Sonoma County Office of Education

Kenilworth’s Isaac Raya named Teacher of the Year

05/27/2015 - Teacher of the YearThe Sonoma County Office of Education has announced that Isaac Raya, a history and digital media teacher and wrestling coach at Kenilworth Junior High School in Petaluma, was selected as Sonoma County’s Teacher of Year and will represent Sonoma County in the 2016 California Teacher of the Year program. He was among a strong and highly competitive pool of candidates nominated for this recognition by local school districts.

Isaac Raya started teaching 12 years ago and has held his current position in Petaluma for 10 years. According to Kenilworth Junior High School principal Emily Dunnagan, he is “one of the most outstanding history teachers I have ever met.” He brings the events of history alive and makes them relevant to his students’ world. He has been a pioneer in using digital tools in the classroom and has actively engaged students in producing original, multi-media works about their country’s history. Examples of his successful history lessons include a simulation where students experienced what it was like to work in a factory in the 1800s and a video production on the Mexican-American War created by English learners. These experiences are ones that students talk about for years, recalling both history facts and their involvement in active learning.

In addition to his eighth-grade history classes, Raya teaches a digital media class where students learn to tell stories using video. He showcases his students’ work in an annual film festival, which is open to parents and community members. This year, a group of his students earned top honors at the Sonoma County Five-Minute Film Festival. Student films are also aired on KTV, Kenilworth Junior High School’s live news broadcast program that Raya oversees with his colleague, English teacher Laura Bradley.

Isaac Raya has earned distinction at his school and across his district not only for his excellence as a teacher, but also for the innovative, technology-infused instruction that he has brought to his classroom and for his commitment to ensuring that English learners succeed in school. In collaboration with other teachers, he has helped raise achievement and promotion rates for his school’s English learners. He engages every student by using a collaborative, project-based learning model in all of his classes. His classroom is a workroom, lab, and project site—not a lecture hall—and it is filled with active 21st century learning.

Recognition of Isaac Raya’s role at Kenilworth Junior High School would not be complete without mentioning that he is also the head wrestling coach and has coached both junior high and high school students in other sports. He sees coaching as an important avenue for helping students build confidence and teaching them about integrity, sportsmanship, and teamwork.

Matthew De Lucia-Zeltzer, a fifth-grade teacher at McKinley Elementary School in Petaluma, was selected as the runner-up for Sonoma County’s Teacher of the Year recognition. De Lucia-Zeltzer teaches a self-contained Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) class where nearly 40 percent of the students are socio-economically disadvantaged and/or second-language learners who have been re-designated as English proficient. He was recognized by the review panel for his commitment to serving low-income and English-learner students, providing creative and carefully crafted instruction to engage them in learning, and leading his school in the use of technology as a 21st century learning tool.