sonoma county since 2011.

Who was your favorite childhood teacher and why? My favorite childhood teacher was my 6th grade teacher Mr. Carlson. I have such fond memories of him. He organized a small sports league at my elementary school called “Noon League”. The league allowed 4th-6th graders to play seasonal sports in a tournament style during lunch. This included football, basketball, and baseball. I started playing every sport starting in the 4th grade and was the only female player for all 3 years. I was a pretty sore loser and Mr. Carlson took the time to teach me the importance of sportsmanship. He helped me learn to be humble and love the game more than winning. I owe a lot to him. He even provided students with personalized trophies and medals that he paid for out of his own pocket.

What is your favorite thing about SCOE? The people at SCOE are the best. We have the nicest teammates. I love exchanging smiles and pleasantries with my colleagues when I am in the office. Sharing stories and thoughts over lunch is always a highlight. I love how many different generations work here. We all learn something from each other.

What is one of your most memorable moments as a SCOE employee? Our very first Student Voices Forum on Racism and Social Justice. This forum featured black student voices and what they had to share was so powerful and eye opening. I felt so proud to be part of an organization that was shining a light and giving students a platform to share their experiences.

Outside of work, what is your favorite hobby or way to unwind? My husband and I are very outdoorsy and really enjoy hiking local trails and we love to workout together. I formerly worked in the wine industry and happen to be a sommelier. So, visiting wineries is also an activity that we enjoy. Currently, my fantasy football teams are of the most importance to me. I am currently in first place in one league and second in the other.

What is your favorite place in Sonoma County? I have so many favorite places in Sonoma County, but if I had to pick one it would be Iron Horse Vineyards in Sebastopol. They make wonderful sparkling wine and have breathtaking views of Mt. St. Helena. It also happens to be where my husband proposed to me.

What might people be surprised to learn about you? I am a first generation college grad, and I am very proud of it. My parents were working class and did not attend college. Therefore, college was never really discussed in my household. I made the decision to obtain a higher education a little later in life because I was getting tired of working 3 jobs to make ends meet. I enrolled at my community college at the age of 20 and transferred to Sonoma State in 2011 where I earned my BA in Communications with honors in 2013. Education in my experience was the key to success and opportunity. That is one of the reasons why I get so much fulfillment working for SCOE.