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County Honor Casteel Named Teacher Of Year
Escalon's own Abigail 'Nabby' Casteel has been tapped for a prestigious honor ... selected as the San Joaquin County teacher of the year.

Her selection was announced recently and, according to Dent Elementary Principal Kendra Helsley, the honor couldn't have gone to a more deserving person.

"She's an extraordinary teacher, a coach to her peers," Helsley said.

Casteel teaches fourth grade at Dent Elementary and has been on staff at that school for 13 years.

"The process is each district chooses a teacher of the year and for us, it's a nomination process from your peers, not the administration," Helsley explained. "Those are reviewed by a committee and based on that, there is a district teacher of the year chosen."

The district honorees are then sent on to the county level and Casteel was selected from multiple applicants from the area's 14 school districts.

Helsley and Director of Curriculum and Categorical Programs Linda Frontz joined forces to send a letter of recommendation for Casteel for the county honors.

"She's a highly trained teacher, especially in the Guided Language Acquisition Design (GLAD) instructional strategies," Helsley said, noting that she teaches other teachers in working with English language learners.

"That teacher leadership was certainly a factor," Helsley said of reasons for Casteel to be selected. "She's also very connected to our community through Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, site projects that cross mingle with community projects, such as the Dent carnival, she was really instrumental in getting that to come back."

Prior to joining the staff at Dent, Casteel worked in the Modesto City School system for three years. She is in her third year teaching fourth grade at Dent and taught first grade for 10 years prior to that.

"I've been trying to add new things," Casteel said of staying fresh and energized in her career. "We do the science fair, we have the marathon club, all these things help them (students) be more focused."

Her past work has also included stints as a ski instructor and work in horticulture, but it was working with children as a ski instructor that convinced Casteel that teaching would be a good career choice for her.

She went back to school and got her credential at Stanislaus State, after first earning a B.S. in Ornamental Horticulture from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

"I think it's so fun, the kids are humorous," she said of why she enjoys her job. "It's relaxing most of the time, it's exciting to see them learn."

Casteel had to do plenty of writing over the summer, penning a series of seven essays that will now accompany her county selection information as she is considered for state Teacher of the Year honors.

That could mean classroom visits by a state selection committee as early as October.

"They were intense, highly intense essays," Casteel admitted. "I had to do a lot of work."

She credited Gary Dei Rossi, who serves as the Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services for the county Office of Education, as being instrumental in helping her get the essays completed.

Dei Rossi, in turn, classified Casteel as a teacher who shows "tremendous energy, enthusiasm, commitment, and passion" for her work and her students.

Along with her teaching duties, Casteel is involved in the Parent Teacher Organization, has been active in Scouting and has been instrumental in coaching fellow teachers in the GLAD program.

She is married to Cory Casteel and they have two children, Clancy, a senior at Escalon High and Maggie, an eighth grader at El Portal.

"It was just really exiting," Casteel said of learning she had been selected for the County Teacher of the Year award. "I was very honored."