Celebrating Our Winter 2018 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 winter 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. Melissa McCarthy & Mr. Loren Wortinger

Heritage High School

Ms. McCarthy and Mr. Wortinger are teachers at Heritage High School and have worked to create successful Special Olympics basketball events for the past six years.

Both teachers are described as passionate about their students and are willing to do whatever it takes to create an impactful and memorable experiences. Mr. Wortinger has been a Unified coordinator for six years and is dedicated to bringing together general education students with their peers in special education, saying that Unified Sports helps gen-ed students to become more aware and more comfortable around peers with special needs. Ms. McCarthy describes their Special Olympics event as the highlight of the year, recently bringing together 29 classes for a festive competition.

Thank you, Ms. McCarthy and Mr. Wortinger!


Mr. Alberto Tejera-Rocafort

Lynnhaven Elementary School

Mr. Tejera-Rocafort is an Adaptive Physical Education (APE) Teacher at Lynnhaven Elementary School who has made a significant impact on students with and without intellectual disabilities.

Mr. Tejera-Rocafort has developed an APE program at his school and has seen the positive results from smaller class sizes, creative interaction and specialized activities. Students in APE classes are provided with vocabulary, modeling, instruction and increased opportunities to master their sporting skills. Once the students become comfortable with their abilities, they are integrated with students in general education, where they are able to build strong friendships.

Thank you, Mr. Tejera-Rocafort!


Ms. Cristal Fernandez

Mission High School

Ms. Fernandez is a Physical Education Teacher at Mission High School who has made a big impact on students in the San Francisco Unified School District.

Ms. Fernandez was instrumental in hosting the district’s first Unified Basketball tournament and has regularly integrated her students with their peers in special education, fostering an inclusive and respectful environment. She is excited to continue her work with Special Olympics and says, “It’s awesome to see the two groups, which previously were not connected in any manner, finally realize the worth of each other’s friendships.”

Thank you, Ms. Fernandez!


Ms. Elia Neto

Wilcox High School

Ms. Neto is a Physical Education Teacher at Wilcox High School and has been a leader in the beginning stages of Unified Sports and Special Olympics programming within the Santa Clara Unified School District.

Ms. Neto took it upon herself to create a Unified physical education class to prepare for the district’s first Unified basketball event. She collaborated with teachers, administrators and staff to design and implement the class, which was key in hosting an amazing event. The district is planning to use Ms. Neto’s model to grow Unified Sports to other schools and impact students of all abilities. None of this would be possible without her tireless efforts.

Thank you, Ms. Neto!


Mr. Bodey Dressler

Wells Middle School

Mr. Dressler is the Athletic Director for Wells Middle School within the Dublin Unified School District who has been involved in every aspect of implementing the Schools Partnership Program on campuses.

Mr. Dressler is described as “not only an incredible teacher, but a caring coach who wants the best for all of his students and athletes. He is deserving of being acknowledged as a result of his dedication and efforts to provide sports opportunities for every athlete and student that he teaches and serves. He continues to see the value of sports and the opportunities that the Special Olympics Schools Partnership Program provides for every student with and without special needs.”

Thank you, Mr. Dressler!

learn about the Schools Partnership Program