In a Class of Their Own

Special Olympics Northern California Recognizes Teachers of the Season in Seven Areas

The influence of a great teacher can never be erased. Special Olympics Northern California is honoring seven teachers this season 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 area representatives for the fall season. Special Olympics Northern California recognizes the contributions of partnering special education, adapted physical education (APE) and other teachers for their outstanding efforts in impacting the lives of students with intellectual disabilities.

The honored teachers include:



Mr. Andrew Lemos

Antioch High School

Mr. Lemos is a Special Day Class teacher for grades nine through 12 at Antioch High School and has provided ample opportunities for his students both inside and outside of the classroom. He started a buddy club at the school, organized an after-school prom for students with special needs and hosted a Unified Soccer match at the school, among other initiatives. Mr. Lemos is passionate about inclusion and allowing his students to be a visible part of the school community.

“I love that he gets our students engaged with the general population,” said Laneasha Lee, an assistant for Mr. Lemos. Marilyn Evans, another assistant, added: “There is a feeling of love in the air.”

Mr. Lemos has helped to transform Antioch High School into a fun, safe and inclusive campus for all students. Thank you, Mr. Lemos!


Mr. Jody Tims

Eastside Union School District

Mr. Tims is a teacher for the Eastside Union Post-Senior Schools Partnership Program, serving students with intellectual disabilities age 18 through 21. He has made significant changes in his class schedule in order for his students to be involved with sports and encourages them to express their creativity in the classroom, on the field, and within the community.

Mr. Tims has gone above and beyond to get his students involved in Special Olympics Northern California events, including encouraging one student to act as the play-by-play announcer for a tournament. Through this experience and numerous others, Mr. Tims allows his students to take pride in their work and grow as individuals. Thank you, Mr. Tims!


Cindy Linderer TOS.JPG

Ms. Cindy Lederer

Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District

Ms. Lederer is an elementary release time coordinator and head of elementary physical education for students in kindergarten through sixth grade for the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District. Ms. Lederer played an instrumental role in organizing a Special Olympics soccer event at Fairfield High School – all on her own time out of the kindness of her heart.

She attended all event meetings, got other elementary physical education teachers involved, and coordinated the music and emceed the event itself. Ms. Lederer has gone above and beyond to support students from all backgrounds within her community. Thank you, Ms. Lederer!



Ms. Telisa Kidwell (pictured) and Ms. Florence Srinivasan

Fairmeadow Elementary School

Ms. Kidwell and Ms. Srinivasan are special education teachers who have worked together at Fairmeadow Elementary School to create a Unified Sports team and encourage their students to be an active part of the school community. Through Unified Sports, students with and without intellectual disabilities are brought together to play on the same team, providing a unique opportunity for them to learn about inclusion in a fun and active environment.

Thank you, Ms. Kidwell and Ms. Srinivasan!



Mr. Andrew Batman

Mills High School

Mr. Batman’s first year of teaching at Mills High School and he has already made a big impact in partnering with Special Olympics Northern California at the school. Mr. Batman has been involved with Special Olympics since he was in high school himself, and his experience was a major factor in him becoming a special education teacher. Mr. Batman hosted a Special Olympics soccer event at Mills High School and was passionate about including the entire school in the fun – including as athletes, referees, skills volunteers, greeting committee members, team liaisons and more.

“The entire campus was all smiles,” said a fellow teacher.

Thanks to Mr. Batman, Mills High School is planning to host two more Special Olympics events at the school before the end of the year. Thank you, Mr. Batman!



Mr. Marc Crivello

Montgomery High School

Mr. Crivello is a special education student aide at Montgomery High School and has spearheaded the creation of the school’s first Unified Basketball game in early February. He is also working with Santa Rosa High School for future Unified Basketball competitions and encourages inclusion and unity throughout the campus. Thank you, Mr. Crivello!


