Local educators, students and a bus driver honored for dedication to special education


Ten local educators, five students and one bus driver are being honored for the positive impact they’ve had on the lives on students with special needs in the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD).

On Wednesday, the school district’s Community Advisory Committee for Special Education announced winners of the 2017 You Make a Difference Awards, which recognize those demonstrating “outstanding contributions above and beyond their roles” to enhance the lives of special education students.

There are three separate awards involved, one honoring educators (You Make a Difference Award), another honoring students who take time to assist peers in special education (Jake Rockeman Student Award) and a third honoring a district bus driver who works with special needs students (Brian Rutford Award).

The 2017 winners are:

You Make a Difference Award

Alison Makela, Principal, Madera Elementary School (El Cerrito)

Claudia Velez, Principal, Wilson Elementary School (Richmond)

Clemencia Turner, RSP Teacher, Dover Elementary School (San Pablo)

Gail Tsujimoto-Cho, SH Teacher, Fairmont Elementary School (El Cerrito)

Rosaline Soneda, SH Teacher, Fairmont Elementary School (El Cerrito)

Jennifer Walden, General Education Teacher, Pinole Valley High School (Pinole)

Merissi Argueta, Instructional Aide, Helms Middle School (San Pablo)

Joyce Forte, Early Intervention Program Specialist, Cameron School (El Cerrito)

Sandy Oliver, Assistive Technology Specialist, Harding Elementary School (El Cerrito)

Marywin Deegan and Margaret Mowry-Evans

Jake Rockeman Student Award

Gurchan Sahota, First Grade, Ohlone Elementary School (Hercules)

Addison Nash, Third Grade, Olinda Elementary School (El Sobrante)

Jessica Wilber, Sixth Grade, Collins Elementary School (Pinole)

Alina Nguyen, Sixth Grade, Collins Elementary School (Pinole)

Caitlin Louis, Sixth Grade, Collins Elementary School (Pinole)

Brian Rutford Memorial Award

Jaime Sanchez, First Student Bus Driver, Highland Elementary School (Richmond)

Superintendent Matthew Duffy called the award winners “selfless.”

“Their ability to touch the lives of our most vulnerable children speaks to their selfless natures and should be an inspiration to all of us,” Duffy said.

On March 9, a ceremony will be held to honor the awardees at DeJean Middle School, 3400 Macdonald Ave. in Richmond.