The Teacher of the Season recognition lauds educators who demonstrate exemplary commitment to their students, their respective schools, and the Schools Partnership Program. In a typical school year, nominations are submitted after each season of sport (soccer, basketball, and track & field). Because this year is unlike any other the Spring 2021 Teacher of the Season nomination process was designated to honor educators working in distance, hybrid and in-person learning models. These nominees have continued to implement inventive and engaging Unified Champion School programming and inclusive activities regardless of the challenging circumstances presented in the current school year.
Don Collins, Athletic Commission, San Francisco Unified School District
Don Collins is the Athletic Commissioner for SFUSD and has always been working behind the scenes to initiate district wide athletic programs for our athletes with special needs. In 2020, Don was instrumental in setting up the inaugural Unified Basketball league. The league started with four high school teams and increased to six this year with additional schools joining in the coming seasons. Additionally, he is credited with providing the opportunity for track & field athletes to compete at the CIF sectional and state championships. Don deserves this award because he works tirelessly, without fanfare and is always seeking to provide additional opportunities for our athletes.
Bodey Dressler, PE & APE Specialist Athletic Director, Tri-Valley SELPA
Bodey is an amazing teacher, coach, and mentor to his students at Wells Middle School. He has been inspirational in driving sports for all students and athletes throughout his school. He has been involved with Special Olympics throughout his life as a child, teen and now as a teacher and coach. When asked to be part of virtual events and supporting students he went above and beyond as a leader getting all classes at each level of his middle school involved and active. He is a teacher and coach to all!
Jennifer Hardwick, Special Day Class Teacher, Hayward Unified School District
Jennifer is on the front lines supporting inclusive practices for Mt. Eden High School students. She serves on our Special Olympics committee in Hayward and is always willing to give 100% to ensure successful events for our students. This spring, Jennifer, our APE teacher, and General Education PE Coaches held a Zoom Dance Party. Students from the SDC Moderate/Severe classes along with students from PE classes came together for some Zoom dancing. These kids enjoyed socializing over zoom as well as showing their Macarena and Chicken Dance skills! Ms. Hardwick's students were so excited and proud to show off their Special Olympics shirts to their new friends. This event was a great hit and the students had a blast! Jennifer is highly deserving of the title of Teacher of the Season!
Sarah Watson, Special Day Class Teacher, Pittsburg Unified School District
Sarah Watson co-teaches 2nd to 5th grade students in a Special Day Class at Willow Cove Elementary School. She is an advocate for inclusion and distance learning did not slow her down. In the spring, students participated in Unified Basketball and Track & Field. Sarah organized Unified activities for Autism Awareness month - students made puzzle pieces, fidget spinners, had a sensory play day, and finished with a dance party. Her students participated in Unified Reading Buddies where students read to each other and then answered fun questions to help build their social skills, communication, and peer relationships. Sarah coordinated Unified Virtual Field Trips to Lindsay Wildlife Museum and the Academy of Sciences as well as hosting guest speakers from the Pittsburg Police department and CAL FIRE. Next year Sarah will be the Director of Special Education and Student Services for the Contra Costa County School of Performing Arts. Great job Sarah!