By Jim Ott
Columnist, Around Pleasanton
Contra Costa Times & Bay Area News Group
Lately, everything seems to be going right for elementary schoolteacher Christie Carnahan. Her husband, Todd, summed it up one recent morning by telling Carnahan, "You're on a roll."
Not only is Carnahan Pleasanton's "Teacher of the Year" for 2013/2014, she was recently selected, along with seven other Pleasanton teachers, to attend a taping as audience members of the Ellen DeGeneres television show.
And to top it off, Carnahan just learned that she will receive a grant of $10,000 from PG&E to fund technology for her classroom at Valley View Elementary School.
"I feel so fortunate," said Carnahan. "I love teaching and making a difference for children."
Of course, Carnahan's recent accolades are not a result of overnight success. She has dedicated many years to changing the lives of her students through innovative teaching techniques, including in the late 1990s when she helped implement Valley View's dual-immersion program, which offers students the opportunity to learn Spanish at an early age while attending elementary school.
"I enjoy teaching children to read and being part of their early literacy experience," she said. "I became a bilingual teacher because my grandma, who was a native Spanish speaker, dropped out of school at a young age and could not read or write Spanish or English."
Carnahan began teaching in 1995 as a bilingual teacher in Hayward. In 1996, she was hired to teach at Valley View in Pleasanton. In addition to teaching in the classroom, she mentors other teachers in the district as a Peer Assistance and Review Consulting Teacher.
She also serves on a leadership team to determine how best to implement the state's new Common Core standards into Pleasanton schools.
Carnahan credits her experience with the dual-immersion program for prompting her to obtain her master's degree from California State University East Bay. For her master's thesis, she followed a group of children for three years to learn if instruction through dual immersion allowed them to become successful and bilingual.
"The children demonstrated what the research had shown us all along," she said. "Dual immersion is a phenomenal way for children to learn."
Carnahan's master's degree now allows her to teach for the Department of Teacher Education at California State University East Bay, where she has taught techniques for English as a second language, dual immersion, diversity and equity.
Too modest to mention it herself, Carnahan's husband pointed out that the recent PG&E grant of $10,000 brings the total of grants to $64,000 that Carnahan has secured in the last three years for technology and innovative materials for her school.
In her free time, Carnahan enjoys scrapbooking and watching her 8-year-old son play baseball and basketball. The Carnahan family also goes to Disneyland every year.
To see a powerful interview with Carnahan, including her interaction with students in her classroom, watch a two-minute video produced by the Alameda County Office of Education at http://vimeo.com/78762323.