Mr. Leif Bostrom


Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District

Mr. Bostrom is a Special Day Class teacher for grades six through eight in the Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District and serves the greater area as a part of the Tri-Valley Schools Partnership Program, which includes districts in Pleasanton, Livermore and Dublin. Mr. Bostrom has been a part of the Special Olympics Northern California Schools Partnership Program since the beginning and is an avid supporter of Unified Sports, specifically in cross country.

Thank you, Mr. Bostrom, for making a positive impact in schools throughout the Tri-Valley!


Inclusion Starts Early


Lewis E. Rowe Elementary School in East Las Vegas hosted a Disability Awareness Assembly for students in partnership with Special Olympics Nevada last Tuesday.

Students gathered to discuss spreading respect and treating others with acceptance and inclusion, and how to stop saying words that hurt each other’s feelings. The assembly qualified Rowe Elementary to become a Special Olympics Champion School, as a banner was presented to the school from Special Olympics. Champion Schools complete three levels of activation, including participating in Unified Sports or the Young Athletes Program; encouraging volunteering or hosting volunteer events at the school; and Whole-School Involvement activities, including assemblies and other all-encompassing events.

Along with the assembly, the young students were asked to write personal essays on why it is important to treat others with respect and how they would make an individual with a disability feel accepted. Several students read their essays in front of the assembly. Highlights from the essays, adjusted for spelling, included:

“Accept people as they are. If you are a good person you would accept people as they are and by doing that you would make someone’s day. By making someone’s day, that would make them feel special.”

  • Alan, 2nd Grade

“We all have to be respectful, friendly, caring, kind, helpful and tolerant of people who are different or have a disability. We are all special in our own ways, even if you are different, that’s OK because we are all different but we’re all humans.”

  • Stephanie, 3rd Grade

“Have you ever known someone with a disability? Well, I have. My cousin has a disability. I make him laugh by playing with him. When he can’t reach something, I get it for him. In conclusion, people like my cousin are just like you and me, and let’s treat them like we treat each other.”

  • Ian, 3rd Grade

“It is very important to respect others because if you want to be treated nicely, you should treat others nicely so you will get respect back.”

  • Asia, 5th Grade

“I would make a person with a disability feel accepted by letting them participate in any activities. I would help them with something if they do not understand. I would try to make them my friend.”

  • Adrian, 5th Grade

“Think about it, if you had a disability you wouldn’t want to be made fun of, so why would anyone else look forward to it? I bet you $1 million that you’ll get more friends and less enemies if you show respect to everybody.”

  • Janessa, 5th Grade

The Special Olympics Nevada Schools Partnership Program is a unique education program in K-12 schools that unifies students with and without disabilities through sports and Whole-School Involvement activities. These programs provide students with the knowledge, experience, and skills necessary to create and sustain school communities that promote inclusion, acceptance, and respect for all students.

Are you a teacher, or know someone who may be interested in creating a more inclusive environment in their school? Email or visit for more information.

A Royal Court


Special Olympics Unified Basketball Tips Off with Primetime Exhibition Games

One shot. Two shots. Three shots.

On his fourth shot, Special Olympics Unified Basketball player Mauri dropped it through the hoop, sending hundreds of combined fans, families and students into a frenzy on Friday night at Tamalpais (Tam) High School in Mill Valley, California.

“I felt like Michael Jordan,” exclaimed Mauri, donning a new Nike headband and kicks to complement his San Rafael jersey.

Mauri was one of the Special Olympics athletes taking part in the first Unified Basketball game of the season on Friday, which brings together people with and without physical/intellectual disabilities to play on the same team. It was inspired by a simple principle – that training and competing together is a quick path to friendship, understanding, and inclusion. Unified Sports is especially impactful in schools, where general education students are integrated with students in the special education program in a fun and active setting. Unified Sports is a way for people – and students – to interact with other populations with a common bond and team goal.

“I’ve seen a growth in confidence across the board,” said Michael Lovejoy, special education teacher and head coach for the Unified Basketball team at Tam. “It gives these students the sense that they are part of a strong community. That they’re not on an island.”


