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Northgate HS math teacher Dana Tarantino wins Warren W. Eukel Teacher Trust Award
Posted 5/15/23

Dr. Adam Clark and Dana TarantinoMDUSD Superintendent Dr. Adam Clark (left) stands with Northgate HS math teacher Dana Tarantino at the Warren W. Eukel Teacher Trust Awards dinner May 4.


By Theresa Harrington Brandt

MDUSD Public Information Officer


The Mt. Diablo Unified School District is pleased to announce that Northgate High School teacher Dana Tarantino has been awarded the Warren W. Eukel Teacher Trust Award in recognition of her outstanding teaching. She received the award, which includes $10,000 for each recipient, along with Ellerhorst Elementary teacher Kris Berry and Stanley MS teacher Claire Scott, at an awards banquet on May 4th.


The Warren W. Eukel Teacher Trust was created “to foster excellence in education by providing annual monetary awards to exceptional Contra Costa County K-12 classroom teachers," according to its website.


"Ms. Tarantino is an exemplary educator,” said MDUSD Superintendent Dr. Adam Clark, who attended the gala awards event. “I enjoyed hearing her story and spending time with her family. She is a worthy recipient of this prestigious award."


Tarantino was nominated for the award by her former student Sabrina Woo, the school’s ASB President who graduated last year and is now attending UC Berkeley. For her award application, Tarantino created a video with clips of six current and former Algebra II students talking about what makes her special. Majed Al Hejazin said he appreciates the fact that she doesn’t just teach from the book and instead creates her own lessons that are so fun that he actually looks forward to coming to her early morning class each day. Katie Ringot said Tarantino’s “entertaining and engaging teaching style makes students want to pay attention and be involved,” along with the fact that they know “she cares so much.” Owen Hansel said the way she treats students makes them want to do better “so her effort isn’t wasted on you.” 


Marina Johnson said Tarantino offers students “mutual respect and friendship” which helps her to bond with them. “The continued kindness and understanding that radiates from her is unparalleled by any other teacher I’ve ever had in my entire life,” Marina said. Ashley Chan said Tarantino is “passionate about her work,” she loves kids and “that joy on her face" really makes people want to be in her classroom. Adrianna Castro said Tarantino often reached out to her after class last year when she “went through a really hard time” and made her aware of opportunities such as joining the school’s site council, which she did. “She was an advocate for me,” Adrianna said. “If you are a student, she loves you and no matter if you have an A, B, F, or D, she will advocate for you inside and outside the classroom.”


Tarantino, who has taught for 36 years and is in her sixth year at Northgate, said Adrianna’s comments about her advocacy for students “made my heart just swell. That’s exactly what I would dream my students feel like.” Tarantino says she “goes out of the box” to explain math to students in ways they can understand it. For example, instead of asking students to remember how to multiply equations using the acronym FOIL (first, outside, inside, last), she draws arrows from each part of the equation to the part that should be multiplied, which ends up looking like a claw. She calls this the “claw” strategy, which she said sticks with students more easily than FOIL.


She has also created mini white boards on each student's desk so they can work together in groups and  she can show them how to do problems easily and quickly. She uses an interactive smart board that allows her to annotate problems while she is explaining them and to incorporate games such as one that features fish who cheer when students answer questions correctly, adding “a little more playfulness” to math.


And as her students said, Tarantino builds strong relationships with students. “I spend nine months building a family,” she said, “because if you feel comfortable in class, you’re going to do better.”


Dana Tarantino's "claw" drawing