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Mayor Farrell, Commissioner Mendoza-McDonnell, Superintendent Matthews and the award winners at AT

2017-18 Mayor's Teacher, Principal and Paraeducator of the Year Award winners


The Mayor's Teacher of the Year and Principal of the Year and Awards are annual awards that recognize exceptional San Francisco public school teachers and principals for their dedication, professionalism, and work on behalf of our city's young people. This is also the inaugural year for the Mayor’s Paraeducator of the Year Award. The ten honorees were selected based on their outstanding ability to promote innovative learning, accountability, and equity and access in the classroom and school site.

2017-18 Mayor's Teacher of the Year Honorees

Kitty Lok, Commodore Stockton Early Education School

Kitty LokKitty is a first generation Chinese American from Hong Kong. She is multilingual including Cantonese, Toisanese and Mandarin in addition to English. Kitty joined the San Francisco Unified School District 31 years ago as a paraeducator. She’s been at Commodore Stockton Early Education School for the last 25 years. In addition to working in dual-language classrooms, Kitty is a lead teacher, served as an instructional coach, and presented the “Positive Solutions for Families” workshop for three years in a row. Her teaching approaches include Project Approach, Reggio, Creative Curriculum and High Scope. Kitty strongly believes that all children are capable of success. She emphasizes to the community that relationship building between students, their parents, and educators is key to student performance and progress. Kitty is married with two young adult children, who are finishing college.

Ziyang (Jack) Li, third grade, Starr King Elementary School

Ziyang (Jack) LiZiyang (Jack) Li is a third grade Mandarin immersion teacher at Starr King Elementary School. He grew up speaking both Mandarin and Cantonese in China. After graduating from the University of Foreign Studies in Guangzhou, he came to San Francisco to pursue a master's degree in education and a teaching credential at San Francisco State University. Originally, he wanted to be a high school teacher, but when he got a job to teach at Starr King Elementary, he fell in love with the school, the staff and the kids, so he decided to stay. Having the experience of starting a language at a young age, he wants the children here to get the same experience as him.

Jennifer Partika, fifth grade, Argonne Elementary School

Jennifer PartikaJennifer Partika is a Bay Area native who has taught in various capacities for over 20 years, happily spending the last six years in a fifth-grade classroom. With a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and a Master of Arts degree in education, she combines her passion for teaching and love of learning to inspire and grow along with her students. As a former English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher, Jennifer values the diversity that is found in San Francisco public schools and strives to build a classroom community that feels like a family. She is dedicated to growing the number of women in STEAM careers and recently led the Argonne Wolfbot Robotics team to a first-place victory at the Lego Robotics Competition. She has raised two children in SFUSD public schools and is proud to be part of its strong community of families and teachers.

Aaron Weis, sixth grade, Rooftop School

Aaron WeisAaron Weis is currently spending his 11th year as part of Rooftop School, where he teaches sixth-grade math and science, runs clubs, works with parent groups, sits on committees, and DJs middle school dances. He is originally from San Diego, attended the University of California at Santa Barbara as an undergraduate and San Francisco State University for graduate school, and has spent the last 20 years of his life working with young people at camps and schools in Santa Barbara, New York and San Francisco. He is a firm believer in the vital and crucial role of public education and is proud of the work he is able to do as a public school teacher. He sees teaching not only as an opportunity to share the joy and excitement of learning, but also as an opportunity to build community, instill values of care and compassion, give voices to and celebrate those who might otherwise not have a voice, and to recognize and challenge existing social and political inequities. He’d like to appreciate all the students, parents and coworkers at Rooftop who inspire him by putting their energy, love and time towards making their school and city a better place.

Kristia Castrillo, tenth and 11th grades, Balboa High School

Kristia CastrilloKristia Castrillo is a born and raised Filipina San Franciscan. She is the proud product of a resilient immigrant single-mother household. Kristia attended Bard College for her undergraduate degree and later completed her master’s degree at the University of San Francisco's School of Education. Kristia has worked within SFUSD in different capacities for 11 years now. She currently teaches sophomores and juniors in the English department and the Peers United for Leadership, Equity, and Service (PULSE) Pathway at Balboa High school.

2017-18 Mayor's Principal of the Year Honorees

Eli Horn, San Miguel Early Education School

Eli HornEli Horn is a San Francisco native and graduate of Lowell High School. Eli has always been dedicated to working on behalf of youth. Prior to becoming an early education administrator, Eli served as the director of the Visitacion Valley Community Beacon, a school community partnership based at Visitacion Valley Middle School, where he worked with the school to provide an array of academic and enrichment services to students and other services for families and community. Eli joined SFUSD in 2011 as an early education administrator. He has been at San Miguel EES since 2012, and he and the staff have been continuously and rigorously focused on ELL/ELA for the youngest of learners to ensure that they are ready for kindergarten.

Emmanuel Stewart, Dr. George Washington Carver Academic Elementary School

Emmanuel StewartEmmanuel has worked in public education for 27 years. He started out as a paraprofessional at Potrero Hill Middle School and Dr. William Cobb Elementary School. Eight years later, through the Paraprofessional Teacher Training Program, he moved into his own classroom at Dr. George Washington Carver Academic Elementary School. After several years in leadership roles as the Bayview Science coach, science administrator and Visitacion Valley Middle School Assistant Principal, he now leads the school where he taught for 14 years. He is committed to the Bayview-Hunter’s Point community with excitement, passion and dedication! Emmanuel graduated from City College of San Francisco in 1983 with an Associate of Arts degree and graduated in 1985 from San Francisco State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He then returned to San Francisco State University Credential Program to earn his Multiple Subjects/CLAD teaching credential. In 2012, Emmanuel graduated from Principal Leadership Institute at the University of California at Berkeley with a Master of Education Administration.

Lena Van Haren, Everett Middle School

Lena Van HarenLena Van Haren is in her eighth year of leading at Everett Middle School in the San Francisco Unified School District and her fifth year as principal, bringing with her 16 years of experience in urban education. She began her career as a teacher and then literacy coach with the Ravenswood City School District in East Palo Alto. Lena is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley's Principal Leadership Institute (PLI) and has served as adjunct faculty with local Bay Area teaching credential programs, as well as with the PLI. She has worked passionately alongside many incredible teachers and leaders to turn Everett from the lowest performing middle school in San Francisco to a thriving place that now has a waitlist of students. When not at Everett, you can find her running, dancing and telling jokes, all while chasing her three- and five-year-old daughters around the city.

Samuel Bass, Phillip and Sala Burton Academic High School

Samuel BassWhen Sam Bass first moved to San Francisco in 2011, his first role in SFUSD was that of instructional reform facilitator at Phillip and Sala Burton Academic High School. After serving as a middle school assistant principal and an elementary school principal, he is now proudly completing his second year as principal of Burton High School. Sam received the ACSA Administrator of the Year Award for Valuing Diversity in 2016 and is currently in the Stanford Principal Fellowship Program. Sam is driven to provide as many opportunities and possibilities to traditionally underserved students in San Francisco as possible. He is humbled and proud to be representing Burton High School with this honor.

2017-18 Mayor's Paraeducator of the Year Honoree

Mary Lavalais, San Francisco Community School

Mary LavalaisMary, a native-born San Franciscan from Bayview-Hunter's Point, was educated in Catholic schools. She attended City College of San Francisco, and then transferred to San Francisco State University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in social work and graduate degree in marriage, family, and child counseling. Since 1970, Mary has worked in early childhood development at several different child development organizations. In 1986, Mary joined SFUSD as a student advisor at Fairmount Elementary School and has been at San Francisco Community School since 2000.