The thermostats declare it is no longer winter so it’s time to recognize our Teachers of the Season in Northern California for winter! As you may or may not recall from our fall post, the award is given to a deserving teacher each sport season. Let’s give a huge round of applause for our three winners – Brittany Flack (Contra Costa County), Jeanne DiPaola (Mission Valley SELPA), Jeff Torres (San Mateo County)!
Contra Costa County – Brittany Flack – Monte Vista High School
Brittany Flack teaches the intensive special day class at Monte Vista High School in Danville. Prior to teaching, she was an autism specialist paraeducator while obtaining her moderate-severe special education teaching credential and her masters in special education.
In just two years at Monte Vista, Brittany has helped shape the Special Olympics Schools Partnership Program basketball competition into something people would be excited about and proud to attend. She’s worked with Monte Vista leadership and the friends of Special Olympics club to organize an inclusive, stimulating and fun event. The events have been outstanding, thanks to her involvement! This April, she is also hosting a dance at Monte Vista for the moderate and intensive high school special day classes in San Ramon Valley, Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore school districts.
At Monte Vista, she’s cultivated a strong peer-support system for the students in her class. She’s encouraged general education students to sign up to be tutors in her class throughout the day. She’s also advocated for her students so that they can attend general education classes and feels very fortunate to work with such an accepting and tolerant staff and student body. She sees her students benefiting every day from the positive relationships they’ve developed with general education peers.
“On a daily basis, my students impress and inspire me” Brittany said. “I honestly feel that I learn as much from them as they learn from me. I am so thankful that every day I get to do what I truly love and am so passionate about.”
Mission Valley – Jeanne DiPaola – Mission San Jose High School
Jeanne DiPaola is a long-term substitute teacher at Mission San Jose High School for an Intensive Instruction class. Even though she was not their regular classroom teacher, she took the initiative to sign her students up to participate in Special Olympics in the schools. As soon as basketball season started, she came to the coordinator’s office to pick up equipment so her students could start right away. Jeanne made sure her students were able to practice as much as possible leading up to the event. She was even able to acquire school jerseys for the students to wear during the games. Jeanne went above and beyond and made the event extra special for her students!
San Mateo County – Jeff Torres
Jeff is an adapted physical education specialist for San Bruno Park and Jefferson Elementary school districts. For the past four years, he has been instrumental in developing the Schools Partnership Program basketball program in San Mateo County. Last year, he introduced two semi-pro players to our advanced skills day, and they returned again this year to perform for our athletes.
This basketball season, Jeff had 126 athletes from 13 different classrooms participating in tournaments and skills days. He comes early to help set up the gym, helps load the van, coaches the athletes, brings refs and volunteers, writes grants for transportation and is our athletes’ BIGGEST cheerleader. He loves playing the sport, and most of all, he loves teaching the sport to our kids. He is a living example of sportsmanship and all of his students admire him.