Contact: Mike Myslinski at 650-552-5324
BURLINGAME – Inspiring educators from across the state are this year’s winners of the annual California Teachers Association’s Human Rights Awards for their outstanding dedication to promoting and protecting human and civil rights.
“These educators go beyond the call of classroom duty to change and inspire their students and communities,” said Dean E. Vogel, president of the 325,000-member CTA. “We honor their special work and dedication with these awards.
Bestowed earlier this month in Burlingame, the CTA Human Rights Awards this year went to these educators:
FAIRFIELD: Jorge Salas is the winner of the César Chávez “Sí Se Puede” Human Rights Award for work at Vanden High School in Travis Unified in Fairfield, Solano County. He developed his school’s successful Latinos Unidos for Education (LUCE) club to empower and support Latino students. He uses local role models, university tours and a peer tutoring program that fosters academic excellence to inspire students in the LUCE club, which now has 40 students meeting regularly. Students who have graduated from the program now want to come back and mentor current students taking part in the club, which also seeks to raise awareness of Latino cultural heritage, historical contributions and academic achievements.
VALLEJO: The Vallejo Education Association (VEA) earned the CTA Chapter Human Rights Award for giving back to its community. For the past four years, members of VEA have bought and distributed school supplies for more than 2,000 students annually in the Vallejo community as part of their “Helping Hands” project. Agreeing to spend about $10,000 of their dues each year on the school supplies, these educators also work with the public library to provide books for local families to take home and keep. Christal Watts, president of VEA, accepted the award on behalf of the chapter.
SAN RAMON: Caroline Kris is this year’s winner of the Physically/Mentally Challenged Students’ Issues Human Rights Award. In her tireless work as a special education teacher at Bollinger Canyon Elementary in San Ramon Valley Unified, she has created educational materials and activities that connect general education students and special education students. She models “people first” language, which teaches students to communicate with each other using words that reflect what they have in common, rather than labels that refer to their differences. Kris also brought autism awareness to her school and provides training about it to her colleagues.
DANVILLE: Gary Leveque, an art teacher at Charlotte Wood Middle School in Danville, earned the CTA Member Human Rights Award for his leadership in San Ramon Valley Unified’s anti-bullying program. After he and 40 other students were targeted in 2001 on a hate-based website where he was called homophobic names, Leveque started a video series called “Think Before You Speak.” The video series gave students a voice to stand up to bullies, and the series was highlighted by the Gay and Lesbian and Straight Education Network. He also produced concerts that raised more than $10,000 for water purification in Sri Lanka after the devastating tsunami there, and over $7,500 for two other groups, Kidcare International and African Literacy.
LOS ANGELES and LONG BEACH: United Teachers of Los Angeles member Jenny Chomori and Teachers Association of Long Beach member Cliff Kusaba shared the Pacific Asian Human Rights Award for their two-year effort to put on a successful conference about the Manzanar experience. During World War II, more than 110,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated at the Manzanar Relocation Camp. Chomori and Kusabi held their conference at the relocation camp at the foot of the Sierra Nevada in May 2012. People formerly incarcerated at Manzanar spoke about their experiences, and conference participants ate in the dining hall that is preserved as it was in 1942, and watched videos about the camp’s history. Chomori and Kusaba also developed educational tools that conference attendees could take back and use in their classrooms.
SAN LUIS OBISPO: Kathleen Minck is the winner of the Peace and Justice Human Rights Award for her compassion that reaches well beyond her Lucia Mar Unified School District and inspires her students. Reacting to childhood poverty she saw while traveling in the Philippines, she partnered with the Canadian “Free the Children” foundation to develop a fund-raising project. It led to her developing another project that built a secondary school in Kenya. Her fifth-grade students raised $500 for animal shelters locally and globally, and $500 for postage to send boxes of surplus books to the school she helped fund in Kenya. Minck continues to raise student awareness on issues of justice for children around the world by showing videos of her travels.
REDDING: April Carmelo, the Indian Education Specialist for Title VI for 13 years in her Shasta Union High School District, is the winner of this year’s Jim Clark American Indian/Alaska Native Human Rights Award. A member of the Greenville Rancheria Maidu tribe, she oversees Indian education programs for 26 schools in her district. In a turning point, her life and the life of her son were threatened in August 2012 by white supremacists in the city of Shasta Lake – a man pointed a shotgun at her and her son and shouted, “White pride.” When no charges were filed, Carmelo began making presentations at city council meetings against hate crimes and racism. She is working to establish a human rights commission and continues to work preventing hate crimes in her area.
SANTA CLARITA: Vanessa Perez earned the Nancy Bailey Leadership in Lesbian and Gay Issues Human Rights Award. As an educator at Hart High School in the Santa Clarita Valley, she has played a major role in promoting the rights of all students, especially those in the GLBT community. A Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) advisor for the past five years, her GSA students created a video titled “I Want to Know What It’s Like” about tolerance and acceptance that received national attention on YouTube and from the Huffington Post. A variety of people from the Hart community also took part in the video.
HEALDSBURG: Longtime CTA activist Pat Sabo won the Women’s Issues Human Rights Award for her work in the Healdsburg community and beyond. For more than 30 years, she has inspired local women and girls with her teaching and training in leadership skills, educational programs, women’s history, and her greater political work. She serves on the Sonoma County Democratic Central Committee and is a delegate to the CTA State Council – the union’s top governing body – where she chairs the Negotiations Committee. Her students recently raised funds to build two homes through Habitat For Humanity, and every June she takes eighth-graders on a field trip to Washington, D.C.
BAKERSFIELD: Katherine Jordan is this year’s winner of the Lois Tinson Human Rights Award. A dedicated teacher in the Bakersfield school district, she has taught her very young students about Martin Luther King Jr., César Chávez and Abraham Lincoln in a career spanning three decades. Her pre-K students take part in the local parades celebrating black history, Cinco de Mayo and military veterans. In her Bakersfield City School District she was named Teacher of the Year twice, and has won two Outstanding Teacher awards from Kern County.
RIVERSIDE and SAN BERNARDINO: This year’s Human Rights Award for a regional CTA Service Center Council goes to the San Gorgonio Service Center Council for the commitment of its members to human rights advocacy. The Service Center Council represents about 35,000 CTA members in Inyo, Imperial, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. It is committed to providing its members with human rights training and intensive ethnic minority leadership development, and its programs provide ongoing information about the importance of human and civil rights. The Council’s advocacy has increased community partnerships in the region. San Bernardino educator Rebecca Harper, the chair of the San Gorgonio Service Center Council, accepted the award on behalf of all members.
See more information about the CTA Human Rights Awards at this link.
The 325,000-member CTA is affiliated with the 3.2 million-member National Education Association.