Congratulations to the BUSD employees, parents and volunteers recognized as “Outstanding Educators” in this year’s annual honors sponsored by Liberty Hill Missionary Baptist Church on Sunday, Sept. 25.
A number of the honorees received their certificates in person at the church’s special “Education Sunday” services at 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. The awards were initiated in 1997 by Pastor Marvis Peoples. They reflect the church’s educational mission and desire to give recognition to those individuals in Berkeley who’ve made outstanding contributions toward promoting the well-being and educational opportunities of Berkeley youth. Selection of the honorees is determination by nominations from BUSD managers.
Below is a list of this year’s outstanding educators, followed by nominations submitted on their behalf:
- Diane Colburn, Special Education coordinator at BHS
- Debbi D’Angelo, director of Berkeley Research Evaluation and Assessment
- Ellen McClure, garden instructor at Longfellow
- Erika Hernandez, special education instructional assistant at BHS
- Sharon King, special education instructional assistant at Washington
- Johnna Quist, BHS safety officer
- Lyzanna Chairez, executive assistant to the School Board
- Mary Ann Scheuer, elementary teacher librarian
- Nicole Caldwell, payroll supervisor
- Pauline Follansbee, director of Fiscal Services
- Peter Rodrigues, English teacher at BHS
- Rodney McNab, BHS safety officer
- Russell Campisi, science teacher at BHS
- Steve Conley, humanities teacher at King Middle School
Parents and Volunteers
- Bruce Simon, co-chair of BSEP Planning and Oversight Committee
- Charles O’Neill, director of Books in the Shop
- Christine Staples, PTA Council president, BHS Design Team
- Danielle Perez, co-chair of BSEP Planning and Oversight Committee
- Robin Claire Barnes, BHS Design Team
- Rachel Hurwitz, community bridge building
The nominations came from various BUSD managers:
Diane Colborn is the Special Education Coordinator at BHS. Diane is often the first person on campus in the morning and the last person to leave in the evening. She is an advocate for Special Education students and works collaboratively with families, students and teachers to ensure that all students have access and opportunities to reach their potential. Diane is a problem solver and her calm, thoughtful approach supports students and families as they navigate the complexities of BHS.
Debbi D’Angelo is passionate about her work on behalf of our students. She always goes above and beyond in her work in order to ensure that teachers, parents, principals and decision-makers have the information they need to assess how well our programs are serving our kids. As the Director of the Berkeley Research Evaluation and Assessment department, she leads a team of teachers on special assignment who delve deep into a wide array of programs and services to focus on improving outcomes for all students, in particular those who have been historically underserved. She deserves our thanks, and she deserves a rest!
Ellen McClure is the new Garden Instructor at Longfellow. She has been a key contributor to our project-based learning in the garden curriculum, bringing experience and expertise in the development and pilot of these lessons. As a leader of garden-based education at Longfellow, Ellen dived into supporting teachers and students as they work in groups to think through academic and project problems. Though new to this school, Ellen has creatively and enthusiastically collaborated with teachers to improve the lessons and enliven the gardens to be engaging educational tools.
Erika Hernandez is an outstanding educator who works as a Special Education Instructional Assistant at Berkeley High School. Erika has worked with our highest-need, most medically fragile students, and has always maintained a professional and calm demeanor under the most challenging of circumstances. She always acts in the best interest of students, treats them with love and compassion, and, with this gentleness and warmth, holds high expectations so they can learn to the best of their ability. It is my pleasure to nominate her as an outstanding educator.
Sharon King is praised by her colleagues and parents for her professionalism, and for her ability to engage and teach students. Ms. King is currently a Special Education Instructional Assistant at Washington Elementary School. She has worked in the Berkeley Unified School District for more than ten years. She is an unsung hero, possibly because of her quiet brilliance and personality. Ms. King’s selfless style does not bring attention to her great work, but rather highlights her students and others around her. She has been known to purchase needed food, clothing and school supplies for her peers, students and families. It is time to honor this amazingly talented and giving soul, who gives her best everyday, and finds joy in seeing her students, families and her colleagues thrive.
Johnna Quist is a BHS Safety Officer. Johnna is a tireless advocate for students at Berkeley High. She works not only to keep the hallways safe, but also to engage students in meaningful work outside the classroom. Last year, Johnna worked with student to write and develop a play chronicling the experience of students at BHS. The play was moving and powerful and provided students with an opportunity to express themselves in positive ways.
Lyzanna Chairez deserves special commendation for her outstanding work in juggling the multiple demands of her position as Executive Assistant to the School Board. Ms. Chairez is responsible for putting together a complex packet of materials for every board meeting, a challenging task when which requires tenacity, diplomacy, and attention to detail. Ms. Chairez also provides administrative support to all school board members, addressing competing priorities, often under time pressure. No matter the situation, no matter how late the hour, Ms. Chairez effectively accomplishes her workload with her usual cheerful demeanor and high level of professionalism.
