Words of praise echoed the halls of the 49ers Museum on May 14, as 49ers EDU honored the three remarkable recipients of the second annual Dr. Harry Edwards "Follow your Bliss" award in front of their family and colleagues.
"Some teachers are good teachers and they teach a subject, and better teachers start to teach so they can make learning fun," said 49ers co-chair John York. "But a great teacher is someone who leads us to learn, and when you are led to learn you stop needing a teacher, and you learn for the rest of your life."
In 2017, 49ers EDU – which is a direct program of the 49ers Foundation – launched the Dr. Harry Edwards "Follow Your Bliss" educator grant for a Bay Area teacher who has shown a commitment to leading the future generation with purpose, passion, dedication and love. The program was expanded this year to three teachers across K-12. Each teacher was presented with a $5,000 stipend to be used for in-classroom materials and resources for the 2019-2020 academic year. In addition, the recipients will be visited by Dr. Edwards and receive mentorship for themselves and their fellow teachers. Dr. Edwards will also have the opportunity to address the students of the recipient as well as a larger population of the student body.
Dr. Harry Edwards, a nationally renowned sociologist, civil rights activist, educator, author and longtime 49ers team consultant underscored the importance of great teachers.
"We believe not only in supporting teachers, but we believe that teaching is the greatest of all professions," said Dr. Edwards. "Unlike law, engineering, medicine, architecture, dentistry and so forth where a professional does something for people – teachers incite and inspire people to think and to learn so that they can do for themselves."
The following individuals were celebrated for helping foster a love of learning in their classrooms and setting an example for their fellow teachers in the community:
Nannette Reeves, a 5th-grade teacher at Sylvia Cassell Elementary (San Jose), worked as a graphic designer for many years before she decided to pursue her passion for education. Twenty years after graduating from the University of Alabama, Reeves went back to college to earn her Masters of Arts in Technology. She shares her passion for math and science with her students with the hope that they too will find the value in it. She credits a lot of her personal and professional growth to her principle Dr. Sarmiento in helping her to become the STEAM teacher and leader that she is today.
Dedra Downing, a 2nd-grade teacher at Stipe Elementary (San Jose) and San Jose native, is a veteran in the Oak Grove School district. Not only was she raised in San Jose, but she too attended school in the same district she has poured her heart and soul into for 25 years. After receiving her teaching credentials and Bachelor's degree in Child Development and her Masters in Educational Administration from San Jose State University, Downing returned to her school district to close the opportunity gap for students. Downing spends every day doing her part to ensure that her students have access to an enriched learning environment and are set up for success.
Dr. LuPaulette Taylor, a 12th-grade teacher at McClymonds High School – School of Champions (Oakland), is native of West Oakland and long-time Oakland Unified School District educator. Dr. Taylor is primarily an English teacher, but after 49 years she has become versed a variety of subjects and taught U. S. History, American Government, Economics, Creative Writing, Physical Education and has even picked up coaching. Her love for learning and for her students can be attributed to her mission to best prepare them to face the challenges and rewards that college and whatever career path they choose may bring.
The Dr. Harry Edwards "Follow Your Bliss" Award is a continuation of 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."
All three teachers not only follow this blueprint but are exemplary role models for their students, fellow educators and members of the community. They do what they do out of unwavering love for education and for the sole benefit of their kids.
"We coach, we teach, we play, we inspire, we excite, we ignite," said award recipient Nannette Reeves. "We create environments where learning and growing is possible."