All-Star Teacher

Meet 2024 All-Star Teacher Finalists


Vote for your favorite All-Star Teacher finalist today! Check out their bio and videos, then vote for the teacher you think deserves $30,000 for their school. The voting period ends on May 31.

Chris Scharfenkamp

Chris Scharfenkamp officially began her elementary teaching career at Lorin Eden Elementary in Hayward in 1999.  She believes, however, that she actually began as a fourth grader, when Ms. Yakmalian “accidentally” put her tub of perfumed hand cream too close to Chris’ nose and creamed it’s tip. Ms. Yakmalian’s warm laughter demonstrated the wise purposefulness of her slip; she knew how to assure the anxious student in front of her that she was cared for.

Indeed Chris did pursue education through her years, teaching sections of introductory German as an undergraduate at Kenyon College and then again at Stanford while she pursued a PhD in German Studies.  She sees it not as a failure that she stepped out of that program to earn a teaching credential at San Francisco State University, but rather as one of the wisest and most courageous decisions she ever made.  Chris chose to follow her heart and work with children.  She chose to seek noses to cream and young hearts to affirm.  Chris believes that the best way to affirm children is by guiding them to find deep joy and true beauty in themselves, in community, and in the world.  This is the core of her teacher self.

Chris doesn’t have a favorite subject to teach, because every subject provides opportunities to foster joy and beauty.  As mathematicians, her students solve problems collaboratively. Much attention is given to analyzing and responding to each other’s thinking meaningfully and respectfully. In one particularly joyful lesson, her students tracked her own parents’ road trip from Michigan using maps and odometer readings, historical and geographical clues that Mr. and Mrs.Scharfenkamp called in daily.  Ultimately, the students confirmed their theories when they received a photo of the senior Scharfenkamps in front of their very own school!

Chris’ teacher heart skips beats when she hears her students explain why they want to lead their weekly book clubs.   At the beginning of the year, they competed to NOT lead.  Now they compete to be the one who gets to practice their power speaking skills, include everyone, and “make sure we talk about really important things”. While not every child has internalized the thrill of reading books entirely independently, none seem to escape the lure of reading when they experience them in their book club community.  Fiction provides endlessly rich opportunities to explore the world, consider human fragility and strength, absorb life lessons, and become more open-minded and compassionate.

One particularly wonderful way to affirm students is, she believes, through explorations of poetry. In reading the words of poets who pass through her classroom every year, Chris sees how easy it is to underestimate the depth of young souls.  She believes that powerful poetry lives in every child and is just awaiting a venue to bloom. Indeed she believes her greatest professional achievement to date is hearing from a former student that the foundation of writing poetry together saved her life in a particularly dark and troubled time.

For twenty-five years, Chris ends the school year by gifting each student a personal yearbook full of students’ autobiographies, poetry, compliments from classmates, and pictures of their year together. The education of minds, hearts, and souls extends, however, beyond her classroom.   Meeting regularly with their first grade buddies, her students always reflect on the challenges and successes of mentoring these younger students, whether going on a field trip, sharing a favorite book, or exploring sound waves together.  Chris ran a Peacemaker program and is currently an advisor to the Safe Schools Ambassador program, which trains students to interrupt bullying.  Troubled by the hurtful experiences Muslim student ambassadors shared in this training, Chris founded a Muslim Student Union.  These students create and deliver presentations sharing the beauty of their culture with other classes. She also founded an after school drama club, which is in its fifth year of performing musicals during school assemblies and after school.  Should her community be so fortunate as to win the grand prize money, Chris would suggest that they direct a portion to purchase a sound system that will allow the Drama Club and the entire school community to come together and hear each other.

