Around Town | June 2, 2023 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - June 2, 2023

Around Town

by Emma Donelly-Higgins

STAND-OUT TEACHER ... An East Palo Alto teacher is a finalist in the NBC Sports Bay Area All-Star Teacher contest, which recognizes outstanding secondary education teachers in Central and Northern California. Stephen Ashford, or Mr. Steve, as he is known by his students, is a physical education teacher at East Palo Alto Charter School, which he started volunteering at as a parent 23 years ago before taking on the role. Ashford was selected as one of five finalists in the contest according to four categories: overall commitment, excellence in teaching, rapport with students and level of distinction. He said his goal as a teacher is to make sure the kids are having fun. "If the kids aren't having fun then I'm not doing my job," he said. Ashford brings joy to his school community by making music videos, holding toy drives and, when his school switched to virtual learning in 2020, recruiting celebrities to make personalized videos addressing the students. The videos appeared on the school's Instagram page @epacs.aspire, which turned into a community hub during the pandemic in large part due to him. Coming back to school after the break, he said, students were struggling with being around other kids again while also processing the police brutality many of them had been seeing online. For the first year back, he focused on being an ear to students who needed someone to talk to. He said his favorite part of the job is when kids come back to visit him as adults. If he wins the grand prize, his school will receive $30,000. Voting for the finalists is open until June 5 at

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