An engineering teacher from San Ramon is the district's teacher of the year and one of four finalists in the competition for Contra Costa County's teacher of the year.
John Korzick came to teaching late, after two careers, one as a sales engineer for the world's largest machine tool builder, where he worked for 15 years, and his second, owning his own sales engineering firm for 25 years.
"It's interesting to look at teaching from the industrial side of things, but teaching's a blast," he said.
Korzick started as a teacher when he was 57, after some prompting from his wife. He's apparently made up for his late start, but said he was surprised at being named as San Ramon Valley Unified School District's top teacher.
"There's a lot of great teachers in the school, especially at California High," he said. His zeal for teaching is apparent, though.
"I'm passionate about finding kids who want to be engineers. It's real world problems they're solving, tough problems."
Even though many of his students will never be engineers, Korzick thinks there are benefits from the classes he teaches.
"This exposure equips all of them with problem-solving skills, teamwork, and communication skills," he said.
Korzick also teaches robotics, something he's also clearly passionate about. In fact, he worked with the school district and community members to pass a bond measure to provide funding for a new career technology building, and helped get a $400,000 state grant to furnish the facility with state-of-the-art equipment.
He also brought San Ramon-based Chevron into the picture, providing funding for equipment and software along with employee mentors for students and staff. This year, he helped California High School snag a $250,000 California Partnership Academy Grant for Engineering and Design.
A big part of Korzick's philosophy is challenging kids inside and outside the classroom. He's the advisor to the Robotics Club and his Robotics class is involved in competitions every year.
"Our big contest is with an operation called FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology)," he said. "They give you a game to play every year, and you build a robot. If you do well, you can go to the national championship."
He tells his students that robotics isn't like video games they're used to playing.
"When they're building robots, there's no delete button," Korzick explained.
His class was regional winner in the FIRST Silicon Valley Tech Challenge in 2008, the FIRST Northern California Tech Challenge Championship winner in 2009 and a semi-finalist in the FIRST Sacramento Regional Tech Challenge this year.
In addition to teaching engineering and robotics, with work as the advisor for the Robotics club, and grant writing, Korzick has found time to work with Girl Scouts, and the Boy Scout Eagle Scout program. He's mentored gifted students, worked with struggling students, and has been a speaker for school assemblies, local rotaries and the California Industrial and Technology Education Conference.
Outside the classroom, he's been a competitor in a number of Iron Man competitions and a football coach at California High as well as starting the school's Lacrosse team.
Now, he says his coaching is done inside the school, and not on the field.
"When working with struggling students in the classroom, I am a coach again, letting students know they can succeed at any task, teaching them to not give up on themselves and to take their time to master the skills necessary to be the best they can be," he said.
As if that wasn't enough, he volunteers in his free time as a ski patroller at a Lake Tahoe ski resort and participates in The Primo's Run for Education, and he and his wife spent two summers volunteering for Teach through Friendship where they instructed college students in conversational English in Wuhan, China.
It seems that whatever he's involved with, Korzack is trying to make a difference
"I believe that if I can make just one degree of change in a student's education something has been accomplished. Water is hot at 211 degrees but turns to steam at 212. I try to find that one degree of change each day," he said.