CTA Announces 14 Winning Entries of John Swett Awards Honoring Media Coverage of Education in California

BURLINGAME – Media stories last year ranging from coverage of how educators quickly adapted to distance learning during one of the most unprecedented events in our lifetime to educators in the Bay Area donating their stimulus checks to undocumented families in their schools to a Sacramento television station’s uplifting “Teacher of the Month” series are among the works honored by CTA’s 62nd annual John Swett Awards for Media Excellence.

Fourteen winning entries in the prestigious CTA awards contest were chosen by an independent panel of working journalists and media professionals. The awards honor individuals, publications, websites, and broadcast media for their outstanding achievements in reporting and interpreting public education issues during 2020.

“During one of the hardest times for California’s educators and students, these skilled reporters told stories about triumphs, challenges, and perseverance displayed by educators fighting for the success and safety of their students. Their outstanding work is based on truth and vigor, and we are so proud to honor them for their dedication to quality journalism.”

— CTA President E. Toby Boyd

There were 44 entries this year. Usually, winners are invited to an in-person CTA reception, but we are celebrating them virtually at this year’s virtual State Council of Education meeting, and we released this video in their honor.

The award is named in honor of the founder of CTA, who was California’s fourth superintendent of public instruction and a crusader for public education. Here are the 14 John Swett Award winning entries, with links to many of these outstanding works:


  • Dan Albano, The Orange County Register, for his continuous coverage of education since the pandemic started and getting all sides to every story on how educators acclimated to distance learning. Winning entries included this piece and this piece.
  • Paloma Esquivel, Los Angeles Times, for her feature story on sixth grade teacher and Inglewood Teachers Association President Aba Ngissah, for going above and beyond to support students, parents, and fellow educators near the beginning of the pandemic. Esquivel reported on the granular details that make the story come alive for the reader. Read the winning piece here.
  • Bay Area News Group, for fair and detailed continuous coverage of COVID-19 issues impacting educators in the greater Bay Area. Winning entries included this piece and this piece.
  • Emma Gallegos, The Bakersfield Californian, for her well-balanced continuous coverage that looks at the challenges and triumphs facing schools during distance learning. Winning entries included this piece and this piece.
  • Christine Bedell, The Bakersfield Californian, for her feature story on how educators and students in Kern County were adapting to distance learning and how they were keeping themselves engaged in the learning process. Read the winning piece here.
  • Garrett Leahy, 48 Hills, for his news story on a Proposition 15 action in San Francisco spearheaded by a local coalition of educators, nurses, and parents to help spread the word about the campaign and how it would have invested in public education and communities. Read the winning piece here.
  • The Bakersfield Californian, for continuous coverage of distance learning from several perspectives and recognizing educators and students for their achievements. Winning entries included this piece and this piece.
  • Katherine Minkiewicz-Martine, Sonoma West Publishers: The Healdsburg Tribune, for her news story on Sonoma County educators collectively fighting for safety conditions for their students and peers before a return to in-person instruction. Read the winning piece here.

Student Journalism

  • New to this year’s categories is Student Journalism. Branham Bear Witness receives the award for its eye-catching, professional print layout and impressive content packed into each edition. Student journalists tackle a wide breadth of subjects in a fair, engaging manner. This publication for continuous coverage of education makes connections between students and the local and global community. Their adviser, Fitzgerald Vo, is a chemistry and journalism teacher at Branham High School in San Jose, where he has worked for 10 years, and a proud CTA member. Vo has been the adviser for the publication for the last five years. He inspires and leads his students to the highest journalistic quality and integrity. Winning entries included this piece and this piece.

Journals, Magazines, Special Publications and Websites

  • Samuel Getachew, Teen Vogue, for his feature story on how Oakland student organizers fought for and won the right to vote for youth age 16 and over in school board elections. Read the winning piece here.
  • Brooke Anderson, In These Times, for her news story profiling Oakland Education Association members and other educators across the Bay Area who are donating their stimulus checks to undocumented workers. Read the winning piece here. “Thank you so much to CTA for this recognition of my work. As a union member and the daughter of a public school teacher, it meant the world to me to get to cover the powerful organizing of teachers in solidarity with undocumented residents at the beginning of the pandemic. Thank you for all of the work you do to build the power of students, educators, and communities,” said Anderson.
  • Capital and Main in Los Angeles for its high-quality series “The Year of Teaching Dangerously,” which explores the impact the pandemic had on different aspects of teaching and learning.



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