This Fall’s Best Teachers

Seems like back-to-school shopping happened just yesterday, but it’s already almost winter break! Special Olympics Northern California had a great fall season of soccer with lots of new schools jumping on board and more Unified Sports teams starting! Our Unified Schools is excited to honor our Fall 2014 Teachers of the Season!

Given each sport season – soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter and track & field in the spring – Teacher of the Season goes to a deserving teacher involved in our Schools Partnership Program. Huge kudos go out to our Fall 2014 winners – Michelle Elliott (Clark County), Keiko Arimitsu (Contra Costa County), John Duran (Fresno County), Jennifer Rincon (Monterey), Mani Allen (Mission Valley), Maya Russell-Nava (San Francisco Unified), Sean Dmyterko (San Mateo County), Stephanie Dennis (Santa Rosa), Debby Day (Tri-Valley)

Clark County – Michelle Elliott

Michelle Elliott works with middle schools in the Clark County School District. She’s been tirelessly involved with Special Olympics Nevada Schools Partnership Program for over five years. Michelle stands out because she wants to provide as many activities as possible for students with intellectual disabilities. She is absolutely dedicated to providing the best atmosphere possible.

This fall season, she really took ownership of hosting competitions. Michelle did a great job assigning tasks for her fellow teachers and making sure the competition ran smoothly. Michelle, not only gives her time to Special Olympics, but also for Best Buddies. She also has to balance her extra activities while taking care of her family.

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Contra Costa County – Keiko Arimitsu

Keiko is a Bridge Program teacher and has been involved in the program for six years. Keiko is very deserving of this award for not only what she has done this season, but also for what she does every season of every year. She has been a driving force in getting all of the Bridge Program teachers on board with the program, has helped organize teams and practices every season and has also been one of the most flexible teachers and certainly knows how to go with the flow! She is a valuable member of the Schools Partnership Program.

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Keiko is certainly a bright spot when she is out at an event! She is warm and engaging and you can tell that she cares a great deal about her students. She encourages them and cheers them on in whatever they do!

“I look forward to participating each year and seeing our friends from all over the county,” Keiko said. “I am impressed at how the Special Olympics Northern California Schools Partnership Program brings schools together in a unique way by allowing students of all ability levels to compete in a friendly, but challenging sporting event. It is encouraging to see so many enthusiastic and helpful peer volunteers from the host schools.”

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Fresno County – John Duran

John Duran has been a teacher for over 20 years and has been involved in the Schools Partnership program for many years in Fresno County. John continues to train and bring athletes to competitions and he coaches various soccer teams. His teams are always prepared to play and are always very respectful of all coaches, volunteers and other athletes.

There are so many things that make John worthy of this award – his patience, commitment to all of his athletes, his dedication to improving the lives of everyone with whom he comes in contact. He truly believes in how Special Olympics student-athletes lives are bettered through training, competition and fellowship. John’s overall support of Special Olympics makes him valuable to this program.

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Mission Valley – Mani Allen

Mani is a special day class teacher and this is her first year with the Schools Partnership Program. Even though it was her very first event, Mani took off running with it. She was able to have her students in matching shirts and worked with a general education teacher to bring 34 fifth grade buddies with them to the event.

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Monterey – Jennifer Rincon

Jennifer is an adaptive physical education specialist, and this is her first year participating in the Schools Partnership Program. She has most of the participating elementary schools on her caseload so she has coached the majority of teams competing in the event. Jennifer got equipment donations at the beginning of the year, and she has access to equipment needed the day of the event– which helps the partnership program a great deal.

Jennifer is always available and willing to help with the program and competitions. She has been a great sounding board for bouncing ideas off of and has a lot of good suggestions to help the event run smoothly.

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San Francisco Unified – Maya Russell-Nava

Maya is a special education teacher who has been involved in the program for many years. She is typical of the dedicated and enthusiastic special educators who work with the Special Olympics Schools Partnership Program. She was an easy choice for soccer teacher of the season.

Maya has been very dedicated to her students and to the program since she started in her class some years ago. She and her class have participated in the Bay Area track & field meets each year. She trained and came for two soccer events this season. Her participation in the Stevenson Mini Skills Day helped to make that event a great event.

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San Mateo County – Sean Dmyterko

Sean Dmyterko is an adaptive physical education teacher for the San Mateo County Office of Education. Sean has been involved in the Special Olympics Schools Partnership Program as long as it has been running through the San Mateo County Office of Education.

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With Sean’s infectious enthusiasm and fervor for the Special Olympics Schools Partnership Program, he has graciously taken it upon himself to help the program become successful this soccer season. He made himself accessible and has been valuable to the students. Words cannot express how thankful the program is for Sean. Between helping with the logistics and execution of the competition, he has helped everything be a success.

Sean is a natural-born leader with a presence that makes people become attentive. You can clearly see the passion he has for his job and the students that encompass it. An outsider can easily see the relationships that Sean has established with each and every one of his students. That is one of the most important qualities of an educator – can he/she effectively establish rapport with their students? Sean has definitely done that!

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Santa Rosa – Stephanie Dennis

Stephanie is a special day class teacher, and this is her first season with the Schools Partnership Program. Stephanie stepped up to help organize and run a group of our student volunteers on top of being an amazing teacher. Stephanie’s student athletes even practiced so much that the brand new soccer balls look very well used and faded, showing hours of practice time.

In just her first opportunity to participate in the program, she stepped up to the plate. Not only did she train her students in the soccer program by running practices and drills throughout the week, but she also organized more than 75 peer buddies at an upcoming competition. She offered her time and support to this program and has been a great source and director of communication between such a large group of student volunteers and the host school site.

On top of being a loved and well respected special day teacher, Stephanie was very excited to welcome the schools partnership program to Montgomery High School, where shed infused soccer trainings into her specially designed PE program. Stephanie is a big advocate for physical activity and keeping her students active – and it shows in the smiles and laughs of her students! Even with such a busy schedule as a teacher, Stephanie was still happy to help in organizing our districts first Special Olympics Schools Partnership Program Competition.

Stephanie has expressed a great interest with great enthusiasm for the Schools Partnership Program, throwing herself right in with supporting the program and getting her students competition ready. Stephanie is organizing the peer buddy volunteers and has done a wonderful job and has new students joining up almost daily!

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Tri-Valley – Debby Day

Debby is an adaptive physical education teacher and has been involved in the Schools Partnership Program for three years. She has helped out at each and every event in the Tri-Valley area. Debby also assisted in bringing in leadership from other school sites to volunteer at the event. She helped bring recognition to Special Olympics Schools Partnership Program events through news and media. In addition, she helps train and educate our special education student-athletes.

She gives everything she has to her job and cares about the success of each and every one of our students. Debby has never missed an event and has continued to give her all to seeing each and every one of our athletes become successful.

“It’s an amazing opportunity!” Debby said of Special Olympics in the Schools “The competitions are amazing days that leave our students feeling successful and appreciated!”

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Congratulations to these well-deserving teachers! To see all past Teachers of the Season, please click here.

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