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Symetra Heroes in the Classroom

The 49ers and Symetra are teaming up to highlight local teachers who are making a difference in the classroom. Click here to nominate your teacher.

Previous Seasons: 2014 | 2015

SHANEKA JULIAN

School: Eastside College Preparatory School

Teaches: Spanish, grades 9-11

Favorite Player: Joe Montana

Why is she a hero?

Shaneka is an excellent Spanish teacher who has inspired many of her students to develop a passion for the language. Outside of class, Shaneka goes out of her way to create opportunities for our students with the goal of motivating them to pursue higher education. Shaneka took the initiative to create our Eastside Society of Engineers by getting Stanford's National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) to sponsor our program. Through this partnership, our students have been able to work with Stanford engineering students who can serve as great role models for our students.       

MICHAEL STERN

School: Wardlaw Elementary School

Teaches: 5th Grade

Favorite Player: Harris Barton

Why is he a hero?

Michael Stern is a true hero in the Vallejo School District. A longtime teacher, he recently helped spearhead a fifth-grade play that helped bring the U.S. presidential election process to life in an engaging way for young students, said Myra Torres, the parent of a Wardlaw Elementary School pupil.

LAURA MARCUS BRICCA

School: Palo Alto High School

Teaches:  Special Education

Favorite Player: Jerry Rice

Why is she a hero?

Laura Bricca is out to make a difference in the world - she certainly changed my life. I struggled with some personal challenges during my senior year, but worked hard to earn the grades I needed to attend college. Laura supported me every step of the way, said Stephanie Estrada, a former student.

BRITTANY DALEY

School: Voices College-Bound Language Academy

Teaches: 2nd Grade

Favorite Player: Carlos Hyde

Why is she a hero?

Students love Ms. Daley, and she loves them. Students don't just learn new skills and knowledge in her class, though their 2-years-on-average of reading growth and 97% class math proficiency are no small accomplishments. Even more important than what students learn, though, is how students ARE in Ms. Daley's class. Children blossom under her love and support: they know they are valued, they know they are smart, and they know they are here to change the world for the better. Ms. Daley builds whole students who leave her classroom as hard workers, big dreamers, caring friends, daring activists, and lifelong learners. 

CHANDRA LEONARDO

School: Kennedy Middle School

Teaches: 6th Grade - Language Arts

Favorite Player: Jerry Rice

Why is she a hero?

"I have a son who has ADHD and has never cared for reading and writing. It bores him, he sees no value in it and has done the bare minimum for years just to pass the class. It has been a battle to get him to read ANYTHING and he usually ended up having meltdowns. It has been very frustrating. He has never had any interest in getting better at this. We were so lucky we got Mrs. Leonardo for English language arts! She infuses technology into her English classes. I have never been in one of her classrooms but I'm sure she must have some magical quality because she has gotten my son to LOVE this class… This teacher is the most communicative teacher I have ever had. When one sends their kids to Middle School, it is hard for the parents and the kids alike. For the kids, it is the unknown and the transition into being young adults. It's an awkward time for them. For parents, it is hard to let go of the daily minutiae of seeing the kid's teachers every day and being more hands-on in their lives…. Every parent I've talked to at that school that has a 6th grader absolutely adores her. Every child that has her for a teacher feels the same way.”

MARY TRINKLE

School: Costano Elementary

Teaches: 4th Grade

Favorite Player: Phil Dawson

Why is she a hero?

Mary Trinkle goes out of her way to communicate with parents and get them involved in their child's development and education. She also works with each student to reach their personal goals, whether they are excelling in her class and the student could benefit from extra-curricular programs/activities so that they continue on their successful path and are en route to a good middle-school, high school, etc. With kids who are more behaviorally challenged, she really helps them out by bringing positive attention to the situation with parents and staff involved and she lets the student come up with their own solutions, consequences so that they take ownership of the issue. She is very patient and very involved in her students' development and success. It takes a lot of energy and patience and Mary really pull through for her students.

