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A Double Win for the International School of Orange County

Updated: Jun 18, 2020

On Wednesday February 5th, Parenting OC Magazine hosted its 7th annual Top Teachers & Top School Employees of Orange County awards. The awards recognize OC Schools’ top teachers and employees among those nominated by principals, colleagues or families based on performance, passion and going above and beyond expectations. This year, our school staff nominated two of their colleagues, 1st grade Teacher Christine Kelley and Operations Manager Alphonse Nguyen. Their dedication to our community over their decades of service at our school made the choice of Alphonse and Christine rather evident. After our Director announced their nomination during our Winterfest show last December, everyone was anxiously waiting for the final results set to be announced during the February 5th reception at Bowers Museum.

The evening started with the announcement of the top Family Favorites, followed by the Top Employee and Top Teacher finalists. At this very moment, we were thrilled to see our first grade Teacher of almost 25 years, Christine Kelley, being chosen as one of the Top 25 Teachers of OC! Little did we know the evening was going to be an eventful one! After announcing the last top teacher finalist, Parenting OC Magazine’s editor-in-chief started reading the essay submitted for the Top OC Employee...which was no other than Alphonse! We could not be prouder and happier for our Operations and IT Manager who has been serving at the school for the past 18 years.

Seeing Alphonse’s and Christine’s continuous efforts and decades of commitment to our community being recognized by their peers and the whole Orange County community was an emotional moment for everyone.

Congratulations to both of them for this significant achievement and milestone in their career at the International School of Orange County. We are all very thankful for their many years of service!

If you want to learn more about Christine and Alphonse’s work at our bilingual school, read the essays below that were submitted for their nomination.

Alphonse Nguyen:

If the popular saying that one’s eyes are the window to their soul is true, then Alphonse’s kind soul can certainly be seen through his gentle eyes. His international background and fluency in three languages (English, French, and Vietnamese) inevitably brought him to work at the International School of Orange County where he has been our Operations Manager and IT Specialist since 2008. Born in Vietnam, Alphonse moved to the United States in 2006 after spending several years in New Caledonia and France.

If you are a parent at the International School of Orange County, you will surely know Alphonse! From his very first day working on campus, Alphonse fit right in with our tight-knit international community. He makes a point to greet every parent and student passing through our school’s gates every morning and every afternoon, rain or shine, and always shares a smile and a few words with each of them.

Alphonse is exceptionally dedicated to a job well done, no matter the task, that is only seen in truly passionate individuals. He consistently strives to make our school a more beautiful and welcoming place for our families, tending personally to our plants and garden, maintaining our facilities with utmost devotion, and ensuring the safety of our students and staff. His vast array of skills has helped our campus improve in ways that would not have been possible otherwise, and he works relentlessly with our Director to beautify our campus every summer.

Alphonse is equally at ease when interacting with our students who absolutely adore him! He has led several projects school-wide over the years, including a chess tournament for our 1st through 8th grade students. In addition to his functions of Operations Manager and IT Specialist, Alphonse assists our Campus Assistants with supervision on a daily basis. The level of care he puts into ensuring our students’ safety and well-being often means going above and beyond, making sure this 3rd grader eats his vegetables at lunchtime or that Kindergarten student drinks plenty of water! Whenever new students start at school, Alphonse always encourages other students to make them feel welcome. When Alphonse is not busy supervising, he can sometimes be seen playing soccer or engaging in a scooter race with our students!

It would be a great honor for him to be recognized as a top OC school employee for his long-time commitment to our community.

Christine Kelley:

Born in Bordeaux, France, Christine moved to the United States 26 years ago before joining the International School of Orange County a year later. After teaching preschool and pre-Kindergarten for several years, Christine now teaches a full range of classes to our 1st graders, including mathematics, French, STEM, art, music, PE, history, and geography, in a French immersion setting. She also teaches art to our 6th grade students.

Christine’s passion for interacting with children and watching them grow is what brought her to teaching. If asked what she loves most about it, Christine will tell you that she enjoys discovering, and helping to develop, her students’ unique talents. Her kindness and positive attitude make her the epitome of a good teacher. She likes to follow French researcher Philippe Meirieu’s motto in her classroom: “Because understanding is more important than succeeding, school is a place where you should be able to be wrong without risk". She constantly establishes an environment where her students can speak and express themselves openly. She ensures that they are active learners who don’t simply receive the lessons she teaches but also develop their own problem-solving skills. By reassuring them that failure is often times inevitable on their path to learning, Christine makes her classroom a stress-free space.

Christine’s role in modernizing the technology tools our teachers use has been crucial. Thanks to her leadership, Voicethread has become a very effective way for our faculty to share French-based materials with our families who don’t speak French as students can independently listen to French stories, songs, and vocabulary covered in class while at home.

Stepping into Christine’s classroom is like stepping into a beautiful art gallery, as her passion for visual arts translates into every project she embarks on with her students who therefore develop an early appreciation for the arts. Christine's method often consists in using multidisciplinary projects where they not only read a book but also write a story and illustrate it using the methods of a major artist. Another project her students love is the celebration of the 100 Days of School. Their math and cursive writing skills are practiced every day leading up to the 100th day of school, at which point they enjoy a fun gathering where they share their final artistic production.

Christine is definitely an exceptional teacher whose dedication has helped our campus grow into the vibrant community it is today.

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