On May 16, teacher Ben Diaz walked into his classroom ready to begin a lesson when he was met by administrators and colleagues bearing balloons and smiles. The interruption was to inform Diaz that he had been selected as the 2012 Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE) Teacher of the Year.
Diaz, a resident of West Sacramento, teaches a 3rd-5th grade combined Special Day Class for students with emotional disabilities at Bannon Creek Elementary School, located within the Natomas Unified School District.
"I did not know I wanted to be a teacher until six years ago," he said. "I realized that I had a great desire to work with this population of students. My strength as a teacher is being able to connect with students and understand their disabilities."
After years of working in the marketing/sales field, he decided to enter the education profession. He started at SCOE as a substitute para-educator and substitute teacher serving at the El Centro Jr./Sr. High School and Leo A. Palmiter Jr./Sr. High School campuses. He earned his M.A. degree in Special Education and his teaching credential from National University. In addition to his classroom duties, Diaz has served as Teacher-in-Charge. He was named SCOE's January 2010 Certificated Employee of the Month.
Joining Deputy Superintendent Sue Stickel in making the announcement were Assistant Superintendent Robin Pierson, and Special Education Principal Lauren Roth.
"Ben is an enthusiastic, hard-working, and dedicated teacher who is continually improving the learning environment of his classroom to meet individual student needs. He has set a high standard in his commitment to the teaching profession. He is a valuable asset to SCOE's elementary ED program," Principal Roth said.
Utilizing a Positive Behavior Supports (PBS) program, Diaz provides a wealth of reinforcements to encourage academic growth, in addition to self-management practices that help students improve their own behavior. He has successfully implemented enrichment programs including cross-age tutoring, as well as The Polite Child, Social Smarts curriculum.
Diaz will be honored, along with teachers representing other Sacramento County school districts, at the annual Teachers of the Year awards dinner, which will be held on Wednesday, August 31, 2011.
The Sacramento County Teachers of the Year program is presented by SCOE in partnership with Maloof Sports and Entertainment, the Sacramento River Cats, the Intel Corporation Folsom, and the Sacramento Scottish Rite Bodies of Freemasonry.