Melissa Le

School: Don Callejon School

Teaches: Kindergarden

Favorite Player: Joe Montana

Why is she a hero?

Ms. Le is a warm and loving presence for the Kinders. From Day 1 she makes these new students feel welcomed to the new school environment. She encourages the children to share their individual interests and cultures while being part of the larger classroom community. Ms. Le genuinely cares about her class. She eats lunch every day with her students. She provides food to anyone who forgot their lunch, t-shirts for those who forget the right field trip t-shirt, and will stay late if a parent is late to pick up their child. She is there for the kids from before school until well after school. The Kinders have a steady and caring guardian for always has their backs.

Rylan Stewart

School: Central Park Elementary

Teaches: 1st Grade

Favorite Player: Steve Young

Why is she a hero?

Teacher Rylan Stewart is a truly passionate teacher who goes above and beyond the established teacher role. She spends her own personal money purchasing learning tools for kids in her classroom because she is so focused on doing what is best for the kids.. She has anonymously donated hundreds of dollars from her own private finances to various DonorsChoose campaigns at our school for projects that do not even benefit her own classroom.. Rylan Stewart's commitment to every child shows in her ability to not just engage typical children but also kids with atypical needs. She was able to help an autistic child come out the shell and engage in a warm, safe, atmosphere. She is very humble. Always willing to help. Always the last to seek any recognition for her work.

Natalie Lai

School: Santa Teresa High School

Teaches: English

Favorite Player: Joe Montana

Why is she a hero?

Natalie does so many things for others to make their life at the school less stressful and overwhelming. Natalie works with most of her seniors, and many students she has had in the past that are now seniors, on their college applications, which can be a very stressful time in their lives. She never says no to anyone who asks her for help and she is always very honest with everyone. She offers her help to everyone, even if she doesn’t know the student and tries her best to do what she can. She has always been so kind, generous and selfless, she helps her students that may be struggling in her class to re-explain the lesson so they understand it better, even though it’s during her free time. She always thinks of her students first because she loves every one of them. Also, in her classroom she has a bunch of things that make the students feel more comfortable in the class.

Colby Chambers

School: KIPP Heritage Academy

Teaches: 7th Grade Science

Favorite Player: Jerry Rice

Why is he a hero?

When you speak to Mr. Chambers you can FEEL his love and passion for teaching. He has an incredible energy that shines and it is reflective in the classroom. The children are excited and eager to learn and they seem to stay engaged. The middle school years can be challenging developmentally and Mr. Chambers has made sure to continue his own education and learn how the middle school child's inner thinking is working and takes that into consideration when developing his lesson plans to make sure his students are engaged. He has also formed a Performing Arts club after school so that students have another outlet for creativity! He helps provide the very best learning environment for our children. This could not happen without amazing teachers, like Mr. Chambers, who love what they do each and every day.

Ana Reed

School: Joaquin Miller Middle School

Teaches: 6-8 Consumer Economics

Favorite Player: Joe Montana

Why is she a hero?

From the year she was hired, Ms. Reed has made an exemplary commitment to the entire Miller Middle School community.  She teaches three different courses [Foods, Fashion Design, & Exploratory Wheel] and always asks if there is anything else she can do. Ms. Reed teaching style is innovative and energetic. She greets her students at the door each day with a HUGE smile. Her lessons are engaging by providing the students with real-world skills during hands-on activities. A prime example of her creativity occurred just this January as her budget for her foods class dwindled to $44, she created a lesson where students were given a small budget to create a cost-effective meal. It was a true real-world lesson. Ms. Reed is highly respected by all of her students. Many of the students in her class have a variety of exceptional needs from minor learning disabilities to severe developmental delays. Consistently, Ms. Reed creates an environment where all students feel welcome and valued. Plus, she allows our special education students the opportunity to not only feel successful but to have the confidence to interact in confidently in a general education setting. All of her work adds to the positive climate at Miller Middle School.