Without the ongoing nurturing and inspiration of her passionately professional colleagues throughout her years at Lorin Eden Elementary, Chris can’t imagine being a teacher at all. Perhaps the shiniest model of the Lorin Eden spirit is the late Helen Condos. A legend of inspirational warmth and teaching excellence throughout Hayward Unified School District, Helen came out of her first retirement to return to teaching until she actually retired at 80 years of age. When renovations are completed in the coming months, our staff is excited to dedicate the Helen Condos Memorial Library.  Chris would hope that the greater portion of any prize money fund this library.

“We are fragile creatures, and it is from this weakness, not despite it, that we discover the possibility of true joy.”

― Desmond Tutu, The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World

Click here to vote for Chris Scharfenkamp

Joseph McLean

“The most important thing in life is the people in your life.”

Joe McLean, an 8th grade mathematics teacher at Spring View Middle School in Rocklin, understands what a blessing it is to have so many people in his life - students, colleagues, family and friends. Joe was born and raised in the Sierra Nevada Foothills near Placerville, graduated from Cal Poly SLO and then began his teaching career. He has been at Spring View for 32 years.

Spring View is a magical place - a place built on the idea of empowering staff, interdisciplinary teaching teams, collaboration and collegiality - with a dedication to student success at the core. This environment has allowed Joe to thrive - to take on leadership roles - to be innovative in the classroom. Spring View’s positive school culture taught Joe how important relationships are to the sense of well-being and belonging that make the school a place that people want to be. Joe focuses on establishing and maintaining positive relationships with students and colleagues -
working to ensure that his classroom is a safe space for students to take risks and stretch their boundaries. Nothing makes Joe happier than to see students find success.

A former student captured the essence of this focus in a tribute letter she wrote to Mr. McLean: “You inspire me, Mr. McLean. You put so much effort into teaching us; in activities, in planning discussions… You had us do whiteboard problems; you engaged and held discussions directly with us. It always felt like you were allowing us to lead the class’ direction… You’re that kind of teacher who would look at a failing student and refuse to see a failure. I want to embody that kind of hope and certainty.”

Joe has always believed that HOW we teach mathematics matters. He knows that students learn best in a “learn by doing” environment and he has worked throughout his career to teach in a way that focuses on student engagement and conceptual understanding. He understands that a good task gives students the chance to put those concepts to use, make mistakes, adjust course and get to a solution. He knows that we are preparing students for jobs that likely don’t exist today and that a deep conceptual understanding will better prepare students to compete in the dynamic work environment they will face.

Joe’s quest for continual improvement has made him a leader on campus. After exploring the structure in his own classroom, Joe wrote and won a grant for nearly $6000 to implement a new instructional approach based on research by Dr. Peter Liljedahl. This year, the 8th grade teaching team is working to fully implement this structure - “Building Thinking Classrooms''. Students are actively engaged in discussing and doing tasks in small randomly generated groups at an assigned whiteboard space. Results are promising - student’s unit test results are among the best he has seen in his career and students enjoy working in this highly engaging modality.

Joe has always sought to contribute to the educational community through leadership and teacher
support. Joe served as Math Department chair for nearly 20 years, as a member of the District Math Leadership Team, Site Leadership Team, and the Sacramento Area Mathematics Educators Board to name a few. Joe has consistently been involved in providing professional development both in Rocklin and across the Sacramento area. These trainings have ranged from small workshops to planning and implementing a week long summer institute for over 60 teachers. Joe has helped guide department level training and led workshops at math conferences at Sac State and William Jessup University. Joe has served as a mentor and coach for a number of teachers - including two featured in the video montage. He served two years as a Teacher on Special Assignment supporting mathematics instruction across the school district. He served as a mentor teacher for several summer institutes with the Northern California Mathematics Project at Sac State. This work allows Joe to give back to the educational community while at the same time pushing his skills as a mathematics educator and building on his overarching goal of supporting student success.

Joe would like to thank his colleagues and his students for their support. This is a story about Spring View and our students as much as it is a story about Joe. The core beliefs that form the foundation of Spring View shaped who he is as a teacher today and he is very grateful for having the opportunity to be a small part of each student’s journey.

