Focused, determined, supportive, and loyal.
That's how Keri Gravette, the teacher of the year for SDCOE's special education program, describes herself as a teacher.
She has taught children who are Deaf or hard of hearing for the last 17 years, including 12 years at Davila Day School, the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) program in Chula Vista that serves students with hearing loss.
"Keri is passionate about the field of Deaf education," said Jonathan Hunt, who was on the panel that selected Gravette for the honor. "She wears multiple hats — teacher, counselor, resource broker, coach — in order to break down barriers for her students and their families. Her enthusiasm is contagious, and she will be a wonderful representative for SDCOE as she advocates for special education."
Gravette has known that she wanted to be a teacher since the 2nd grade, when she befriended a group of students with special needs.
"Those new-found friendships inspired me," she said. "I'm living out my childhood dream."
She began her education career in the Bay Area in 2001 as an assistant for a child with severe autism and began working with children with hearing loss the following year as a paraprofessional.
While students have been learning remotely, she has maintained the same high level of instruction, creating a bitmoji welcome for students and finding creative ways to continue the structures and routines the students are accustomed to, said Principal Heidi Lyon.
"When you enter Ms. Gravette's classroom, you can immediately see and feel that learning happens here," Lyon said.
She has also helped her students learn about science and food prep through a partnership with the Ms. Smarty Plants program.
As a teacher, Gravette said she focuses on the excitement of exploration and investigation, not students' disabilities.
"I focus on each child's ability to learn and achieve, no matter how big or small," she said. "I don't teach for today. I teach students for their tomorrow, for their future successes in life."