CTA Honors Nine Educators for their Commitment to Social Justice and Promoting, Protecting Human Rights

BURLINGAME – Nine exceptional educators from across California are this year’s winners of the annual California Teachers Association’s (CTA) Human Rights Awards for their outstanding commitment to social justice and for promoting and protecting human and civil rights, both in the classroom and in their wider school communities. The awards were presented in Santa Clara during CTA’s Annual Human Rights Awards dinner on March 18.

“I’m proud to honor these educators for the truly extraordinary work they’re doing,” said CTA President E. Toby Boyd. “There isn’t a student who goes unseen in the communities of these exceptional educators. Their individual commitment to inclusiveness and to celebrating every student’s uniqueness will have a lifelong impact on our students, as well as on our schools and our communities. We’re inspired by these social justice warriors and proud to recognize their contributions with CTA’s prestigious Human Rights Awards.”

The following outstanding educators and organization are this year’s winners:

RIALTO – Nalik Davis, Jr., African American Human Rights Award in Honor of Lois Tinson: Davis has been a leader supporting African American and other students and educators of color throughout the Inland Empire. He teaches history, AVID, and Ethnic Studies at Eisenhower High School in Rialto, and has presented at various CTA conferences on what is possible with ethnic studies. In addition to the award, earlier this year he received a Bridge Builders Award from Rialto Unified School District for “excellence in equity and access toward students and community.” See his video here.

PITTSBURG – Vanessa Yava, American Indian/Alaska Native Human Rights Award in Honor of Jim Clark: Yava receives this award for her many years of activism in the Bay Area Native community. Currently teaching 7th grade science, Yava was the coordinator of the Native American Studies Program for Fremont Unified School District. She creates Native videos for her students and peers and is an artist whose Native-themed work is exhibited at local museums. See her video here.

LOS ANGELES – Ron Espiritu, Cesar Chavez “Si Se Puede” Human Rights Award: Camino Nuevo Charter Academy educator Espiritu has been the catalyst and creator of the K-12 Ethnic Studies for All Initiative at Camino Nuevo, and a tireless advocate for the empowering, liberating, and transformative power ethnic studies holds for young people. He gave a TEDx Talk on Why Ethnic Studies Matter, and facilitates workshops in which teachers share experiences and best practices for breathing life into ethnic study pedagogies, such as ethnic studies in the STEM classroom. See his video here.

CARMICHAEL – Dr. Phe X Bach, Pacific Asian American Human Rights Award: Dr. Bach receives this award for his ongoing efforts to create programs that benefit his students, his colleagues, and the AAPI community. A chemistry teacher in the San Juan Unified School District, Dr. Bach stresses “mindfulness” by starting each class with a five-minute meditation. He believes mindfulness is the key to many students’ academic success. His teaching is grounded in social emotional learning. He has founded several organizations that teach mindfulness to various AAPI communities, and he advocates for the mental health of educators as a key component of effective teaching and positive school environments. See his video here.

LOS ANGELES – Skye Tooley, Human Rights Award for LGBTQ+ Advocacy in Honor of Nancy Bailey: Tooley, who goes by Mx. T with their students, pushes to create safe and brave classroom spaces for students. They facilitate Saturn Elementary School’s “Rainbow Club” which serves more than 20 gender non-conforming and/or queer students and is a space where students can be free to be themselves. As a white, trans non-binary neurodivergent educator, Tooley is an example to students and fellow teachers of being able to be our authentic selves, at a time when there is still great risk and vulnerability in our society. See their video here.

CHULA VISTA – Gretel Rodriguez, Human Rights Award for Women’s Advocacy: Rodriguez has earned this award for her leadership work in women’s issues with CTA and with the National Education Association (NEA), as well as for her ongoing activism around broader racial and social justice issues. Rodriguez has served as NEA Women’s Caucus Treasurer and is the current CTA Women’s Caucus Chair. She has led a Black Lives Matter Hunger Strike, created workshops and support for LGBTQ+ parents and community, and has traveled to Mexico to build a coalition with teachers there. See her video here.

CORONA/NORCO – Frank Palad Mata, CTA Peace and Justice Human Rights Award: Mata teaches high school AP language and composition and expository reading and writing. He recently developed a 12th grade course focusing on social justice and equity. He was the first teacher to form a social justice club on campus in Corona Norco Unified. He has led by example and shown both students and peers how to have difficult conversations about racial and social justice. He teaches the history of influential BIPOC people and the amazing contributions they have made in a way that empowers students to believe they too can accomplish great things no matter what obstacles they may encounter. See his video here.

LOS ANGELES – Stacey Yakimowich Chavez, CTA Member Human Rights Award: Chavez is a union activist who has consistently fought for human rights throughout her career. She has been a leader on the United Teachers Los Angeles Equity Team for the past five years, where she has actively organized to recruit BIPOC educators into leadership positions in her local. She has worked with Student CTA to promote the teaching profession, and has created curricula that are anti-racist, culturally responsive and that aim to abolish oppressive systems that plague traditional schooling. With colleagues, she planned and implemented a “Brave Space” series seeking to eradicate discrimination at her school site and beyond. See her video here.

ONTARIO – Jeanna Tang, Students with Exceptional Needs Human Rights Awards: Tang receives this award for her work upholding the rights of special education students and educators. A teacher in the Ontario-Montclair School District, Tang is on Special Assignment and Home and Hospital Administrator Designee, a role in which she ensures that students are prepared to return to their regular or special program classrooms at their former performance level. Tang is an instructional coach to new and veteran teachers, and she has presented professional development at multiple sites. See her video here.

In addition to honoring educators, CTA recognized the work of a chapter:

ANAHEIM – Anaheim Secondary Teachers Association, CTA Chapter Human Rights Award: Anaheim Secondary Teachers Association (ASTA) has been leading the charge in Orange County in the successful implementation of community schools. In doing so, ASTA has broken down barriers that existed within Anaheim’s communities of color that kept stakeholders from being active participants in their students’ education. ASTA has used the collaborative community school model to develop leadership opportunities within their own membership. Their work on community schools allows the chapters to highlight the needs of all schools in the district and help ensure appropriate resources are dispatched where they are truly needed. ASTA has been a consistent and strong advocate for human and civil rights. See ASTA’s video here.

Visit the CTA Human Rights page here.


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