September 26, 2008

Brentwood Music Teacher is Named ‘Teacher of the Year’ in Contra Costa County

By Theresa Harrington

CONCORD -- A music teacher at Bristow Middle School in Brentwood is the 2008-09 "Teacher of the Year" in Contra Costa County.

Mark Morello, who leads the school's band and choir, will go on to compete for the coveted state teacher title. He was one of three finalists selected countywide from among 22 educators, kindergarten through college.

"The difference you make in the lives of your students will endure," Morello, 35, told an audience during an awards dinner Thursday, which also happened to be his birthday.

Alamo elementary teacher Mary Dietler and Pittsburg High teacher Andreas Kaiser were the other finalists. They also were honored, along with all of the district "Teacher of the Year" representatives, during the event at the Concord Hilton presented by the Contra Costa County Office of Education.

"Some of the most unrehearsed moments with my students can often make the greatest impact," said Morello, whose supporters cheered him on with tambourines fashioned out of paper plates and pinto beans.

For the annual competition, all nominees were interviewed and observed in their classrooms. They were also judged on teaching techniques and philosophy. In addition, the finalists each made oral presentations.

Morello had previously been nominated two years in a row, when he taught at Brentwood Elementary School. He currently teaches sixth- grade band, combined seventh- and eighth-grade band, jazz band and choir for all three grade levels.

He keeps students engaged by moving his classes at a fast pace, completing up to a dozen different songs or activities in a 50- minute session. His goal is to teach students to appreciate the art of music, rather than to become professional musicians, he said.

"It sounds cheeseball, I know," Morello said, "but I'm just hoping music will always be a part of their lives."

The Teacher of the Year award is selected by a committee with representatives from education, business and the community.

Staff writer Rowena Coetsee contributed to this story. Reach Theresa Harrington at [email protected] information:

Details about the Teacher of the Year competition are at 925-942- 3429 or

Originally published by Theresa Harrington, Contra Costa Times.

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