Special Olympics Northern California (SONC) is proud to honor seven teachers who have gone above and beyond for their students and have encouraged an environment of inclusion and acceptance throughout their respective school communities.
The selected teachers were nominated by Schools Partnership Program coordinators for the fall season. SONC recognizes the contributions of partnering special education, adapted physical education (APE) and other teachers and administrators for their outstanding efforts in impacting the lives of students with intellectual disabilities.
The honored teachers include:
CONTRA COSTA COUNTY
Ms. Katie Humann
J. Douglas Adams Middle School
Ms. Humann is an Education Specialist at J. Douglas Adams Middle School who has played a critical role in the growth of the Schools Partnership Program within the Brentwood Unified School District.
Ms. Humann recruited nearly 10 new classes and reenergized many more to be involved with Special Olympics. She has participated in events during every year of her five-year teaching career and inspires others with her fresh, bright attitude. Ms. Humann described Special Olympics as the “highlight of the year” and enjoys how the activities are tiered so that every student can get involved.
“[Ms. Humann] is very accommodating of the students and giving of herself, and is extremely kind. She is very appreciative of the staff and is a very gracious teacher,” said an assistant.
Thank you, Ms. Humann!
Mr. Dave Becker
Westmont High School
Mr. Becker is a Special Education Teacher at Westmont High School who is responsible for starting the first Unified Sports program in the Campbell Union High School District.
He has encouraged a diverse selection of students to be Unified Partners and athletes and has seen drastic growth in both the Unified Sports program and the culture of acceptance and inclusion on the school campus. Mr. Becker is described as always putting the students first and as a great leader, reliable and passionate for good causes. He strongly believes in giving students in special education the same opportunities as their general-education peers.
“I have been brought up to believe that every child deserves a chance to excel,” said Mr. Becker. “Regardless of ability, each student needs an opportunity to grow from who they are to who they dream of becoming. Special Olympics shares my core belief that a moment in the sun can add up to a lifetime of warmth. These special and unique kids had a chance to become a bigger part of Westmont and we, Special Olympics and I, are not going to deny them that place in the sun. More importantly, Special Olympics gave them an opportunity for others to see them, not as those students, but as students.”
Thank you, Mr. Becker!
Mr. Taylor Speier
Mt. Eden High School
Mr. Speier is an Adaptive Physical Education Teacher for Mt. Eden High School who made a lasting impact in the district’s second year in the Schools Partnership Program.
Mr. Speier eagerly took on the responsibility of hosting a Special Olympics soccer competition and worked tirelessly to coordinate all of the logistics and planning needed for a successful event. He engaged student-volunteers, cheerleaders, administration and staff to all be involved and held a 200-student rally leading up to the competition, where the Special Olympics athletes were cheered on by their peers in a warm and inclusive environment. Mr. Speier did all of this while preparing for a cross-country move – and he will be missed!
Thank you, Mr. Speier!
Ms. Leila Johnson
San Francisco Unified School District Physical Education Office
Ms. Johnson is an Adaptive Physical Education Teacher for the San Francisco Unified School District who played a key role in organizing and executing a successful soccer tournament.
Ms. Johnson went above and beyond to coordinate an inclusive soccer event with middle schools throughout the district that included more than 30 students. She worked seamlessly with the Special Olympics staff in the weeks leading up to the event and was quick to adapt when the tournament was moved to a different location.
“Special Olympics provided me with a day to really connect with my special-education students in a way that is difficult in a large class,” said Ms. Johnson. “It also allowed a fun day for my general-education students to interact with their peers. One of my special-education students, who was very timid to play soccer at first, thanked me and his gen-ed peers at the end of the day. He said ‘Thank you so much for encouraging me to do it, and thank the girls who helped me play, I scored a goal and I didn't think I could do it.’”
Thank you, Ms. Johnson!
Ms. Mariko Wesley-Fagundes
Santa Rosa City Schools
Ms. Wesley-Fagundes is a Special Day Class Teacher for Santa Rosa City Schools who works to promote school-wide inclusion and acceptance for students of all abilities.
Ms. Wesley-Fagundes helps to organize Special Olympics events and uses her enthusiasm, creativity and positive attitude to build common ground between students in special and general education.
Thank you, Ms. Wesley-Fagundes!
Ms. Kristi Barcelona
Dublin High School
Ms. Barcelona is a Special Day Class Teacher for Dublin High School and has been involved with the Schools Partnership Program for the past seven years.
She works to involve Unified Sports in the school’s athletic department and pursues other inclusive opportunities for students on campus. Ms. Barcelona coaches Unified Sports and coordinates with other teachers and administrators to identify ways to bring students together through sports and academics.
Thank you, Ms. Barcelona!
WEST CONTRA COSTA
Ms. Shani Thompson
El Cerrito High School
Ms. Thompson is an Adaptive Physical Education Teacher at El Cerrito High School who has gone above and beyond to support her students with disabilities and grant them a sense of belonging on campus.
Thank you, Ms. Thompson!
Ms. Myrna Hadjirul
DeAnza High School
Ms. Hadjirul is a Special Education Teacher with the West Contra Costa Unified School District who has worked hard to expand the Schools Partnership Program within her area.
Ms. Hadjirul coordinated with the ROTC to serve as Unified Partners and recently volunteered her school site to host a spring event.
Thank you, Ms. Hadjirul!