The common denominators in the work of this year’s CTA Human Rights Award recipients are inclusion, teaching truth, and empowering students and peers. The award-winners’ efforts to unify are especially notable.
Nine educators and one CTA chapter have been recognized for their outstanding dedication to social justice, and for promoting and protecting human and civil rights — within their schools and in the greater community.
“At a time when there are far too many outside forces seeking to stoke division and fear, these inspired educators are showing us how to tackle our past and present honestly, confront injustice, and educate with integrity and courage,” said CTA President E. Toby Boyd. “They are showing us how to create a more equitable future so that all our students can think critically, see themselves in our classrooms and curriculum, and have the opportunity to succeed.”
Following are the awardees, in the order in which they were honored at a special ceremony during CTA’s Equity and Human Rights Conference on March 5.
United Educators of San Francisco
African American Human Rights Award in Honor of Lois Tinson
VanCedric Williams became an educator more than 20 years ago in part because he recognized that to advance the achievement of students of color, and specifically young Black males, they need good role models. Now a high school ethnic studies teacher in San Francisco, he has established a culturally relevant and historically accurate curriculum for his students. Throughout his lessons he weaves in African American and other groups’ culture, values and traditions. He challenges his students to dig for the truth and sets ambitious standards for them.
Having taught refugee students from Sudan, Williams also knows how important it is to be prepared to help all students, particularly those who bring trauma to school. Beyond the classroom, he leads a student mentoring program that encourages and empowers BIPOC students to be their best selves, know their history, and grow leadership skills through community service.
Williams was elected in 2021 to the Oakland Unified School District Board of Education and has worked tirelessly to help eliminate the opportunity gap across all district schools by 2026. Long active in CTA, he currently serves as an NEA director and a member of the CTA Budget Committee. He has been a member of the CTA African American Caucus and the Racial Equity Affairs Committee.
Palm Springs Teachers Association
American Indian/Alaska Native Human Rights Award in Honor of Jim Clark
Christina Alaniz has been involved with the Native community her entire life. A Cahuilla and Serrano descendant of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, she was raised and still lives on the Morongo reservation.
Alaniz volunteered in her children’s classrooms for 11 years. It was there that she found her passion for education and helping students succeed. She became involved in the local PTA and served as PTA president for two years. She worked with her tribe to bring culturally relevant educational opportunities to the classroom.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s in education, Alaniz began teaching in 2010. She taught for four years on the reservation before moving to Palm Springs Unified, where she currently teaches second grade. She has written ethnic studies curriculum, has served the past seven years on her school site council, and is a current member of an anti-racist coalition.
Alaniz helps the district engage with the Native community in Palm Springs, including the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, and is creating a Native American Parent Advisory Council to facilitate the process. She consults with the tribe on curriculum and works to represent the Native community in education and social issues.
She is active on the equity team at her chapter and is a member of CTA’s American Indian/Alaska Native Caucus. She serves on CTA’s Racial Equity Affairs Committee, participates in the 2021-22 Ethnic Minority Early Identification and Development cohort, and regularly trains and presents workshops to colleagues.
Guadalupe Carrasco Cardona
United Teachers Los Angeles
César Chávez “Sí Se Puede” Human Rights Award
Guadalupe Carrasco Cardona is committed to promoting educational equality, critical pedagogy, and a college-going culture at Edward R. Roybal Learning Center. She has distinguished herself through her excellent mentorship of teachers and students and her work in underserved communities.
Carrasco Cardona has been involved in developing statewide ethnic studies curriculum. Her work centers the voices of people of color and furthers a student-centered classroom environment based on mutual respect, critical thinking and collaboration. She has led multiple workshops to embed this curriculum at Roybal. She has organized the school and community to fund students and their families who were struggling to make ends meet, even to fund funerals for family members lost during the pandemic.
In 2019, she brought danzantes to Roybal during El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), honoring the cultural heritage of many students. In 2020, she brought Canción del Inmigrante: A Latin Folk Opera to Roybal, a free event for school families and the larger community.
As chair of the Association of Raza Educators of Los Angeles, Carrasco Cardona organizes praxis institutes to support teachers in their professional development and helps secure funds and scholarships for Dreamers.
She created “La Trenza” (The Braid), a YouTube channel for the Latinx community that helps Latinx youth see themselves in books and curriculum.
