Two teachers from the Mount Diablo Unified School District and the Liberty Union High School District have been named Contra Costa County Teachers of the Year, county officials announced.

Joseph Alvarico of Ygnacio Valley High School in the Mount Diablo Unified School District and Annalouisa Gonzalez-Ortega of Freedom High School in the Liberty Union High School District were named the 2023-24 Contra Costa County Teachers of the Year, County Superintendent of Schools Lynn Mackey announced.

The announcement was made during the county’s 51st annual Teacher of the Year Celebration, which was held at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek. The pair are now entered into the California State Teachers of the Year program.

A total of 21 Contra Costa Teachers representing 16 school districts were honored during a VIP Donor Reception at The Garden in Walnut Creek and a celebration at the Lesher.

“Joseph Alvarico and Annalouisa Gonzalez-Ortega exemplify all the extraordinary public-school teachers in our county,” Mackey said in a statement. “Next stop is the state’s Teacher of the Year program, and I am delighted to root for these two educators as the California Department of Education decides California’s Teacher of the Year.”

Joseph Alvarico

County Teacher of the Year Joseph Alvarico has master’s degrees in business administration and biology, and a bachelor’s degree in secondary education.

Joseph Alvarico of Ygnacio Valley High School  in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District has been named a Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year for 2023-24. (Contra Costa County Office of Education via Pagransen)

Alvarico was born into a family of educators but did not set out on a path to become a teacher until a full-ride college scholarship in his native country, the Philippines, was awarded to him. The scholarship required him to work as a teacher for at least one year. He became a teacher intern in the 1990s and has been “hooked” on teaching ever since.

Since immigrating to the United States, Alvarico has spent multiple years instructing middle school and high school students in Mt. Diablo Unified School District. With his on-the-job experience in the tech industry, he weaves real world experiences into his lessons, the county said of Alvarico.

Teaching teenagers, being a lifelong learner and building a community with his students is the secret sauce that has turned his robotics and yearbook students into design and engineering professionals, the county added.

Annalouisa Gonzalez-Ortega

County Teacher of the Year Annalouisa Gonzalez-Ortega is a first-generation Mexican American who was raised by parents who always emphasized the importance of education. She was a translator for her family at an early age and learned to become her own advocate early in her educational journey. After being dismissed by her high school counselor when she asked for help with her college applications, she went on to become the first person in her family to apply, be accepted, attend and graduate with two bachelor’s degrees from St. Mary’s College.

Annalouisa Gonzalez-Ortega of Freedom High School in the Liberty Union High School District is one two educators recognized as Contra Costa County Teachers of the Year for 2023-24. (Contra Costa County Office of Education via Pagransen)

While working on her graduate degree, she worked as a high school teacher and soon realized her passion was to advocate for students like her. She has focused her 26 years of teaching on being a role model for students who need help navigating the educational system, the county said.

Gonzalez-Ortega is highly active in Freedom High’s English Learner Advisory Committee and participates in numerous volunteer opportunities and programs to support English language learners in her community.

Alvarico and Gonzalez-Ortega were selected as winners from four finalists that were announced in the spring. The other two finalists were Danya Townsend formerly of Olympic High School in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District, and Patricia Ogura of Hercules Middle and High Schools in the West Contra Costa School District.

The finalists were selected from the 21 district teachers of the year who represent 16 school districts, the Contra Costa County Office of Education, and the Contra Costa Community College District.

Alvarico and Gonzalez-Ortega will represent Contra Costa County at the California State Teacher of the Year competition. The State Teachers of the Year are expected to be announced in mid-October.

The County Teacher of the Year program is coordinated by the Contra Costa County Office of Education.