Click here to vote for Joseph McLean

Mike Davey

Born in Santa Clara, Mike Davey grew up in the South and East Bay in a family devoted to teaching. His mother was a passionate kindergarten teacher known lovingly as “Miss Jeanne” while his father, Dick, coached college basketball at Cal, Santa Clara University, and Stanford. Mike didn’t fall far from the tree, and he delved into teaching Social Studies and coaching both boys and girls basketball, softball, and track at Saratoga High School for the last 31 years.

Davey helped capture a public grant to develop the Saratoga Media Arts Program (MAP) and then piloted the program in 2007. He has been teaching in this program since its inception. MAP is an interdisciplinary curricular collaboration between English, social studies, and media electives which allows students to gain media-related technology skills, strong interpersonal skills, and content knowledge in the three disciplines. The program, in effect, creates a cohort that works together over multiple years as they learn and grow. Additionally, Davey has created a number of original classes at Saratoga including History in Film and most recently, Ethnic Studies. Within these classes he focuses on creating original content and activities that enrich student knowledge and exposure to the wider world.

In his teaching and coaching, Davey emphasizes building connections among students and differentiates academic expectations based on each student’s needs while still focusing on learning outcomes. Immersing students in as many hands-on activities as possible, Davey uses simulations, trials, period evoking visuals, and modern day connections to history in an effort to inspire students to be agents of social change. The work he does in the classroom or on the many field trips helps prepare students for college and life beyond.

FIrst and foremost, Davey builds a sense of community among his students through the investigation of current events and local issues. Davey helps foster a sense of duty by teaching them how to champion their passions and advocate for positive changes. He integrates service-learning into his courses and he leads by example, frequently appearing at board and faculty meetings to advocate for students, promote extracurricular activities, and support sustainability initiatives on campus. An example of this is his work as the originator and lead fundraiser for the development of the Saratoga Sports Court which created a space for the local community to play basketball on campus. Mike is also the founder and president of the Global Ischemia Foundation which raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to foster research on brain injuries following the heartbreaking loss of his first wife, Kathleen.

Named LGSUHSD District Teacher of the Year 2012,  Mike continues to provide innovative classroom instruction and contribute to the success of the Media Arts program now celebrating its fifteenth year. He also continues his coaching success with his basketball and softball teams who have made the section tournament the past two seasons.

A proud father, Davey and his wife Molly are blessed with four accomplished daughters who have all graduated from Saratoga High School and four different universities. He credits his family, including and especially his parents, for his love of teaching, coaching, and collaborating in the classroom or the sports arena.

Recognized as a creative, results oriented leader with strong communication and interpersonal skills. Mike is passionate about setting high standards for youth in learning and athletic performance while maintaining a culture of empathy.

Click here to vote for Mike Davey

"Profe" Pamela Lim-McAlister

Pamela Lim-McAlister, better known as “Profe Lim-McAlister,” “Profe Pam” or simply “Profe,” is the dedicated World Languages Department Chair and beloved Spanish teacher at Albany High School. For the past 20 years, her students have known that Profe Pam’s classroom is a safe, inviting, and inclusive place where they will be welcomed with a huge smile and cheerful “¡Hola, clase!”  

Profe Pam is happy to provide them a granola bar, friendly fist bump, and one of the best multi-sensory, interactive, and extraordinary learning experiences of their lives.Students have a blast learning Spanish while being part of a comfortable, caring classroom community filled with creative, communicative and enjoyable activities. Their days contain humor, animated grammar explanations, literature, cultural information, and a variety of activities: individual, pair work, small and large group, auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. More memorable are the jokes, banter, stories, games, songs, dances, drawings, puppet shows, treasure hunts, and mini-dramas.

