Celebrating Our Fall 2019 Teachers of the Season

Special Olympics Northern California (SONC) is proud to honor five 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:


Ms. Mary Liddle

Live Oak Elementary School

Ms. Liddle is a preschool special education teacher who has made a lasting impact on students in her district.

Along with going above and beyond for her students in the classroom, Ms. Liddle plays an instrumental role in coordinating the Young Athletes Program events and serves as the liaison between the San Ramon Valley Unified School District and Special Olympics. She helps set the date, organize transportation and handles multiple other responsibilities.

“[The SONC Schools Partnership Program] is a unique opportunity that gives us a chance to collaborate with fellow teachers in our preschool community,” said Ms. Liddle. “I really like how the Young Athletes Day introduces my students to the world of sports.”

Thank you, Ms. Liddle!



Mr. Matt Kimura

William Brooks Elementary School

Mr. Kimura is a physical fitness education teacher who has dedicated himself to promoting inclusion and empowering students with and without disabilities.

For the last five years, Mr. Kimura has been involved with coaching Unified Sports (soccer and basketball) and leads more than a month of practices leading up to an inclusive event. He teaches the athletes and partners about the rules of the sport, good sportsmanship, positive attitudes and, most importantly, how to have fun! Mr. Kimura also hosts a number of Unified competitions at William Brooks Elementary and is always looking for new ways to teach inclusion.

“I believe that our program is much more that simply learning how to engage in a particular sport,” said Mr. Kimura. “It also teaches children a range of skills such as how to work as a team, solve problems, and focus on task-based behavior.”

Thank you, Mr. Kimura!



Mr. Vladimir Talian

San Francisco Unified School District

Mr. Talian is a special education paraprofessional and coach within the San Francisco Unified School District who has been instrumental in supporting Special Olympics for many years.

Mr. Talian takes a hands-on approach to coordinating Unified Sports teams and is always eager to welcome students with and without disabilities. His excitement and enthusiasm are contagious and his teams are consistently well coached and competitive.

Thank you, Mr. Talian!



Ms. Kristi Barcelona

Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District

Ms. Barcelona is a mild/moderate co-taught teacher who has been teaching intensive education for more than three years for the Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District.

Ms. Barcelona is passionate about engaging all students in inclusive activities and continues to encourage athletes and partners to participate in Special Olympics events within the Tri-Valley. “Her teaching and professionalism are what set her apart as a teacher and what makes her deserving as a nominee for Teacher of the Season,” wrote a colleague.

Thank you, Ms. Barcelona!



Mr. Tristan Simbulan

El Cerrito High School

Mr. Simbulan is a special education teacher who has made a positive impact for students and faculty on campus.

Mr. Simbulan was responsible for coordinating a Special Olympics basketball event and engaged the student body through whole-school involvement. He is described as “a dedicated teacher, passionate advocate of inclusiveness, and a positive role model for students and adults to emulate.”

Thank you, Mr. Simbulan!

Learn more about the Schools Partnership Program