Carrasco Cardona is one of the founders of the Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Coalition, which designs and coordinates training programs for educators of BIPOC students. She is earning her doctorate in ethnic studies.
Beverly Hills Education Association
Pacific Asian American Human Rights Award
Telly Tse has been an unflagging advocate for human and civil rights in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. He has demonstrated leadership and excellence in many areas, such as bilingual programs, immigrant issues, anti-Asian violence, political activism, educational equity, and training and leadership opportunities. He has done this through his work as a special education teacher, local association president, CTA Board member, NEA Board member, NEA APIC regional director, mentor of AAPI educators in an NEA-funded program, and vice president of the Los Angeles chapter of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA).
Serving as the first male AAPI member of the CTA Board, Tse supports regional Racial Equity Affairs Committees to promote inclusion of underrepresented communities within CTA and build relationships with community organizations that focus on racial equity issues.
In his role as a mentor teacher, Tse works with new AAPI educators across the country to examine the challenges they face and ways they can address them. One point he always makes is the positive correlation between union involvement and human rights, which shows the importance of AAPI involvement in the labor movement.
As a past vice chair of the CTA Pacific Asian American Caucus and a current regional director of the NEA Asian Pacific Islander Caucus, Tse has helped to increase AAPI involvement and representation in CTA and NEA.
Saddleback Valley Educators Association
Human Rights Award for LGBTQ+ Advocacy in Honor of Nancy Bailey
Juli Stowers demonstrates leadership and commitment to LGBTQ+ advocacy through her extensive service as an educator, labor leader and community organizer.
Stowers is the first LGBTQ+ and human rights contact for her local. She serves on the advisory committee for CTA’s LGBTQ+ Safety in Schools Grant and Scholarship Program in Honor of Guy DeRosa and is a Human Rights Cadre trainer.
Stowers is secretary of the Lavender Democrats of Orange County, and is active with the LGBTQ Center OC, where she has served as co-facilitator of the Trans Community and Allies Together group. She has organized many events, such as Trans Day of Remembrance. She is a member of the Human Rights Council and GLSEN, and has collaborated with other LGBTQ+ organizations to organize events and support allies in their campaigns for school board, state and national positions.
What makes Stowers special is what she has helped to create. She is a founding member of Youth First OC, which advocated for the California Healthy Youth Act and the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful Education Act in Orange County schools. She is a founding member of the Newport Beach PFLAG group. As a Cadre trainer, she has helped create workshops on LGBTQ+ issues, including one on supporting trans students. Perhaps most important, she works behind the scenes in her district and community to help students and parents with name changes, safety, and learning how to advocate for their rights — not easy in her community.
United Teachers Los Angeles
Human Rights Award for Women’s Advocacy
Gina Gray has consistently worked toward ending gender bias and racial discrimination within her union.
Gray was a leader in creating the UTLA equity team’s “Brave Space” series, which was formed in response to the continual killings of unarmed Black people at the hands of police. She facilitated dialogues allowing educators to see a model of how they might approach naming instances of implicit bias and racist policies at their schools, to have the tools to dismantle racism in real time.
In her classroom, Gray has selected texts from woman authors that provide an account of history centered on the experience of women of color. For example, in her English class, Gray uses Ain’t I a Woman by bell hooks to engage students in a critical historical analysis of the experiences of Black women throughout American history.
Gray also has used UTLA’s social media platforms to educate the broader union workforce on the accomplishments of women of color and invite teachers to use these messages in their classrooms.
Most recently, Gray and colleague Denisha Jordan, as the UTLA women’s advocacy coordinators, have organized TEA (Train, Empower and Activate). TEA organizes women of color in UTLA around issues facing the community such as fair pay, the right to choose, child care, health care and family leave. The goal is that these dialogues lead to action plans so women and allies can work to create a fair environment not only in the workplace, but in society at large.
Redlands Teachers Association
CTA Peace and Justice Human Rights Award
Vanessa Aranda has promoted peace, justice and international understanding through her teaching, her work with students, and her advocacy for reflective curriculum.
Aranda’s journalism class extends beyond the classroom and the alternative high school where she teaches. She has guided her students to create an online, student-driven social justice journal for equity called Ethic News. All students from the district’s five high schools, including exceptional students and English learners, contribute. Students are challenged to look at their own communities through a peace and justice lens to create relevant content. Aranda assists in evaluating their work and guides them to reflect on its social impact on themselves, the community and the greater world.