Gerson Sandovla

School: San Jose High School

Teaches: Biology

Favorite Player: Joe Montana

Why is he a hero?

Gerson teaches Biology at a high school with the highest percentage of low socio-economic students in the district. He makes connections with students and helps them feel safe on campus in order for them to learn. Many of our students come from complicated lives, traumatic histories, and low resources. Gerson, as a teacher and school staff member, is THE adult on campus that students turn to when they need support. He goes above and beyond to connect students to the resources they need and individualizes student lessons in order to ensure that every student learns the skills they need in order to succeed academically and in society… Last year he held workshops after school to support his students with the college application process. He advocated for his students to assure they have all the resources needed to pursue a higher education, and encouraged all of his students to apply... He is definitely a hero in the classroom and throughout the San Jose High community

Barbara Kelly

School: St. Justin School

Teaches: 7th Grade

Favorite Player: Joe Montana

Why is she a hero?

Mrs. Kelly has the most amazing gift to make every person she comes in contact with feel like the most important person in the world. She has the ability to point out the positive in every student and help them grow within their abilities. She teaches the 7th grade, when confidence starts to diminish with adolescence, she finds the diamond in each and every student and gives them the tools SHINE! She has this capability among the entire class...the theatre kids, the academic students, the athletic students, the child struggling or the student having family struggles. She zeros in on your strengths and recognizes it. She tries to show her students, while important, that there is more to life, that there is more to her than the grade on the paper or the transcripts that she sends to high school. That her students success is not measured in test scores but in happiness, inclusion and the amazing young adults that they will grow in to.

Michele Goetowski

School: Village School

Teaches: 4th Grade

Favorite Player: Steve Young

Why is she a hero?

Michele celebrates the process, not the product of learning. The climate in her class is warm, positive, safe and inclusive, embracing families in a collaborative effort to support all children on their road to lifelong learning. Step inside Michele’s class and you will experience engaged, and supportive students taking responsibility for their learning and for their environment. Students helping each other in class, feeling accepted, encouraging each other, and understanding/accepting that everyone is at a different level. You will feel the confidence of students who have been accepted for who they are and who have had a chance to voice their opinion and to help write the rules. It was no surprise that Michele was also selected to be Teacher of the Year for our school!

Tracey Rodriguez

School: Sedgwick Elementary School

Teaches: 5th Grade

Favorite Player: Ronnie Lott

Why is she a hero?

Mrs. Rodriguez makes a huge difference in her students' lives by repeatedly reinforcing how important it is to be practicing good life skills like being organized, exercising regularly, eating & sleeping well, and being good citizens. A a current project she is working on to teach our school's upper grade students about the importance of being an informed voter and voting is and is in the process of creating mock voting booths so that our school's upper grade students will have the opportunity to "vote" on Election Day. She leads our Student Council, offering those students opportunities to organize service projects like “Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF"… coat drives or holiday gift drives for the less fortunate. I think it is so important and wonderful that Mrs. Rodriguez provides our school's students opportunities to participate in service projects. Overall Mrs. Rodriguez makes a difference in her students' lives on a daily basis simply by being an amazing caring adult role model for them.

Ida Stevens

School: Sakamoto Elementary School

Teaches: Kindergarten

Favorite Player: Joe Montana

Why is she a hero?

Mrs. Stevens is often the first teacher for a student's school career (as not all students go to pre-school) and she takes this task seriously, because she is the foundation upon which they build. Her classroom is colorfully decorated, prepared, and organized, she brings supplies from home to offer her students experiences that may not be possible with only school funding, will come to after-school events when her students are involved to show that she supports them in their other efforts (she even brought the students flowers, she encourages kindness among the school and neighborhood community, and overall she is a calming, caring presence for them each day. Mrs. Stevens’ students feel connected to school and they feel cared for, all while they are learning.