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HELEN AND JOE FARKAS CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF THE HOLOCAUST IN CATHOLIC SCHOOLS

Helen Farkas

Helen Farkas

Helen was born in Romania in the Transylvania region that became part of Hungary at the beginning of World War II. She and her family were deported on a harrowing, degrading train trip to Auschwitz in May of 1944. Her parents and others of her family were killed there or soon afterwards. Helen was selected for a major German work detail in Silesia, along with two of her sisters and a niece. Helen’s courage and spirit helped others survive, including on the harrowing Death March at the end of the war, from which she escaped.

For over thirty five years, Helen has spoken to tens of thousands of students throughout the Bay Area. She has become a master teacher, and her audiences have become more varied— from junior high students, to seniors in retirement homes, to women just out of prison rebuilding their lives. She works faithfully and tirelessly on Tikkun Olam, the Jewish mandate to “repair the world.”

FRESNO COUNTY

Jill Delano

Jill Delano

Kindergarten Teacher, Centerville Elementary School, Sanger Unified School District


It’s the spark in their eyes that motivates me. As a teacher, I see it best when a student grasps a new concept I present.

I began teaching by founding and directing a preschool in Lindsay, then moved to Ventura College. In Sanger, I started as a reading specialist, but found my greatest challenge and enjoyment teaching a 1st through 3rd grade multiage class. Subsequently, I taught kindergarten to students who often arrived scared, speaking little or no English, having few skills. I saw many “sparks” in those students, and watched them “graduate” as confident readers and writers. I would do anything to see my students reach their greatest potential. As an educator that is my greatest goal; those “sparks” my greatest achievements.

LAKE COUNTY

Marilyn Grock

Marilyn Grock

Teacher to the Severely Handicapped and Early Intervention Specialist, Kelseyville Unified School District


I was born in Yosemite, California and moved to Washington, D.C. when I was 10. After leaving Virginia Tech, I met my husband, Gary, and we moved to Maui, Hawaii. Our two sons, Norm and Paul, were born there. Ten years later we moved to Central Oregon where I earned my masters in education from Eastern Oregon University. I taught preschool at Linn-Benton Community College until 2001 when we moved to Kelseyville to be closer to my parents and for me to teach special education for Kelseyville Unified School District. My husband and I were married for 31 years before his death in 2010. I love living by Clear Lake where I enjoy my teaching and beadweaving.

MARIN COUNTY

Arnie Cohen

Arnie Cohen

Special Day Class Teacher, Marin County Office of Education


I grew up in Chatsworth, California. I was motivated by my best friend’s father, Tom McWhirter— a man I called “Pop”— a quadriplegic who suffered from polio. I watched him move the world with his wisdom and kindness. He learned that obstacles could be turned into opportunities. I knew I wanted to devote my life to doing the same for others.

In 1969, I studied and worked with children with autism. In 1970, I attended Sonoma State University where I received my Masters Degree in Special Education. I was hired to teach at the Marin County Office of Education in 1974. I have been a special day class teacher for students with developmental disabilities. In 1987, I developed and taught one of the first special day classes located on a college campus. During the past nearly 40 years, I have also had the distinct privilege to help raise over $100 million for causes near and dear to my heart.

My inspiration has been my wife, Susan, our daughters, grandson and our entire family.
Linda Sheppard

Linda Sheppard

Director of the Marin BTSA Induction Program, Marin County Office of Education


When I began teaching 36 years ago in Downieville Junior/Senior High School, I had no idea of how to be a teacher in spite of a solid pre-service experience. Veteran teachers threw a few suggestions my way and I muddled through learning as I went. In my next school, I was fortunate to have an amazing principal who was focused on teachers honing their craft. His leadership was a model for me.

As a teacher, principal, and administrator in other positions, one of my favorite things is working with teachers— especially new teachers. Now as the Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) Induction Director for Marin County, I feel blessed that each day is filled with new teachers. The challenges are much greater than mine ever were and I am committed to making sure our new teachers have solid start in our amazing profession.

MENDOCINO COUNTY

Denise Keller

Denise Keller

Behavior Specialist, SELPA, Mendocino County Office of Education


"Knowledge is learning something every day. Wisdom is letting go of something every day." – Zen Proverb I believe that to be an effective educator requires one to not only bring new learning to facilitate the acquisition of knowledge, but to also share information that challenges beliefs and systems that can be barriers to learning.