The 12-minute game between San Rafael and Tam was one of three Unified Basketball games across Marin County on Friday evening, each scheduled in primetime between the women’s and men’s varsity games. The showcase provided a unique opportunity to highlight Unified Basketball to a large, captive audience and bring more attention to the positive impacts that it can have on both the students in special education and general education programs.

Other games on Friday included San Marin High School hosting Terra Linda High School and Drake High School hosting Redwood High School – a thrilling game that ended on a last-second three-pointer by Special Olympics athlete Nic, sending fans and students from both schools flooding the court in celebration.

Special Olympics also made a brief public announcement and explanation of the program at each game, and the Athlete Oath was recited. Unified Basketball team lineups are comprised of three students in special education and two students in general education on the court together at a time.

At Tam, the players were introduced individually on the PA system and entered the court through a line of cheerleaders from each school, adding to the all-star experience. Varsity players from the Tam and San Rafael teams cheered on the athletes, giving high-fives and loud support throughout the entire game.

Tam Athletic Director Christina Amoroso hopes that Unified Sports will continue to grow throughout Marin County – and beyond.

“Mr. Lovejoy has done an amazing job of getting his students out within the general population and making them a visible part of the school community,” she said. “This type of inclusion has become the norm here.”

Along with impacting the students with special needs, Lovejoy added that he has noticed a positive influence on the general education students on his team as well.


“It changes what they do in their daily lives,” said Lovejoy, on the general education players. “They are filled with joy. The little problems that they may have had before become just little problems; which goes against the high school-age stereotype. Now we’ve seen on campus that students, especially those in the stands for these games, are greeting the athletes in the hallway – ‘Hey, great game!’ – and then later coming by my classroom to see how they can get involved.”

Unified Basketball has grown in the Marin County Athletic League (MCAL) to six total teams this season. Unified Sports is offered in a variety of different sports with varying age ranges and levels, both within schools and in the community. Follow on Facebook and Twitter @SONorCal and Instagram @SpecialOlympicsNCA for updates throughout the season and check out the website for more information.

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Forum for Inclusion


Clifford O. Findlay Middle School in North Las Vegas is creating a more inclusive environment for students with intellectual disabilities at their school. Teachers nominated students to participate in the Student Leadership Summit where students were educated about intellectual disabilities and then the students had a guided discussion about ways to include their fellow students.

“The summit was a great way for our student leaders to meet other students on the common ground of setting a culture of respect on the Findlay campus,” said Edith Tatlock, an educator in the Autism Program at Clifford O. Findlay Middle School.

Findlay Middle School began their journey into creating a more whole school environment this fall by participating in Respect Week. Respect Week is a school-wide campaign where students take the R-Word Pledge and vow never to use the word ‘retard(ed)’. The R-Word Campaign and Respect Week are great tools for schools to engage students in recognizing ways they can end bullying on campus.

Special Olympics Nevada and Findlay Middle School are looking forward to partnering together to bring Unified Sports to their campus. Unified Sports is an inclusive sports opportunity for students with and without disabilities. Unified Sports is a great way to foster respect among peers by working together and competing as a team. We commend Findlay Middle School, their teachers, and students for taking steps to include and engage all of their students.

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Spring Valley High School Unified Soccer


Spring Valley High School in Nevada sent two Unified Soccer teams to White Middle School to compete in the Special Olympics Nevada Secondary Unified Soccer tournament.

Special Olympics Unified Sports is an inclusive sports opportunity for students with and without disabilities to participate as equals on the same school team thus benefitting and unifying the entire campus. Special Olympics Nevada in collaboration with Clark County School District Adapted Physical Education department and staff are offering new opportunities to build skills and develop confidence.

Special Olympics Nevada Schools Partnership Program is dedicated to promoting social inclusion through shared sports training and competition experiences.  Having sports in common is just one more way that preconceptions and false ideas are swept away.