Human Rights Award winners seated from left to right: Les Nakasaki, Joan Sholars, Dan Reynolds, Lisa Buckner, and Clyde Hodge. Standing, from left to right: Aurora Vinci, Jennifer Galbraith, Janet Eberhardt, Robert Ellis, and Andres Ramos Martin.
In communities across California, the winners of the CTA 2011 Human Rights Awards are educators who understand that our diversity is what makes us whole, and that it takes many kinds of education to keep our society focused and fair.
At the 20th annual CTA Equity and Human Rights Conference at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose on March 5, CTA President David A. Sanchez praised these activists. He told an audience of 500 educators that these awards are how we are “reminded of your dedication to our union and students — and to justice, tolerance and equal rights in our communities.”
This year’s Human Rights Award winners, by category, are:
Robert Ellis: At his school in the West Contra Costa Unified School District, Robert Ellis makes sure his students know about the rich history and heritage of African American culture. This tireless United Teachers of Richmond activist shows a clear passion for education. For his work, he was awarded the Lois Tinson Award, named after CTA’s first African American president.
Les Nakasaki: A primary grade teacher for 36 years, the winner of the Pacific Asian American Human Rights Award is an inspiring leader in the area of Pacific Asian American issues, struggles and accomplishments. His CTA work as a Garvey Education Association member includes serving as the union’s liaison to the California State PTA and as a 15-year member of State Council’s Pacific Asian American Caucus. In his work, Les Nakasaki keeps his eyes on the prize, advocating for an inclusive society in which all people have a voice.
Janet Eberhardt: She is a paraprofessional and an activist member of United Educators of San Francisco, where she’s also vice president of the UESF Council of Classified Employees. She is a longtime member of the executive board and bargaining team for UESF, which represents 6,000 San Francisco Unified employees. For her dedication, Janet Eberhardt is the CTA Member Human Rights Award winner.
Aurora Vinci: She earned the Physically/Mentally Challenged Students’ Issues Human Rights Award for her 27 years of outstanding service as a special education teacher in the New Haven Unified School District in Alameda County. Her James Logan High School students are inspired by her belief in the potential of all students, and she has mentored more than a half-dozen other special education teachers in the district.
Clyde Hodge: He is the current National Education Association Pacific Regional Director for the American Indian/Alaska Native Caucus, president of the California Indian Education Association, and a remarkable advocate for the American Indian community. The Stockton Teachers Association activist and member of the Muscogee Nation of Oklahoma routinely gives talks at schools and events, speaks out against the harm resulting from the use of Native American mascots on sports teams, and donates his time as a dancer at countless powwows. For his work, Clyde Hodge earned the Jim Clark American Indian/Alaska Native Human Rights Award.
Daniel Reynolds: The winner of the CTA Peace and Justice Human Rights Award designed and implemented a course called Human Rights Education in his Mt. Diablo Unified School District in Contra Costa County — a course that promotes understanding of human rights issues around the world. He inspired the formation of an Amnesty International student group, serving as its faculty adviser, and volunteers for the Mt. Diablo Peace and Justice Center.
Andrés Ramos Martin: A high school counselor in Ramona Unified for more than 10 years, the winner of the César Chávez “Sí Se Puede” Human Rights Award works to help students gain scholarships and financial aid to attain their goal of going to college. He is vice president of the BECA Foundation, which has awarded $1.7 million in scholarships to 712 students over the past 27 years.
Lisa Buckner: The winner of the Nancy Bailey Leadership in Lesbian and Gay Issues Human Rights Award has a long history of fighting for GLBT causes in Kern County, where she is a member of the Bakersfield Elementary Teachers Association. Lisa Buckner began her work more than 30 years ago fighting the Briggs Initiative, which would have banned gays and lesbians from teaching in California public schools. She established a Bakersfield group for the GLBT community and was a strong opponent of Proposition 8, the ban on same-sex marriage strongly opposed by CTA.
Mt. San Antonio College Faculty Association: This chapter in Los Angeles County earned the CTA Chapter Human Rights Award for its 12-year-old annual variety show, Puttin’ on the Hits, which raises about $20,000 for student scholarships. It also builds solidarity among staff, faculty, administrators and students. The two-hour show often sells out and has at least 100 participants. Accepting the award were the show’s director, Joan Sholars, and chapter president Jennifer Galbraith.