In the many roles I’ve assumed over my varied career in education, whether as an early intervention specialist, behavior specialist/analyst, parent educator, trainer, consultant, or autism specialist, I have been motivated and inspired by the joy of witnessing the growth that takes place in individuals of all ages as barriers fall away and the light goes on as knowledge is acquired and wisdom earned.

I love my work in education and it has been an absolute privilege to work amongst so many knowledgeable and dedicated professionals.
Olga O'Neill

Olga O’Neill

Principal, Brookside Elementary School, Willits Unified School District


Over the past 23 years it has been my privilege to work for the Willits Unified School District. For the past five years I have been the principal at Brookside Elementary, our K-2 School. Prior to that, I was certificated bilingual teacher for first and third grades. For two years, I had the opportunity to serve as a math specialist working with K-5 students.

My various positions with the Redwood Area Math Project, work as Math Mentor, site ELD coordinator, and as BTSA coordinator introduced me to leadership roles. As much as I loved being a classroom teacher, I find my current role in education incredibly gratifying and diverse. At Brookside, we have made great strides in achievement, collaboration, and community building and I am honored as the principal to play my part in this endeavor that includes our entire staff.

NAPA COUNTY

Jennifer Castelazo

Jennifer Castelazo

Chemistry Teacher, Vintage High School, Napa Unified School District


Chemistry is not for quitters. As a chemistry teacher at Vintage High School, I show up each day to demonstrate to my students that challenge and reward are two sides of the same coin. After starting my career with four years teaching at Redwood Middle School, I moved to nearby Vintage and took over the chemistry program in 1998. In the years since, I have developed a classroom presence that blends a demand for high performance, patience with the teenage mind, and the occasional “science-nerd” joke.

For me, teaching is all about making connections, creating a curriculum and presenting chemistry in a manner that captures the imagination.

SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY

William Draa

William Draa

Superintendent, Banta Elementary School District


For the past 15 years I have been the Superintendent of Banta Elementary School District. During that time the district completed a modernization project of the entire campus, negotiated a mitigation agreement to build multi schools worth approximately $200 million, and raised the school’s API significantly thus exiting school and district Program Improvement status.

During my career I have been extremely active in many professional organizations. The four organizations that I enjoyed working with are: Association of CA School Administrators (ACSA), Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team (FCMAT), Small School District Association, and the CA Coalition for Adequate School Housing (CASH).

I am retiring from being superintendent, but plan to work as a consultant in the development of a charter school that will feature technology to address 21st century learning in an electronic world.
Dr. Doug Martin

Dr. Doug Martin

Director, Regional Occupational Centers/Programs, San Joaquin County Office of Education


As an educator for 39 years, I have been involved in many different educational settings. I have taught in traditional schools, alternative schools, the juvenile court school, and at the university level. Currently I work with nine local school districts to bring exemplary Career Technical Education (CTE) programs to the students in San Joaquin County.

In this collaboration with our local school districts I have always believed the programs needed to be grounded in the 3 Rs of CTE: relevancy, rigor, and relationships. I have supported this philosophy by promoting CTE classes in automotive, child development, health, public safety, and agriculture.

Last year I was honored by the Association of California School Administrator as Region VII’s Outstanding Administrator in Career Technical Education. I will spend my retirement throwing flags while I continue to referee high school and college football games.

SOLANO COUNTY

Shari Herout

Shari Herout

California Teacher of the Year
Kindergarten Teacher, Foxboro Elementary School, Travis Unified School District


Without a doubt, I have the best job in the entire world because I have the privilege of seeing the world through the eyes of young children every day — and what a magical, compassionate, and spirited world it is! The students in my class arrive each day ready to discover; entering with a sense of wonder about what we’ll learn, that will spark an interest which burns so deep that they can’t wait to go home to share the new knowledge with their families, or research more information about the topic — there is always something to learn.
Tracy Hostetter

Tracy Hostetter

Career Transition Specialist, Vallejo Transition Partnership Program and WorkAbility Program, Vallejo City Unified School District


“Tracy makes sure that each student is treated with dignity and respect. She listens to them and believes in their goals and dreams and will go to great lengths to help them achieve those dreams. Tracy is not only interested in the success of the program, but most importantly, the success of the students that she serves.”

- Joyce Montgomery, Supervisor II, Vallejo City Unified School District