With a recently received grant, the journal will be open to multiple media.
Aranda has been instrumental in creating a curriculum for her literature students that promotes literacy through social justice. The curriculum is approachable; students become engaged by reading relevant, personal pieces around ethics, diversity and justice. Their reading skills have improved. For some of her students, this is the first time in a while that they have felt successful.
In addition, Aranda has been one of the main contributors for the school district’s new ethnic studies course. She has been instrumental in incorporating current literature and news pieces that focus on justice and peace, as well as on ethnic studies.
Lynwood Teachers Association
Students With Exceptional Needs Human Rights Award
Daniel Gallegos’ goal is to shift students with exceptionalities’ views of themselves from failures to successes and to see themselves as able and responsible. Gallegos helps enable students to set goals, commit to a course of action, and experience the consequences of their choices, decisions and actions.
Throughout his career, Gallegos has established safe and secure learning environments to assist each student in achieving their goals. He encouraged students to participate in building this environment and the daily regimen — essential in engaging each student and having them take responsibility for their own learning. He has also focused on underlying assumptions that have led to learning or communication breakdowns, which allows his colleagues to work in partnership with learners and their families to identify concerns and strategies to address them.
He and his students discuss hurdles to learning, frustrations and underlying assumptions. This collaboration becomes the basis to identify steps to overcome obstacles, take responsibility for behavior, and ultimately achieve success.
As special education department chair at Cesar Chavez Middle School, Gallegos has brought a sense of cohesion to the department with consistent effective communication and positive interpersonal relationships with all staff. This is also true of the broader school community, where Gallegos staunchly advocates for the inclusion of students with exceptionalities in general education classrooms and school activities.
John Swett Education Association
CTA Member Human Rights Award
When Magret Nunes became the president of John Swett Education Association, she became a powerful advocate for social justice. She started by promoting and identifying social justice issues with administrators and the school board and updating her district’s equity policy. She pushed further and established Social Justice Activists (SJA), a representative group of all stakeholders in the district, with whom she meets monthly to determine social justice issues that need to be addressed.
Nunes also created district equity teams and a structure to disseminate information from SJA to school sites via site representatives as part of a five-year equity plan formulated by Nunes with the Labor Management Initiative in her district.
She helped to expand SJA by creating a student branch that she advises. These meetings are designed to engage youth in social justice activism.
Nunes wrote and secured a $7,000 NEA CAPE Grant to engage the school community in social justice. It included buying relevant books for students, promoting a student T-shirt design contest, and coordinating book readings and discussions in neighboring associations and union locals. She won a $20,000 CTA IFT Grant to implement project-based learning for inclusivity in social studies curriculum, including individual, small group and community service projects, based on needs and interests of students.
She and her chapter received a $3,000 CTA Membership Engagement Grant to develop social justice training opportunities for member educators.
Sacramento City Teachers Association
CTA Chapter Human Rights Award
SCTA leadership has worked hard to develop and promote civil and human rights awareness, initiatives and trainings for its members, and help to eradicate discrimination within the profession.
SCTA bargained and created a full-day professional learning (PL) session on white supremacy culture in education and abolitionist teaching strategies prior to the start of the 2021-22 school year.
SCTA has been working in concert with the Black Parallel School Board since 2016 to bring anti-bias and anti-racist PL to Sacramento City Unified School District. This became a bargaining point starting in 2018. After hours of negotiation, the SCTA bargaining team was able to secure one of the two pre-service days to present PL created and led by teachers to address the systemic racism within our education system. The SCTA equity team created a virtual menu of options to meet all teachers’ needs, from those beginning their journey to social justice warriors.
The PL included a case study from a district elementary school that detailed their journey toward anti-racism; an assignment to create a transformative classroom using the work of Gholdy Muhammad, author of Cultivating Genius: An Equity Framework for Culturally and Historically Responsive Literacy; individual and team action items; further readings; and a reflection form to guide the work of the equity team.
The PL received great feedback, was used to create SCTA’s Equity Action Plan, grew the equity team’s membership, and created a space for essential conversations regarding race and racism in the district.
Watch and Listen
Videos of CTA’s 2022 Human Rights Award winners feature the awardees and supporters talking about their work and what it means to them, their students and communities. Watch the videos at youtube.com/CaliforniaTeachers.