Profe Pam was raised in a large, loving, multilingual family who spoke a mixture of English, Chinese, and Spanish. At age 13, she studied in Mexico, as part of a Sister City Exchange Program. She loved living the language, learning about a new culture, and being a member of her kind host family. The following summer, her parents hosted her two Mexican “sisters,” thus filling their home with 10 lively children. These life-changing experiences have helped shape Profe Pam into the person she is today and have had a huge impact on her deciding to major in art and Spanish at UC Berkeley. She completed her first master’s degree at Cal, realizing at the age of 23 that while she enjoyed researching, writing and presenting academic papers as a Graduate Student Instructor, she adored teaching her college students even more.

Profe Pam was named Outstanding Graduate Instructor at Cal and then won a Rotary Fellowship to live and study in Madrid. She loves her Spanish host family and friends and is still in touch with them after 25 years. After an amazing year abroad, Profe Pam returned to Cal to teach Spanish as a lecturer. In 2003 she joined Albany High School as its first and only AP Spanish instructor. The Albany community considers her the heart of the Spanish Department and soul of the World Languages Division. Serving her 15th year as the World Languages Department Chair, Profe Pam is one of its hardest working members and its institutional memory. Every fall she sets up a Day of the Dead ofrenda (altar); facilitates, inspires colleagues, and performs with them in the “Secret Staff Lip Sync” at the Homecoming Assembly; creates a gorgeous display for National Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month; and leads her merry band of enthusiastic AP students playing maracas, bells, and tambourines while singing “Feliz Navidad” throughout Albany High.

During Diversity Week, Profe Pam gathers the World Language “Phrases of the Day;” conducts in-class raffles using the Spanish phrases to encourage her students’ listening, writing and memorization skills; creates the ballots, exhibit, and prizes for the Annual World Languages Poster Contest; and organizes the Spanish Diversity Dance Crew, dance captains, and videographers. In addition to these activities, she is the faculty advisor of the National Honor Society Club, the Academic Equity Students Association, and the Fashion Club. Profe Pam also keeps her finger on the pulse of academia as chair of the Modern Language Association (MLA) Higher Education in the Profession’s Part-time and Contingent Faculty Issues Forum.

Now in her 21st year of teaching at Albany High, Profe Pam continues to be enthusiastic, energetic, and passionate about her job, subject matter and students, whom she refers to affectionately as her kids. She truly cares about her students and leads her classes with love, humor, and expertise. She inspires and supports them in learning, discovering, growing, maturing, enjoying their time in high school, and leading good lives.

Teaching Spanish to her kids is just a small part of what Profe Pam accomplishes. She respects her students, responds to their needs, and encourages them to do their best. Effecting positive change to leave the world a little bit better than it was before they arrived is key. Her ultimate goal is world peace. While people live in different places, speak diverse languages, and have individual beliefs, we are all human beings who share one earth. To paraphrase Maya Angelou, “We are more alike than different.”

Profe Pam believes that through learning languages, international travel, and cultural exchanges, we gain greater global understanding and appreciation to build bridges and break down walls towards the goal of world peace. Thus, she is a local coordinator and volunteer liaison for the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) and Albany High. CIEE offers generous scholarships for students to live and study in cities such as Barcelona, Beijing or Berlin and enjoy life-changing experiences like those of Profe Pam in Mexico and Spain.

Openly appreciating students, exchanging jokes, and spending time with them, Profe Pam is a role model, inspiration, and popular among the Albany High student body. In the past several years, she has been featured among the “Faculty Favorites” in the Albany High yearbook. Her titles include “Most Likely to be a Secret Pop Star,” “Most Likely to Win a Rapping Contest,” “Biggest Caffeine Addict,” “Most Iconic Outfits,” and “Most School Spirit” (Go, Cougars!). Other honors include “2002 Distinguished Instructor” at Contra Costa College, plus “2003 Honored Instructor” and “2016 Featured Teacher” at UC Berkeley Extension. As recipient of the 2019 California Language Teachers Association/Centro MundoLengua award, Profe Pam spent a summer in Sevilla, refreshing her Castilian accent, reveling in culture, and refining her skills as an AP Spanish instructor. She has just been nominated to the Albany Hall of Fame and as AP Teacher of the Year.

