Celebrating Our Spring 2016 Teachers of the Season





Another sports season is ending with track & field winding down. It’s the perfect time to honor those who help make the Schools Partnership Program possible – the teachers. They spend time coaching their student-athletes in practices, coordinating with students and other teachers to host events and guiding their student-athletes at competitions and beyond. They’re an inspiration to their students and to us!


Congratulations to our Spring 2015 Teachers of the Season – Gianna Alexander (Contra Costa County), Maria Falcon (Fresno County), Valerie Hunter (Mission Valley), Steven Russell (Monterey County), Marisa Maskin (San Francisco Unified), Angel Sheridan (San Mateo County) and Jacob Fahahorst (Tri-Valley).


Special Olympics Northern California and our teachers on special assignment select a deserving educator in the fall, spring and summer to earn the prestigious title of Teacher of the Season. Click here to see all past teachers of the season! Read on to see why these teachers rock!


Contra Costa County – Gianna Alexander

Earning the honor for Contra Costa County is Gianna Alexander – an education specialist with Liberty Union High School District! Gianna has been involved in the Schools Partnership Program since it came to Contra Costa County 10 years ago, when she had just started teaching special education.


It’s not just this spring season that she is exemplary; it is every season! She very much enjoys coming to the events! Gianna loves that competitions are reunions, where she can see former students, colleagues, and parents as well as a place to have a great time with her students. Gianna works hard with her students to prepare them for events and is incredibly enthusiastic about the Schools Partnership Program.


“I like the fact that the Schools Partnership Program brings together students in a partnership to work for common goals in physical education,” Gianna said. “It helps their gross and fine motor skills and gives the students an event to look forward to.”


She has helped out and saved the day at the last minute at numerous events, and it is much appreciated! She is someone who can be counted on. Gianna was originally a general education teacher, but became a special education teacher after her son was diagnosed with cerebral palsy 16 years ago. Not only does she teach special needs students, she lives it as well. That experience has helped her to understand and have even more compassion for all her students. She embraces each one of their students and has a can-do attitude. Her class is a warm environment for learning and Gianna is respectful, caring and patient with her students.


“Gianna is a very hard worker who puts her heart into her son and job and everyone ahead of herself,” Gianna’s teaching assistant said.


Fresno County – Maria Falcon

Earning top billing for central California is Maria Falcon! A special education teacher with the Fresno County Office of Education, Maria has been involved with the Schools Partnership Program for over 10 years. Maria helped organize and establish a great working relationship with Fresno Pacific University. This year, Special Olympics held our regional track meet at Fresno Pacific University! With Maria’s help, we have now established a great relationship with students, administrators and everyone in facilities!


Maria is a patient, caring, and very giving person. She gives much of her free time to training, coaching and bringing athletes to various competitions. Maria also helps coordinate many of the local Fresno events, outside of track & field. She really enjoys being a part of Special Olympics. Her passion for Special Olympics comes from her desire to promote inclusion for everyone involved. Maria’s hard work and dedication to her Special Olympics athletes and her overall pleasant demeanor makes her a deserving candidate for this award!


Mission Valley – Valerie Hunter

Hip, hip, hooray for Valerie Hunter – an SDC teacher at Kennedy High School! When we first brought the Schools Partnership Program to Mission Valley last year, Valerie was one of the first teachers to register her class. She has continued to be a leader when it comes to getting other teachers involved in this program. Valerie continues to go above and beyond for each Special Olympics event we have. Not only does she takes the time to have her students practice each week leading up to the event, but she also takes the time to involve the general education students on her campus.


Leading up to our last event of the year, Valerie organized a group of teachers and students on her campus to initiate a disabilities awareness week and promote Special Olympics. With her efforts – along with her colleagues’ hard work – the general education students supported their Special Olympics track & field team. The students without disabilities showed their support for their school mates on campus and had 30 students attend our final event to cheer on their school’s team!


Valerie shows exemplary commitment to her students and the Schools Partnership Program. She is constantly coming up with new ideas how to have more students involved on her campus and new ways to show her students that they can do anything when they put their minds to it. Way to go, Valerie!


Monterey County – Steven Russell

After four great events, Seaside High School’s Steven Russell more than merits the accolade for Monterey! Steven is Seaside’s leadership teacher and has been involved with the Schools Partnership Program for several years but really upped his game this school year! His leadership class volunteered to helped run four different Special Olympics events this year! We could not have done it without them!


Steven has a great rapport with his students. He helps them with the event by staying involved so everything runs smoothly. He has a, “Sure, we can do that” attitude, which is always encourage. He is terrific at following through on everything he says he will do and ensures that his students do the same. He’s a calming presence at Special Olympics events in Monterey schools. We’re grateful for his dedication and involvement with the Schools Partnership Program!


San Francisco Unified – Marisa Maskin

Representing the City by the Bay is Marisa Maskin – San Francisco Unified’s Teacher of the Season! Marisa teaches at New Traditions Elementary School and has been involved with the Schools Partnership Program for many years. She is always enthusiastic about the Schools Partnership Program and goes out of her way to organize her school’s participation in every sport that is offered. Marisa is consistently upbeat and supportive. She goes above and beyond to make sure her students are trained and available to participate in each sport in which they compete.


Marisa really believes that this Schools Partnership Program enhances the potential for each student involved. She has been a wonderful and valuable addition to this program for many years. Without teachers like Marisa, the Schools Partnership Program in San Francisco Unified schools wouldn’t be as great as it is!


San Mateo County – Angel Sheridan

A long-time supporter of the Schools Partnership Program, Angel Sheridan takes home the top honor for San Mateo County! Angel actually worked in the Special Olympics office and has been an active proponent of and participant in the Schools Partnership Program since it was established in 2001! She has been a valuable asset to all of us organizing events in San Mateo County and hosted a great Super Sports Day!


Angel is a very innovative teacher. She brings such passion to her classroom and to her involvement with the Schools Partnership Program. Since she has worked with Special Olympics for some time, she is quite familiar with the mission and objectives of the Schools Partnership Program. She sees the value of sports in schools and provides her students with opportunities to compete. It’s rare to meet a person so dedicated to helping others, but Angel is exactly that and more!


Tri-Valley – Jacob Fahahorst

Three cheers for Jacob Fahahorst – a special day class teacher at Marylin Avenue Elementary School! Jacob has done a great job in coaching his students and giving his time to prepare his classes for all of the competitions. He works diligently to ensure that all his students-athletes – including those with limited ambulatory abilities – are able to participate and experience success in all of the activities. He ran in every inch of the playing field and all distances short and long pushing his students wheelchairs, over great distances several times.


Jacob is an explanatory teacher and is a true asset to all the students he serves. Everyone can see how much dedication and love Jacob has for his job and students. Jacob feels that it is a great opportunity for his students to participate in sporting events through the Schools Partnership Program. He believes having Special Olympics in the schools provides his students with the feeling of success and accomplishment each time they are given the opportunity to participate in events and activities that other general education students do. Jacob’s effort and support of his students demonstrates his level of dedication to student success and achievement. It is evident that he cares for his students and has a love for his job and to those he teaches and mentors each day!


Learn more about the schools partnership program