Paul Fitzgerald Announced Educator of the Year


Sarah Rockwood, Editor-in-Chief

One of Miramonte’s own, AP European History and Psychology teacher Paul Fitzgerald, was announced the AUHSD Educator of the Year last week, chosen from more than 200 teachers across all four schools. This honor is a district-wide acknowledgement of an excellent educator who exemplifies the most integral attributes of teaching.

In a district-wide email, Superintendent John Nickerson commended Fitzgerald as a “deserving recipient” who “exemplifies the profession at its best.”

Fitzgerald was nominated for the educator of the year award by many of his coworkers, including Kelly Ginocchio, Nader Jazayeri, Xavier Frippiat, Steve Poling, Megan Selway, Carolyn Cahill, Greg McAdam, and Pete Clauson.

With over three decades of teaching experience, Fitzgerald has been a member of the Miramonte community for 18 years. He previously taught in Colorado, Southern California, and Chicago, where he was also honored as Teacher of the Year.  He was also honored by Tufts University as a National Teacher of the Year after being nominated by a student.

A graduate of UC Berkeley, Fitzgerald enthralls his students with his abundance of personal stories that make the class more relatable.

“I felt that being on the Cal campus between 1964 and 1970 was such a major influence on me that I’m probably defined by it,” Fitzgerald said. “It has kept me a lifetime learner. I want to give that to students; If they have controversial issues or something that really stuns them, then what’s the background?”

Fitzgerlald’s trademark of continuously finding connections between the past and the present, and illustrating how the former always impacts the latter, has made his class especially intriguing to students, and stands out as one of his exemplary teaching attributes.

“I gave Euro students an article from the New Yorker on the history of medicare and explained what a struggle it has been in the US to have social security and medicare. I asked them ‘What’s the difference?’” Fitzgerald said. “I think it makes them better citizens, and that’s my goal: to think about the issues and not just vote for popularity or one single thing, but to examine the issue.”

Fitzgerald not only works with students in the classroom, but he works with College Board to improve the AP tests and to train other AP Euro teachers. Throughout past summer workshops, he has trained many teachers who now work all throughout California. In future years, he hopes to work more closely with College Board and other teachers to continue to improve the European History curriculum.

“I want to stay in education. I’m interested in Common Core right now. Instead of trying to learn every fact in the textbook, we should give students focus questions and short answers, and move away from multiple choice,” Fitzgerald said. “I want to work with teachers on the curriculum to build more of these thinking skills and less fact building and worksheets.”

But Fitzgerald’s claim to fame doesn’t stop here. As a recognized district Educator of the Year, Fitzgerald is now eligible to compete in the Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year Competition. Starting in April, a committee of educators with screen all the candidates, observe them in the classroom, and hold interviews. Selected candidates then give speeches at the district new-teacher orientation and have the potential to represent the county as a state finalist.