Profe Pam is immensely grateful to her family, friends, students, colleagues, community, NBC Sports Bay Area/California and Provident Credit Union for supporting her as a 2024 All-Star Teacher of the Year finalist. Muchísimas gracias, xie xie, and thank you for this honor!

Click here to vote for "Profe" Pamela Lim-McAlister

Sarah Mauhay

As the daughter, niece, and granddaughter of educators, Sarah Mauhay (pronounced Mah-OO-hi) spent her childhood dreaming of becoming a teacher. After graduating with a Masters in Education from Santa Clara University, Sarah began her career in Milpitas Unified School District. With the amazing community at Joseph Weller Elementary School,
she strives to create an environment where students feel safe, seen, valued, joyful, and loved. This goal keeps students at the center of every choice that Sarah makes.

For her second grade students, Sarah works tirelessly to match the right tool with the right learner, differentiating curriculum to meet students where they are and supporting them in progressing forward. She advocates for equity for all students to reduce opportunity gaps. Sarah knows that in order to meet the needs of all students, she must be constantly reflecting, adjusting, and adapting her teaching. Sarah absolutely loves creating lesson plans that are visual, relevant, engaging, rigorous, and fun. She enthusiastically implements multiple modalities of learning, such as small group instruction, hands-on learning, collaborative teamwork, and personalized learning.

For her students to be successful, classroom community is of utmost importance to Sarah. She wants to cultivate positive energy in her room so that students can thrive. When students from past years come back and visit her, she feels she has accomplished this goal. Another significant piece of community building is peer relationships. Sarah guides her young students to recognize their emotions, understand the impact of their actions, and build bridges with others. A home-to-school connection is another crucial factor for a successful community. Sarah empowers all families to engage in their children’s learning. She takes the time every week to inform families of the current content and how they can support their student learners when at home, along with providing any resources they might need.

Outside of her classroom, Sarah has consistently taken on opportunities to help students feel connected to their school community. Over her years in Milpitas, this has drawn her to direct school musicals, put on Talent Shows, lead clubs like Student Council, and host fine arts and school beautification activities for all grade levels. Every year of her teaching career, Sarah has been on leadership teams and collaborated with incredible educators and administrators. A highlight has been her eight years with instructional leadership teams, often facilitating staff professional development on equitable and culturally responsive teaching practices.

In the Weller Community, Sarah is perhaps most excited to have co-created and implemented the Weller Core Values Program with her principal. The program is revolutionary in its schoolwide implementation; this increases representation, inclusion, and belonging for students and families through the staff-generated Core Values: Kindness, Courage, Critical Thinking, and Connection. Each month, a schoolwide book highlights a Spotlight Leader who exemplifies one Weller Core Value. Sarah then creates lesson plans with vocabulary, historical background, discussion prompts, graphic organizers, art activities, and community building extensions that are scaffolded for different grade levels. Students detail their learning in a Weller Core Value Notebook, and each month culminates in an assembly where students showcase their knowledge. The Core Values Program empowers student leadership and gives them tools to apply their learning far beyond Weller.

In the Milpitas School District Community, Sarah is also a founding member of the MUSD Culture of We Equity Team. In 2020, with the support of their superintendent, the team created a vision “to ensure our scholars and staff are free from oppressive barriers and will thrive in their global communities.” With this group of dedicated and talented leaders,
Sarah has worked to create district wide professional developments, facilitate community circles, write an Equity Board Policy, and partner with district sites and departments to set actionable equity goals. With much work still to do in her community, Sarah Mauhay is determined to continue learning, growing, and making decisions that always put students first.

Click here to vote for Sarah Mauhay

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