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EHS Teacher Gentry Earns Cortopassi Award
Recognized for excellence in her profession, Escalon High School teacher Sue Gentry has been selected as a Cortopassi Family Foundation award winner.

Specifically, the award is the Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching Award (in the Science division) presented by the Cortopassi Family Foundation through the San Joaquin County Office of Education.

"I love what I do," Gentry said, noting that her students serve as her inspiration and helping them learn is what brings her the most satisfaction.

Gentry was nominated for the award, with information and letters of recommendation provided by EHS Science Department chair Gary Ball, Escalon Unified Assistant District Superintendent Joel Johannsen and Paul Gardner of the San Joaquin County Office of Education.

"Paul was actually the one that told me 'you should go for this'," said Gentry. "He kind of got the ball rolling."

Gary Ball filled out the actual nomination form, with the letters of support also sent off for Gentry.

The competition was among other science teachers for grades nine through 12 from throughout San Joaquin County. The Cortopassi Family Foundation presented a total of four awards in the program, two for the honored science teachers, two for the honored math teachers. Gentry was one of the award winners in the science category. She will receive her award in a formal ceremony scheduled for this Saturday, March 12.

She has taught at Escalon High for eight years, with a focus on biology and life science. She teaches primarily freshmen and sophomores, with a few juniors and seniors in her classes as well.

"Being nominated was just wonderful," Gentry said of being in consideration for the award. "Then you always want to a finalist."

When she learned she had made it to the 'final round,' Gentry then had to prepare a presentation that would help determine the actual award winners. The finalists had a total of nine questions to answer, with a 30-minute time frame allowed for their presentation to the judges.

"It was a panel of six people and the questions were about how you inspire students, how you know you're making an impact," Gentry said.

For Gentry, she said it comes down to seeing the students make the connection and get excited about learning.

"When they come in and tell me 'Mrs. Gentry, I did my homework and I actually got it' ... that to me is exciting," Gentry said.

Johannsen said he was pleased to see the work that Gentry does earn recognition through the awards program.

"I've worked with her the last six years now and she is nothing short of an exceptional teacher," Johannsen said. "She's a difference maker in the classroom. She adjusts her teaching to meet the needs of all her students, she's successful with our special ed kids, our English Language learners ... she just presents in a way that the kids come away with the concept and the content."

Science Department Chair Ball offered praise in his letter of recommendation, saying, "She is the consummate professional. Her organization and class management skills are exceptional.

"It is a joy to work with Sue Gentry on a daily basis. The care she gives to her students and the joy she gets from being an educator comes straight from her heart."

Paul Gardner, who is the Director of Science and Special Projects for the county Office of Education, said he values Gentry both as a colleague and his son's teacher.

"As a parent, I appreciated her constant communication and clear expectations," he wrote in his recommendation letter. "If our son struggled with something, she would send an email or call to not only keep us informed but to provide suggestions on how we could help him."

The award, along with being a prestigious individual honor, also includes a monetary value. The school district will receive $5,000 for the science department and Gentry also receives the same amount for her own personal use.

"The money the department gets, we can use any way we want. All these things I've seen in catalogs, things we haven't had the money for, we can get some of them," Gentry said of adding to the equipment and supplies available for students.

As for the cash she will receive?

Appropriately - for a teacher who inspires others to be and do their best - Gentry said she will use it to further her own education.

"I've been wanting to go back and get my Masters," she said, noting the money will help her get started on that path. "I'm just looking for ways to be a better teacher."