Celebrating Our Winter 2015 Teachers of the Season





Oscars, Emmys, People’s Choice Awards…they’ve got nothing on our Teachers of the Season award! Given to a deserving teacher, this accolade recognizes their hard work with their students and the Schools Partnership Program. During the winter, we appreciate teachers for their accomplishments during basketball season.


Congratulations to our winter 2015 winners – John Blake (Contra Costa County), Patrick Adams (Fresno County), Chloe Muela (Mission Valley), Ember Junio (San Francisco Unified) Kelly Power (San Mateo County) and Haris Demidzic (Tri-Valley)!


Contra Costa County – John Blake

This season’s winner from Contra Costa County hails from San Ramon Valley High School – special education teacher John Blake. John has taught at SRVHS since 1995, has been with the Schools Partnership Program for eight years and helped bring Special Olympics basketball to SRVHS three years ago. John recently assisted in putting on an outstanding rally on campus – held the day before a Special Olympics event – to promote respect for students of all abilities and recognize the athletes would be competing.


John encourages other teachers to attend Special Olympics Schools Partnership Program events and helped ease their concerns that arise when going on a major field trip. He has a great way of engaging each student and treats them with a great deal of dignity and respect. His high energy is delightful to see. He also has an excellent sense of humor, which is wonderful for everyone!


John works with a great team of teachers who are all also exemplary in what they do. They are all easy to work with and have a great dedication to their students. They’re all pictured below: Ann Cifarelli, Shirin Kamal, and Tony Ohlson:


“I love the Special Olympics Program and enjoy the fact that it has grown over the years,” John Blake said. “I am excited for the events and my students are as well. It is a great program for parents to come and see their children, connect with other parents and to also know they are not alone in their challenges. Once parents go to a Schools Partnership Program event, they return again and again to see their child compete and participate and often times to help drive!”


Fresno County – Patrick Adams

A special education teacher at Roosevelt High School in Fresno, Calif., Patrick Adams has been involved with Special Olympics for over 10 years. He was part of the Special Olympics program in Fresno when it was a grassroots volunteer program, and has continued with the more recent Schools Partnership Program in Fresno. Patrick has made huge strides in helping promote Special Olympics on the Roosevelt High School campus. His dedication to his student athletes, and his desire to include everyone makes him a good choice for teacher of the season!


Patrick always has his athletes trained, coached and ready to compete. This season, his teams were very well trained and even won a few games, which made his players very happy. All of his players were very cordial and polite towards their opponents.


With his students, Patrick is compassionate, understanding and very patient. Patrick’s very friendly demeanor and easy-going personality allows him to connect with all of his students. At a most recent Schools basketball tournament, Patrick shared with me that Special Olympics was the reward for all of his great students and that he thoroughly enjoys watching his athletes compete and just generally have a good time.


Mission Valley – Chloe Muela

A first-year speech teacher at Washington High School, Chloe Muela is Mission Valley’s teacher of the season – in her very first season of involvement with the Schools Partnership Program, no less! When she heard about the classes on campus being involved in the School Partnership Program, she instantly wanted to participate.


She took it upon herself to find time in her day to coach two of the classes on campus two times a week. Chloe started them off with the fundamentals of basketball and was able to teach the students about offense and defense. She was also able to get a general education student involved who assisted her in coaching the teams.


Her passion and drive for not only the sport of basketball, but for the student success is undeniable. Leading up to the big event, one class unfortunately was left without a classroom teacher. During this time, Chloe stepped up and made sure each student had their time to practice basketball and ensured they were able to have transportation to the venue. Chloe went above and beyond her call of duty.


San Francisco Unified – Ember Junio

Ember Junio – an inclusive services/special education teacher at A.P Gianinni Middle School – is deserving of San Francisco Unified’s Teacher of the Season award. Ember teaches grades 6-8 and has been involved in the Schools Partnership Program for about six years.


“The experience students with disabilities gain from participation in the Schools Partnership Program is invaluable,” Junio said. “They are able to build and use their skills as a part of a team or be included in sports on a skills day that they would not be able to access otherwise.


Furthermore, having our students see other teams’ strengths and struggles helps them to appreciate the value of practice and cooperation. Plus, everyone wins and gets to hear their name called out while receiving a ribbon! As a teacher, the information/tools provided have helped me to better understand scaffolding of physical activity that I can generalize to academic support with projects and inclusion with PE!”


Ember is very dedicated to not only her students, but also to having as many students in her school’s inclusion program participate in the Schools Partnership Program in San Francisco.


She is instrumental in getting large numbers of students training and then participating in the Schools Partnership Program events. Ember trains teams for soccer and basketball and organizes groups for skills days. Her whole group of more than 30 students comes to the track and field meet every year. This season, she had 47 students participate in basketball. Ember had two teams coming to two team tournaments and then had students attend a skills day as well. She is one of the most dedicated and hard working teachers who have been involved in the Schools Partnership Program!


San Mateo County – Kelly Power

San Mateo County’s winner is Kelly Power, who is the global citizen coordinator for Sacred Heart Schools. Kelly has been involved with hosting Schools Partnership Program events for roughly two years. Aside from being one of the easiest individuals to work with, her organizational skills are impeccable. Kelly has a unique ability to manage both small and large-scale events that require a lot of manpower. She is very deserving of this award because of her selfless attitude when it comes to openly giving to others.


Kelly has a fantastic ability to manage the volunteer process from recruitment, job placement and reflection. Since Kelly works with students in grades 1-8, she has the ability to create a positive presence amongst all the students within the lower school of Sacred Heart. Because of her very pleasant demeanor, students genuinely want to listen to her while she’s giving directions or facilitating an informative session with her students.


Kelly is one of the most patient people. Many of her students don’t always have the opportunity to interact with students with disabilities so Kelly sees the importance of providing the students with that chance. Not only is this a learning experience outside of the classroom, but it is also a lesson in how to be patient, tolerant, and altruistic. Sacred Heart prides itself on diversity, multiculturalism and inclusion. Sacred Heart’s involvement in the Schools Partnership Program allows them to fully embrace and demonstrate this ideology.


Tri-Valley – Haris Demidzic

Incredibly well deserving of the Tri-Valley award is adapted physical educator Haris Demidzic! He has been a dedicated and hard-working supporter of the Schools Partnership Program from the very beginning, when the program was introduced to Tri-Valley.


“Special Olympics Northern California’s Schools Partnership Program has revolutionized our programs!” Haris said.


Harris is an inspiration to all teachers on how technology can impact every student at any level. He introduced technology-based movement and skill activities that are were interactive and fun for all. He has been a valuable resource and team member to all. He is the type of educator that makes physical activities fun and engaging, which has been invaluable to the Special Olympics Northern California Schools Partnership Program in Tri-Valley.


Learn more about the Schools Partnership Program