Last Wednesday night a happy crowd came together to celebrate five special teachers at First 5 San Francisco’s Excellence in Teaching Celebration at Fort Mason Center. They came to cheer, and they came to party. They came despite a full day of teaching. Educators from every neighborhood showed up to honor their colleagues.

Directors, administrators and coaches filled the room with connection and pride. Two proud parents (Yes, teachers have parents, too!) flew in from Oregon and got there just in time. Not to be left out, families from five different preschools came to watch their children’s teachers shine. Some stopped along the way to get bouquets of flowers. Even the prospect of Bay Bridge traffic didn’t keep carloads of the Treasure Island community from being on hand.

From beginning to end, there were moments that connected all of us as a community. When each honoree’s name was announced, the room echoed with hoots and resounding cheers. As each teachers’ story was told on video, a box of tissues made its way around the room. Whenever a child said “thank you” or “we love you” on the screen, the room erupted with a predictable “aww.” Just like the Academy Awards, each teacher came with a speech that was practiced or held a folded piece of paper. They spoke from the heart – acknowledging their families, their teaching teams, their organizations, and all who make quality early education a mission. And, when they were joined on stage by their school communities for the photo op, we all sighed and were moved – not just because they inspired and filled us with hope, but because they were just like us.

For one evening, we were a community that knew exactly what was important to us – excellence for all of our children and for ourselves.

In recognition of excellence in teaching, Patrick Romero, Felicia Foster, Rosalina Rodriguez, Jennifer Yip, and Ya Ling Gee were awarded the First 5 San Francisco Preschool for All Excellence in Teaching Award. Behind every quality early education program, there are teachers who play a critical role in the lives of young children and their families. As early childhood educators, they are part of a network of professionals who are building a strong foundation for school and life success for all children. These teachers love learning and pass that love and excitement to the children they touch every day.