Mary Ann Scheuer – As the Elementary Teacher Librarian for Library Services, Mary Ann brings her love of literature and her keen mind for digital literacy to the forefront of her work, which now touches all of the elementary schools. Serving as a library media specialist at Emerson part-time and a Teacher Librarian at the District Office for the other half of her hat, Mary Ann has been a key ingredient to bringing print and audiobooks, author and illustrator visits, and the Mock Newbery Book Club to all of our students, staff and families of our elementary schools. From the bottom of my heart, we say, “Thank you, Mary Ann!”
Nicole Caldwell serves as the Payroll Supervisor for the Berkeley Unified School District. Nicole brings a wealth of payroll experience to the District which she gained from working in neighboring school districts. She recently managed the transition of all classified employees to new salary schedules as a result of the recent compensation study and processed a 3% bonus for all employees. Nicole has a high level of energy and enthusiasm and is always willing do what it takes to ensure the accuracy and timeliness of all employee paychecks and retirement reporting.
Pauline Follansbee has served as the Director of Fiscal Services for the Berkeley Unified School District for over 8 years. As a certified public accountant, Pauline supervises the District’s budget, accounting and payroll offices. It is a great comfort to know that she is behind the scenes making sure that the District’s budget and cash is balanced and all employees are paid for their services. She is expert at using technology to create financial models, reports and projections. She was responsible for financial models used to plan for BSEP (Measure E1) that will be placed on the November 8th ballot to renew funding for Berkeley schools. Pauline works countless hours to prepare the District’s budget and financial statements. The District’s audit reports have been very positive due to her oversight. She definitely played a key role in the District’s recent credit rating from Standard & Poor’s of an AA+ and Fitch of an AAA.
Peter Rodrigues teaches students to think more globally about the subject of history. He develops their vision to appreciate that history is experienced and told through many different invested parties and so is often subjective; this affects the student approach to events happening around them by deliberately making them more aware of their own subjectivity and perhaps inspiring them to be open to other possible interpretations of why/what is going on. Mr. Rodrigues is a deeply empathic teacher who is dedicated to the success of the students, acknowledging that students do not learn/do or think at all in the same way or in conventional ways. Mr. Rodrigues creates a safe but stimulating classroom environment where the very difficult work of comprehending historical events can be achieved through discussions, research, challenging questions and introspection. His approach to learning will stay with the these students and inform their learning as they advance to college and beyond. He is serious, curious, creative, challenging and inspiring and nurturing all at once.
Rodney McNab is a BHS Safety Officer who routinely goes above and beyond to collaborate with teachers, administrators and other Safety Officers to find ways to support students. Mr. McNab is a role model for our students and brings a level of commitment to his work that is worth recognition.
Russell Campisi is a teacher who pushes his students to perform far beyond anything they thought possible. Mr. Campisi challenges students in a way that drives them to do and be more. As they push past their limits they learn so much more than the sciences (enviro and Bio), they learn that they are capable of great work and that great work comes with great effort. Mr. Campisi teaches life lessons in addition to science. He is dedicated to a greater outcome than the curriculum demands. Mr. Campisi teaches with inspiration, integrity and a commitment to long-term excellence.
Steve Conley: Mr. Conley started a Best Buddies club at lunch time to help some special needs students connect socially with their peers. He gave up his lunch once a week to bring students together with fun programs and activities to help them laugh, dance, paint, and play together.
Danielle Perez and Bruce Simon are parent volunteers who have taken on a significant role in serving the entire school district as the co-chairs of the Berkeley Schools Excellence Program (BSEP) Planning and Oversight Committee. This citizen’s committee has a crucial role in the oversight of the programs that are supported by local BSEP tax, which provides 20% of the budget for our schools, including paying for 1/3 of our teachers, all our school libraries, our elementary and middle school music program, and many academic and counseling supports for our students. Danielle and Bruce have stepped up during a time of very high demands on the committee and its leadership, acting as leaders and spokespeople for dozens of committee meetings, board meetings, and public workshops to strengthen public awareness and participation in decision-making for the BSEP tax measure.
Christine Staples is the current President of the PTA Council, and former PTA president of King Middle School. Christine is the kind of volunteer who steps up to help wherever and whenever she is needed. She is also Co-President of the Berkeley High Development Group and a parent member of the Berkeley High Re-Design Team, and in all her work she always underscores the importance of equity and access for all students. She is also known as an advocate for Music Education and as an engaged member of her West Berkeley community. Over the past year, Christine has worked tirelessly to ensure that all school PTA’s have the opportunity to engage with information and advocacy for the BSEP school tax measure which is on the ballot in November.
Robin Claire Barnes is a BHS parent who participated throughout the 2015-2016 on the BHS Design Team. Robin brought an important and unique parent perspective to the team. Additionally, she approached the work with an equity perspective and worked hard to keep all students in mind as they made contributions to the group. Robin worked closely on the Design Team with parent Christine Staples, one of our other honorees this year.
Rachel Hurwitz: As a parent she has worked tirelessly to bring together all factions of our school community with a keen eye on using personal and community stories to bridge differences. She helped get some important conversations about privilege and race started with the parent community.