Kim Laurance and Hilary Mitchell, teachers at Washington Elementary School, were honored by the BPEF. Photos: Mark Coplan

Three Berkeley school teachers and a parent-run educational support organization were honored Friday at the Berkeley Public Education Fund‘s annual fundraising spring luncheon. The event, which was attended by more than 450 supporters, raised over $180,000 for Berkeley’s public schools.

Hilary Mitchell and Kim Laurance, respectively 5th and 1st grade teachers at Washington Elementary School, were named “Distinguished Educators” at the event. Since 2005, Mitchell and Laurance have led their teaching peers in the Collaborative Active Research for Equity (CARE) program which focuses on equity and culturally relevant teaching strategies in the classroom.

According to Washington’s principal, Rita Kimball, the pair have inspired a collegial and dynamic teaching environment at Washington and their work has had an impact in raising test scores above expectations for all children. Accepting the award, Laurance said that she was inspired by the connections she had made with the children she teaches, especially the African Amercian and Latino kids. “They teach us how to teach them better,” she said.

Mitchell, who, like Laurance, had parents who were both educators, said she was proud to be working in a school system that valued equity and insisted on “a classroom with no underdogs”.

Jefferson School teacher Rick Kleine was named a Distinguished Educator

Rick Kleine, a 5th grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary, also received a “Distinguished Educator” award. Introducing Kleine, Jefferson principal Maggie Riddle said: “There’s absolutely no way to be a passive learner in Rick’s classroom.”

Since his days studying at UC Berkeley, Kleine has been both a subject and participant in cutting-edge research on children and how they learn. Accepting the honor, Kleine praised Riddle who, he said, was “a visionary”.

WriterCoach Connection, a project of the Community Alliance for Learning, was named the 2011 Distinguished Community Partner at the event. WriterCoach Connection, which was founded ten years ago by a group of volunteer parents, has trained more than 1,100 community volunteers who have worked with over 11,000 students in Berkeley’s 7th through 10th grade classes. The award was presented by BHS English teacher Susannah Bell, who said writing proficiency had increased by 20% as a result of the program.

The BPEF spring luncheon is a a major source of revenue for BPEF’s grant and Berkeley School Volunteers programs in all the city’s public schools, and it is one of Berkeley’s best-attended annual community events. This year the keynote speaker was Belva Davis, the first black female TV journalist in the western U.S., and also a Berkeley High alum.

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...