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Olympic High principal, teacher and head custodian earn CA Continuation Education Association Awards!
Posted 5/9/22

Awards

Olympic HS principal Lynsie Castellano (left, above) and teacher Danya Townsend pose with their awards on May 7, 2022.

 

 

Olympic HS Head Custodian Jorge Iniguez (below) received the CCEA Classified Employee of the Year award.

Jorge

 

The Mt. Diablo Unified School District is very proud of the remarkable work being done by staff at Olympic Continuation HIgh School in Concord, which was recognized by the California Continuation Education Association last Saturday! Principal Lynsie Castellano was honored as the organization's State Administrator of the Year, leadership and P.E. teacher Danya Townsend  received the Teacher of the Year award, and Head Custodian Jorge Iniguez was named the State Classified Employee of the Year by the organization, which presented the awards during a luncheon on Saturday, May 7th. Iniguez was unable to attend the ceremony.

All three award-winners said they were honored to be chosen to represent the District and their school, where they all work together with staff to support students in a caring, family-oriented environment.

 

Lynsie Castellano

Castellano became principal of Olympic seven years ago, after prevoiusly working as a vice principal at Valley View Middle School in Pleasant Hill and as a Vice Principal and Student Services Coordinator at Riverview Middle School in Bay Point.  She started her career as a Social Worker, which has helped her focus on students' families and support systems, as well as their academic needs. "I love home visits," she said. "I love being out in the community. When kids come here, they feel special. They feel loved. And most of them succeed. And that really is awesome."

 

She doesn’t know who nominated her for the award, but said she believes part of the reason she won may be her work guiding the school to win three-year “Model Continuation School” awards in 2018 and again in 2021. Previously, she said, the school had “kind of a stigma” attached to it, but she has worked to bring pride to the campus. “People recognize that this is an awesome place to go to school and to work,” she said. “It’s awesome that I’m being recognized for my leadership, but we’re a team. It’s really exciting.”

Both Townsend and Iniguez credited Castellano with keeping everyone at campus focused on what’s best for students. Townsend, who had previously worked with Castellano at Riverview Middle School, said she wanted to work for her again because of her leadership style. “I’ve been through a lot of administrators and I’ve realized that having a quality administrator means more than almost anything else in terms of being an effective teacher,” Townsend said. “I like to do a lot of non-traditional things, so I appreciate having someone who’s going to support me and trust me to do what’s best because she knows where my heart is."

Iniguez said as soon as Castellano arrived, she got involved in school activities, and started asking questions and making phone calls to fix the place up. “She saw that the campus was a little run down,” he said. “She got the district to paint classrooms, rip out the 30-year-old carpet in the main office and replace it, replace tiles, and she got new blinds for the classrooms. She goes around pulling weeds, cleaning up, picking up papers. She’s always on the go. She’s nonstop. She gets involved with the students and the teachers and always sees what needs to get done. I just love her. She’s not only a good administrator to me, but a good friend. I respect her a lot.” 

 

Danya Townsend

Townsend has known Castellano the entire time she has been a teacher, for 13 years. “She hired me to my first teaching job at Riverview Middle School,” Townsend recalled. “She was the VP. Immediately, we connected on the basis that she always wants to do what’s best for kids. If it’s what’s best for kids, she’s 100% supportive in anything you want to try, any effort you want to make. And that’s why I became a teacher - to do anything I could for kids.”
 
Castellano, who nominated Townsend for the award, said she tried for several years to persuade Townsend to come to Olympic. “She’s a culture game-changer for any school,” Castellano said. “She has built our P.E. and Leadership programs from nothing. I nominated her because she’s able to have a vision, but not just be visionary. She’s also task-oriented to get stuff done. All the kids love her. They will meet her expectations. They perform for her because they know she cares, but she has really high expectations, so she should be recognized for her awesomeness!”

Iniguez agreed that all the students love Townsend. “She’s an extremely good person,” he said. “She’s got a wonderful relationship with the kids and they love to be in her class. She’s got a great heart.” He was especially impressed, he said, when she showed up every Tuesday during the pandemic to hand out food to families from 4-6 p.m. And if they didn’t come to campus, she would deliver the food to them. “I know that’s not part of her job,” he said. “She’s always been on the go. She does so many things, it’s hard to name them all.”  

Ernesto Ponce, a senior, has known Townsend since they were both at Riverview Middle School. Although he has only had one class with her at Olympic, he loves to hang out in her classroom and pepper her with questions during breaks and lunchtime. “She’s very understanding and if she sees that you‘re trying, she helps you,” he said. “That motivates me. She encourages you do get your work done. She knows what classes you have and she helps you to plan what you need to get done, almost like a counselor.”

 

Jorge Iniguez

Iniguez has worked in the District for 31 years, including the past 13 years at Olympic High. He said he was surprised to be nominated for the award by teacher Yuri Buechler and counselor Keegan Pittman. “It was a big shock for me,” he said. “I’m really happy. It made me feel that people actually care for me. I’m not trying to do anything special, but I try to do what I can for the site. I am appreciative of the job.”

Castellano said Iniguez takes pride in “the feel of the campus, the way it looks.” Although she credited her entire staff for helping to create a welcoming atmosphere, she said that Iniguez is “so good at what he does -he expects Olympic to be a really nice place for kids to be, and it shows.  He’s just been an amazing part of Olympic and I was really proud that he got recognized as well,” she said, adding that “a bunch of staff” nominated him.

Townsend said she was also very happy that Iniguez won an award. “He deserves it,” she said. “He’s such a good person to have around. He’s really kind and patient with the kids. He’s very soft spoken, easy to get along with, very hard working, shows up early, stays late, and comes on days off. He’s just supportive in everything. It makes everyone else want to work hard for him because they know he’s going to do anything for you.”

Iniguez said everyone takes pride in working at Olympic and they help to lighten his load amid custodial staff shortages. “We all work together,” he said. “I haven’t had a regular night custodian for over a year. We’ve been having subs. All the teachers help me. Sometimes, when I have to stay late, they pull the garbage out of their rooms, so I don’t have to go into all their rooms. We work together. Everybody pitches in for everything.” He also likes the fact that students call him by his first name. “That makes me feel welcome,” he said, “that they care for me."