Joyce Raddatz has been teaching English at Half Moon Bay High School for 34 years - a point when a lot of teachers might be feeling a little drained. Not Raddatz.

According to Tori Steeves, a senior in Raddatz's Advanced Placement English class, Raddatz is on fire, rather than burned out.

"She's so dedicated it's amazing," Steeves marveled. "She's so passionate. There's this fire in her eyes and she loves it."

That passion and dedication are some of the reasons that Steeves nominated Raddatz for the Walmart.com Teacher of the Year award, an award she received in her class on Tuesday morning.

Raddatz, who is retiring this year to move back to Maryland to be near her family, said she is not necessarily ready to give up teaching.

"It's really incredible to work with young people," she said. "I get more from the kids than I give the kids."

Although tired from a long day of grading essays, Raddatz becomes animated when she talks about her students and the insights they give her.

Along with writing about and discussing literature, Raddatz said she likes to ask her students to use their strengths in art and music to explore literature. Raddatz admires the creativity and talent she sees in her students.

"The kids make me laugh and they also make me think," she said.

Along with inspiring a love of authors from Shakespeare to Joseph Conrad to Toni Morrison, Raddatz has a personal relationship with her students, Steeves said.

"I think of her as a teacher, but I look at her more as a person," she said. "She's really intelligent and knows lots of things and is really good to talk to."

Raddatz's colleagues agree that she has a special relationship with the kids.

"She connects with the kids on a pretty deep level," said Chris Coulter, an assistant principal.

Principal Barbara Stanley said that Raddatz is respected and liked.

"Joyce is able to have a teacher persona and a friend persona," she said.

What is most impressive about Raddatz is her ability to get students to teach one another, Stanley added.

"Joyce is just always open to change and growth and inventiveness," Stanley said. "She acts like she's a new teacher instead of a teacher nearing retirement with her interest."

Teaching English seemed like a natural vocation, given her love of reading and writing, Raddatz said, and she has enjoyed all her years of sharing that with students.

"My job has been to value the English language and use precise words and say what's on your mind," she said.

Raddatz is looking forward to being on the East Coast, spending more time with her family, having a house on the water - and seeing former students who are in college on the East Coast.

"I'm in contact with lots of old students," she said. "I always make time (for them)."

With the award, Raddatz received $1,000 to spend for her department.

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