California Educators Honored for Commitment to Social Justice at CTA’s Annual Human Rights Awards

Going Above and Beyond During Global Pandemic to Promote and Protect Human, Civil Rights

BURLINGAME — Eight inspiring and dedicated educators from across the state are this year’s winners of the annual California Teachers Association (CTA) Human Rights Awards for their outstanding dedication to social justice, and for promoting and protecting human and civil rights. Read their stories here.

“After nearly a year of working harder than ever to reach students during an unprecedented crisis, these awards honor our tireless social justice warriors who do community work beyond their classrooms,” said CTA President E. Toby Boyd. “This year has also brought defining moments in history that have shaped the way we talk about race and how to be a true ally. These educators are an inspiration not only to their peers, but to the students they serve.”

Click here to view the videos of this year’s recipients.

Presented on Friday, February 26, 2021, during the virtual CTA Equity and Human Rights Conference, the CTA Human Rights Awards this year went to these exemplary educators:

LOS ANGELES: Ronald Phillip Smith is the recipient of the Human Rights Award for LGBTQ+ Advocacy in Honor of Nancy Bailey. He led his school site’s efforts to create a safe space for students free from discrimination, racism, queerphobia, and transphobia. The Students Advocate For Each Other (S.A.F.E.) program at Quincy Jones Elementary School has provided age-appropriate lessons and facilitated dialogues where students have discussed and come up with ways to make their school a safer place.

SACRAMENTO: Naqiba Gregory is the recipient of the American Indian/Alaska Native Human Rights Award in Honor of Jim Clark. As a longtime activist, she defends Native rights, advocates for more vigorous tribal governance, and promotes positive Native representation in public education and the labor movement. As an elementary K-8 art teacher, Gregory has also worked in the Indian education program in her district. This program benefits students with a curriculum that fosters connections and understanding of the Native community. She continues to advocate for students and colleagues experiencing bullying, prejudice, and discrimination, as well as bringing greater awareness of the challenges that Native students and educators face.

MONTEBELLO: Margie Granado is the recipient of the Human Rights Award for Women’s Advocacy and is a trailblazer in the fight against gender bias. Granado knows how to recognize and call out gender bias and make certain that it has no place in our schools and communities. Making certain that women have a greater voice in CTA policy and decision-making is one of Granado’s strong focuses. She sets an example for all students.

GLENDALE: Taline K. Arsenian is the recipient of the CTA Peace and Justice Human Rights Award. She is a tireless advocate who brings awareness to the Armenian Genocide, so that all may learn from this barbaric event in human history. As a middle school teacher, Arsenian promotes universal human rights and genocide awareness. She helped create structures in her school and district that ensure annual events and student programs remain a priority and are handled collaboratively among students and educators. Arsenian’s partnerships and efforts led to the Glendale Unified School District recognizing April 24 as a district holiday in remembrance of the Armenian Genocide.

GARVEY: Kien Tang is the recipient of the Pacific Asian American Human Rights Award. He worked tirelessly to encourage Pacific Asian American (PAA) students and colleagues to get involved and have a voice in PAA issues at their school site and communities. As an educator in the Garvey School District, Tang collaborates with his students each year to “adopt” charity organizations to support. His long-standing commitment has led to expanded bilingual programs and increased educational equity for students in his school district.

LAKE ELSINORE: Olubunmi Adeleke is the recipient of the African American Human Rights Award in Honor of Lois Tinson. As a high school math teacher, Adeleke has fought for a districtwide improved educational experience for African American students. To support African American students and help them feel seen, she started a Black Student Union (BSU) club. This inspired two other high schools, and it will soon to be in place at elementary and middle schools.

OXNARD: Maritza Ávila is the recipient of the César Chávez “Sí Se Puede” Human Rights Award. Honoring the legacy of César Chávez, she promotes educational equity and serves as a mentor to students. Ávila’s students participate in the annual César Chávez speech contest. She strives to apply the same principles Chávez had to her students. Ávila promotes literacy through CTA’s California Reads program, which seeks to develop curriculum and materials such as culturally relevant literature by Latino writers for all grades across the state. At the state and national level, she is an advocate of ethnic studies and fights for the rights of DACA students and disadvantaged students of color.

LOS ANGELES: Baylin Dickinson is the recipient of the CTA Member Human Rights Award and is an activist in her school site and community, in the areas of racism and racial equity. She worked to eliminate discrimination at her school site and worked in partnership with Student CTA to promote the teaching profession to the next generation of educators. Dickinson organized with fellow educators to bring LGBTQIAP2S+ affirming professional development to her school site. She has planned and presented on topics including implicit bias, anti-racism, white privilege, deconstructing institutional oppression, and facilitating courageous conversations with colleagues. Additionally, as part of the equity team, Dickinson has worked with Student CTA members in modeling to them the collaboration it takes to put on special events such as this.

In addition to honoring educators, CTA recognized the work of two groups of members.

ALHAMBRA:  Collaborating with its members, the Alhambra Teachers Association (ATA) is the winner of the CTA Chapter Human Rights Award. This association sponsored community events to bring awareness to food insecurity, poverty, and the plight of the socioeconomically disadvantaged groups in their communities. ATA, under the leadership of President Tammy Scorcia, has truly taken community engagement to another level. For the past three years, ATA has held California Reads/Read Across America events to bring the community together and promote human dignity and social justice by creating a path for equal access through their book giveaway. They have given thousands of books to socioeconomically disadvantaged families in the Alhambra Unified School District community, and they have created a way for educators and parents to build community partnerships with various organizations like Asian Youth Center, Foothills Counseling Services, Grassroots Alhambra, LGBTQ+ advocate groups, Planned Parenthood, and many others.

SAN GORGONIO: The San Gorgonio Service Center Council is the winner of the CTA Service Center Council Human Rights Award for taking an active and progressive role in the fight for social justice and educational equity by engaging its members. San Gorgonio SCC provides opportunities for members to gain valuable information regarding human rights and social justice at its popular annual Fall Leadership Conference. In addition to offering several sessions geared toward advocacy in social justice, San Gorgonio SCC’s Equity Team is on hand to survey attendees and determine what services are needed throughout the region. In addition to including Student CTA in all its events, San Gorgonio SCC has committed to support the next generation of educators by pledging a portion of its annual budget to Student CTA members from predominately underrepresented ethnic groups.


The 310,000-member California Teachers Association is affiliated with the 3 million-member National Education Association.