By Kristofer Noceda
CASTRO VALLEY — LeeAnn Chinn has spent her life residing in the East Bay.
She was raised in San Lorenzo, graduated from what was then Cal State Hayward and has spent a majority of her longtime teaching career in the Castro Valley school district.
But despite the Oakland resident's strong local ties, Chinn, 43, has gained a world view through her work teaching English to nonnative-speaking students.
"You really need to have a connection with these kids to be able to teach them," she said. "A lot of them tell me that I've been lucky that I haven't had to move. I'm really proud of them because they have a lot of courage that I probably would not have had at their age."
Chinn is an English and leadership teacher at Canyon Middle School. She's also responsible for coaching a team of educators who work with English learners at the elementary school level.
For her efforts, the Alameda County Office of Education today will recognize Chinn as the 2009 Alameda County English Learner Teacher of the Year during a conference at Cal State East Bay.
"You know how hard you've worked, and you also know there's other people out there working just as hard," Chinn said. "It's nice to know someone noticed and took the time to recognize you for the hard work."
Chinn is one of six county educators who will be recognized today.
Maggi Cathey, coordinator of curriculum services for Castro Valley Unified School District, credits Chinn with much of the improvements seen in the district's English learners.
"For LeeAnn, it's bigger than just the student she interacts with on a daily basis," Cathey said. "She really wants to have a broad influence in our district with our English learners."
Aside from one semester at Arroyo High School in San Lorenzo, Chinn has spent her entire 20 years in public education at Canyon Middle School.
Principal Mark Croghan said Chinn has always been a dedicated educator who goes out of her way to train and lead other faculty.
"She's always put kids first," he said. "Castro Valley and its students are fortunate to have such an outstanding person and teacher as LeeAnn Chinn on staff."