Congratulations to the 2022 Follow Your Bliss Award Winners!
The Dr. Harry Edwards "Follow Your Bliss" grant was created in 2017 by the 49ers Foundation for full-time educators across the Bay Area who exemplify a commitment to their students, families and communities to lead the future generation with purpose, passion, dedication and love.
The award's namesake stems from the first step in Dr. Edwards' Blueprint for Academic Achievement and Success: "Follow Your Bliss - Explore and consider paths that might lead not just to achieving a career interest but to realizing your calling – the educational option and emphasis that for you lies at the confluence of talent, passion, productive potential, and opportunity."
The award honors educators across the San Francisco Bay Area who lead the future generation with purpose, passion, dedication and love. The recipients of this award receive a $5,000 stipend for in-classroom materials and resources for the next academic year, mentorship of the recipients and his or her fellow teachers led by Dr. Edwards, and formal recognition at a Levi's® Stadium event with family and colleagues.
Dr. Harry Edwards' success as an athlete, a sociologist and an activist can be attributed to a strong work ethic, a work ethic he had to develop at a young age growing up in East St. Louis. In 1960, Edwards packed his bags and moved to the west coast to attend San Jose State on an athletic scholarship. Edwards went on to earn the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship and a University Fellowship to Cornell University where he completed a masters and a Ph.D. in sociology.
Dr. Edwards has always been a catalyst for change. In 1968, he was the lead organizer behind the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR). John Carlos and Tommie Smith, Olympic athletes from San Jose State, took part in this movement when they raised their fist in Black Power salute when they received their medals on the Olympic stand during the 1968 Olympics in Mexico.
In 1986, Edwards also began his work with the 49ers developing programming and counseling methods for the entire organization. He worked closely with head coach Bill Walsh to develop the Minority Coaches' Internship program, which was later adopted by the NFL in 1992 and still exists today as the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship.
Dr. Edwards' work in the diversity and inclusion space has made him a leading authority on matters where race, sport, and society intersect, and he is considered a pioneering scholar in the founding of the sociology of sport as an academic discipline.
Kelly Galante, teaching for 18 years, is currently a 3rd-grade Montclaire Elementary School teacher. Going beyond the pages of the textbook, Mrs. Galante shows students what it is like to be part of a community that learns and grows together. During the pandemic, Mrs. Galante provided her students with opportunities to engage with each other through virtual meetups to play games or share jokes outside of regularly scheduled class time. Mrs. Galante strives to create a learning environment that encourages student choice and active ownership of their educational path.
Candace Love has been an instrumental music and band teacher for August Boeger Middle School and Mount Pleasant Elementary School Districts for six years. In Love's tenure as a music and band teacher, the music program has increased its student participation every year. While the pandemic may have kept students at home, Love endeavored and found a way to bring meaningful music programs to life during distance learning. When returning to in-person learning, Love had to restructure her classroom due to special restrictions on music and sports due to COVID. This restructure included moving classes outdoors, pivoting some classes from wind instruments to percussion instruments and the guitar, and problem-solving any issues that arose with these changes.
Jacqueline Whitwill is an English Teacher at Bayhill High School in Berkeley. She teaches a neurodiverse student body; including students with learning differences such as dyslexia, ADHD, and those on the autism spectrum. Ms. Whitwill instills confidence in her students by capitalizing on their learning strengths and fostering strong self-advocacy skills. As Head of the Humanities department and a supervising teacher, Ms. Whitwill demonstrates her commitment to all students by going above and beyond; redesigning the curriculum to include rich multi-sensory opportunities and diverse perspectives.
Stephanie Palmeri Farías has worked in education for 29 years and has served the San José Unified School District for the past 25 years. Before moving into an administrative role, Palmeri Farías was a Two-Way Bilingual Immersion (TWBI) middle school teacher and district instructional coach. As principal, Palmeri Farías has ensured that Herbert Hoover Middle School fortify its strong community by supporting students through distance learning and the return to in-person instruction through the use of evidence-based strategies such as restorative practices. No matter the pandemic's challenges, Palmeri Farías continues to fiercely advocate for her students, teachers, staff, and families, creating a culture where everyone feels welcome and respected.
Marlon Richardson is the Director of Education for Hip hop for Change serving San Francisco and Oakland-based schools. Providing visionary leadership through design, implementation, and evaluation, Richardson has facilitated community-based Arts Education Programming for the past eight years serving over 200,000 students. By teaching students about the history and evolution of Hip Hop, Richardson has created culturally responsive opportunities for students to learn about social issues, music production, and STEM education. In response to the pandemic, Richardson also converted the arts educational program into a virtual platform to ensure students still had opportunities to engage while distance learning. Marlon works tirelessly to create and improve the arts program and expand its impact.
Binh Dao, 3rd-4th grade teacher at a Title 1 school
Brittney-Lynn Filimoehala-Egan, unit director for the Mid-Peninsula Boys & Girls Club
Cory Jong, 6th-grade humanities teacher
Michele Lamons-Raiford, hearing American Sign Language (ASL) teacher
Emmanuel Stewart, leader and educator in the San Francisco Unified School District
Zeke Aguirre, special education teacher at Andrew P. Hill High School
Zubida Bakheit, 6th-8th grade math and science teacher at American Indian Model Schools
Ashanti Branch, Founder, The Ever Forward Club
Tiffany Ho, 5th-grade teacher at St. Bede Catholic School
Megan Keefer, principal at California High School
Dedra Downing, 2nd-grade teacher at Stipe Elementary
Nannette Reeves, 5th-grade teacher at Sylvia Cassell Elementary
Dr. LuPaulette Taylor, 12th-grade teacher at McClymonds High School – School of Champions
Veronica Miranda-Pinkney, 5th-grade teacher at Walter L. Bachrodt Elementary
The browser you are using is no longer supported on this site. It is highly recommended that you use the latest versions of a supported browser in order to receive an optimal viewing experience. The following browsers are supported: Chrome, Edge (v80 and later), Firefox and Safari.