Kristen Plant Named Teacher and Classified Employee of the Year

Cayde Schmedding, Staff Writer

On a normal day during online school, a Mirador reporter was interviewing Kristen Plant when Megan Flores, Plant’s coworker and friend barged into the room. She stood in the doorway, oddly giddy, and suggested that Plant check her email. Confused, Plant briefly excused herself from the interview to pull up her email. She found an email from Superintendent John Nickerson sent to all Acalanes Union High School District employees declaring the finalists for teacher and classified employee of the year from each high school and below that declaring Plant as the winner. Instantly congratulated by Flores and later by her other colleagues, Plant couldn’t help but feel deeply honored by the district’s decision to make her teacher of the year.

“I was very honored to receive the award when there’s so many amazing teachers at this school and district,” said Plant.

Each year an educator and a classified employee is decided from each school; they become finalists for the district educator and classified employee of the year. The winner of each district then competes on the state and national level.

Plant is the public speaking teacher which includes the oral interpretation class and public speak levels one through four. 19 years ago, when Plant came to Miramonte, she taught English which she occasionally fills in for when needed , but her main priorities are with  public speaking. When teaching, Plant prefers to avoid long lectures as she believes that public speaking is conducive to discussion and learning with students. Under Plant’s care, the public speaking department has grown and flourished as a community where students can hone their speaking skills.

“Ms. Plant always prioritizes student health and happiness and develops personal relationships with her students,” junior Isabelle Bennette said. 

In addition to teaching public speaking, Plant decided to become a teacher on special assignment, shortened to TOSA. TOSAs receive a special assignment from the school that involves coaching students or parents on an unusual subject; in Plant’s case, she focused on teaching a class surrounding equity and equity in leadership. Regarding Plant’s role in the equity initiative, Bennette attests to her support of projects and ideas and copious amounts of energy in providing resources to adequately make a difference. 

Plant likely won the teacher of the year nomination not only due to her copious amounts of energy paid towards the public or her initiative to bring more equity to Miramonte leadership, but also due to her remaining proactive during online learning, like many other Miramonte teachers, and constantly trying to provide the best for her students despite the difficult circumstance. 

“Plant does so much more than just teach; she’s an ally, a mentor, a friend – a crucial part of the Miramonte community,” Bennette said.

After being nominated as teacher of the year for the district, Plant had to reflect on her achievements at Miramonte and ask students for letters, a similar process to students asking teachers for letters of recommendation for college. The final application was then sent to the district where she’d later become teacher of the year. The reflection process allowed Plant to look back on how she’d grown as a teacher and on what she can still improve upon.

“This award and whole year really was a great way for me to reflect. We learn the most when something goes wrong and we’re forced to try again.” Plant said.

Not only did Plant win the educator of the year award, but Annie Lai was also nominated as the classified employee of the year for Miramonte. Lai is the attendance technician and her responsibilities include keeping track of attendance and helping the associate principals with attendance related issues. Lai has been working hard for the district for 15 years, but only joined Miramonte five years ago. Before moving to Miramonte, she worked as the administrative assistant at the Del Valle Education Center, a school for adults in Walnut Creek.

“I’m a very hard worker and it was very nice to receive recognition for my work.” Lai said.

On a normal morning, Lai settled down behind her desk awaiting the calls for absent students when she checked her email. In her inbox was an email from Nickerson: an announcement for the teacher of the year. Assuming nothing, as there was no special email for her, she read the email and was both shocked and deeply grateful for being the candidate from Miramonte. Later her colleague, Danielle Warford admitted that she sent the recommendation for Lai as the educator of the year.