Sacramento County Charter School Teacher of the Year

June 27, 2013

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Exuberance, attention to detail and an ability to recognize small strides as progress are trademarks of the 2014 Sacramento County Charter School Teacher of the Year, Vanessa Belair. It is fitting that as one of the faces of the area charter movement, Vanessa's pledge is, "I promise to have a smile on my face and enthusiasm in my voice."


Vanessa Belair

With ten years' experience teaching, when Belair joined Delta Elementary Charter School three years ago, she knew that the school was the right environment in which she could realize her dream of teaching children to their full potential.

From a clear sense of purpose and acknowledgment in her lead teaching roles, she is a true collaborator that welcomes parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and family friends as classroom volunteers. She also reaches out to the broader community so her students can learn from farmers, biologists and geologists who help bring school lessons to life.

In addition to her creative approach, Belair's daily instruction is driven by data which enables her to differentiate instruction and individualize learning.

As the school year begins, parents are often concerned by the high expectations of students, explained Belair. "By tailoring instruction to meet student needs, even struggling students make headway reflected by changes in writing and reading fluency." The approach also enables her to allow high performing students to reach their potential as well.

"We are fortunate to have leaders like Vanessa in the charter movement," remarked Delta Elementary Charter School Superintendent/Principal, Steve Lewis. "Teachers who approach their job with passion and exuberance bring out the best in their teams and students alike. I am most impressed at how Vanessa supports colleagues through collaboration and demonstration lessons. Having a teacher who can model through in class demonstrations is remarkable."

The California Charter School Association was invited by the Sacramento County Office of Education to facilitate the selection of a local charter school teacher who demonstrates excellence in teaching, to participate in the county Teacher of the Year program.

In evaluating the charter teachers, the charter leaders considered each teacher's approach to student progress, integration of school and community, teaching philosophy and engagement in bettering one's profession. The selection panel included leaders from Aspire Public Schools, Natomas Charter School and the Fortune School of Education.

Ting Sun, Executive Director of Natomas Charter School and Chair of the Charter School Teacher of the Year Selection Committee said, "We are thrilled with this new program that gives us the opportunity to highlight excellent teachers in the charter schools movement."

In selecting Vanessa as charter school teacher of the year, Dr. Sun shared, "Vanessa's approach as a teacher leader produces collaboration and spurs innovation and exemplifies the work we are doing in charter schools."

Belair will be among nominees for Sacramento County Teacher of the Year contest selected by school districts and countywide educational programs. From there, a Sacramento winner will advance to the California Teacher of the Year contest, administered by the California Department of Education.

Like the other nominees, Vanessa will be highlighted throughout the county in a number of exciting ways, being honored at an Awards Banquet August 16 as well as at Kings and River Cats games.

Great teachers were often inspired by other remarkable teachers. In recounting that by age 12 she knew she wanted to be a teacher, Belair models her style after her sixth grade teacher who brought a passion for teaching, learning, the subject matter, the art of teaching and life in general.

Belair has a Masters' degree in Education Administration from National University as well as a California Administrative Credential. With her husband, Matt, and their new son Easton, the Belairs make their home on a ranch in Wilton, CA. According to Belair, "When I'm not teaching, I'm most likely riding horses." In addition to teaching, "I also love to play soccer, snowboard, read and spend time with family and friends," added Belair.

Delta Elementary Charter School is one of over 40 charter schools within the purview of the Sacramento County Office of Education. The 250 student school is a member of California Charter Schools Association, a statewide, non-profit membership-based advocacy organization that supports California's high-quality charter schools movement.

About the nomination process Charter school principals, executive directors, and instructional leaders may nominate teachers. Any charter school teacher is eligible to be nominated, however only nominees with more than 8 years of teaching experience are eligible to be considered for the California State Teachers of the Year program. Nominators will need to collaborate with nominees to complete the application packet, which includes a signed application, essays, and photographs. Schools do not need to be a member of the California Charter Schools Association to participate.

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