A closer look at five teachers who go the extra mile

Sanford Inspire empowers teachers with research-based knowledge and classroom-tested tools and practices, so they can successfully inspire students to develop a love of learning and achieve their goals - both academically and socially.

In keeping with this mission, the Sanford Teacher Award is designed to reward inspirational teachers who go above and beyond every single day, engaging all students in learning, celebrating uniqueness and diversity, motivating them to succeed, and building their trust and confidence.

We selected each of the inaugural winners of the 2018 Sanford Teacher Award below for inspiring not only their students, but their entire communities. We applaud their work, and have high hopes that all teachers strive to be just as impactful to others.

Inaugural 2018 Award Winners

Shannon Kline

Second Grade Teacher

Anson Jones Elementary School

Dallas, Texas

Shannon Kline is the second inaugural Sanford Teacher Award recipient, and she was chosen for her commitment to creating positive classroom environments that support students’ development and academic growth.

She is an inspiration to students, teachers, and families in the community she serves. She began her career 10 years ago at a private preschool that focused solely on social and emotional development before entering kindergarten. In 2014, she transitioned to public school and began teaching in Dallas ISD.

Ms. Kline’s student population rarely travels outside their immediate neighborhood. To inspire her students to think beyond their immediate environment, Ms. Kline embarked on partnering with the art teacher two years ago to bring the Dreamline Project to the entire school. The Dreamline project is an international organization that fosters children dreaming of how to better the world. The students write poetry in their classroom and then put the poetry on an artwork flag.

For two years, Ms. Kline and the art teacher motivated the entire campus to partake in inspiring each student to dream. Then, through fundraising and some out-of-pocket expense, Ms. Kline and two other teachers, along with campus administration, gathered all the students’ flags and took them to the yearly kick-off in Philadelphia. The students’ flags flew in the National Constitution Center before being packed up and shipped across the globe to fly in other countries. The impact of the project on her students brought them to tears, just knowing others were experiencing their dreams around the world.

The passion Ms. Kline has for SEL is apparent in every aspect of her career. She is the SEL (Social Emotional Learning) champion of her campus and was responsible for launching the DISD model of SEL to the whole staff at her school. She is a passionate advocate of social emotional learning through the Sanford Harmony program, working closely with other teachers, parents, and students to create a positive school environment.

Nicole Lopez

Kindergarten Teacher

Park Slope 282

New York City School District 13

Nicole Lopez’s teaching career began over 18 years ago. Through her many years of teaching, she has encountered children from all different cultures, socioeconomic statuses, and diverse learning capabilities. These experiences have taught her that children all bring with them their own unique qualities and diverse abilities.

One standout moment that inspired Ms. Lopez was a student who recently immigrated to the U.S. When he first entered her classroom two years ago, he had minimal English language acquisition. He was quiet, introverted, and lacked social skills. Through Ms. Lopez’s vast teaching and personal life experiences and the ability to engage students using the Sanford Harmony Program, she saw her student flourish both socially and academically. She knew she was hitting a turning point when the shy student, who initially couldn’t stand in front of parents for classroom plays or raise his hand to participate in class, joined the school chess team and become a role model for his peers. He was able to make a connection with the character Z from the Sanford Harmony Program because, like Z, he learned to make friends, share, communicate, feel safe, and become part of a bigger community.

To Ms. Lopez, inspiring teaching when a teacher can give inspiration to their students. She says, “Inspiring students is integral to ensuring their success and encouraging them to fulfill their potential. Students who are inspired by their teachers can accomplish amazing things, and that motivation almost always stays with them because inspiration is the most important gift you can give your student. When you inspire your student, you become a role model to them and an influence that reaches far beyond academics.”

Angela Karem

Transitional Kindergarten Teacher

Thurgood Marshall Elementary School

Chula Vista Elementary School District

Angela Karem has an MA Education in Curriculum and Instruction and is currently a transitional kindergarten teacher in the Chula Vista Elementary School District. Prior to teaching in the public school system, she ran The Pre School for the Arts and enriched the lives of many for nearly 20 years, teaching the art of dance. She is the proud mother of three extraordinary sons currently pursuing their passions in higher education.

Ms. Karem is the third inaugural Sanford Teacher Award recipient. With nearly 20 years of experience in education, she was chosen for her continued enthusiasm for teaching and dedication to creating meaningful learning experiences for her students through engaging social emotional learning curriculum, such as Sanford Harmony.

She is often featured in local news because of her innovative and engaging curriculum with an emphasis on social emotional impact, including a San Diego Union Tribune article about Sanford Harmony. She was also a presenter and interviewed by KUSI and NBC at the Better Together Teacher Summit in July 2018.

Ms. Karem is currently dedicated to positively effecting the world, one child and one classroom at a time.

Alvin Dizon

Eighth-grade English Language Arts Teacher

Robert O. Gibson Middle School

Clark County School District, Nevada

Eighth-grade English and language arts teacher, Alvin Dizon, is an inspiration to students, teachers, and families at Robert O. Gibson Middle School and in the community he serves. Mr. Dizon, the fourth inaugural Sanford Teacher Award recipient, was chosen for his continued enthusiasm for teaching and commitment to creating meaningful leaning experiences for his students. As a past student and faculty member at National University, Mr. Dizon creates a supportive classroom environment and culture using social emotional curriculum to ensure each student has a chance at success.

Teaching both standard and special needs students, Mr. Dizon understands the importance of building a positive classroom community in his English and language arts classes by recognizing and celebrating the unique strengths in each student. Mr. Dizon team-teaches his special needs classes with a licensed special education teacher to provide extra support. They use Sanford Harmony lessons for warm-ups to teach communication, collaboration, and effectively engaging with peers.

Mr. Dizon is dedicated to teaching students see the deeper message in the written word and read between the lines as a skill they can carry throughout life. He creates a social contract in all of his classes to give students practical application of acceptance and mutual respect. Mr. Dizon has served as a mentor and trainer of both pre-service and experienced teachers in the district. He believes in lifelong learning and the importance of regularly engaging in resourceful training modules like those in the Sanford Inspire program. These practices can help make adopting new curriculum outlined by district and other organizations more seamless.

Rafaela Campos

Pre-K Teacher

Jaime Escalante Early Childhood Center

Los Angeles Unified School District

Rafaela Campos is a passionate advocate of social emotional learning as a way to help students at the youngest ages learn invaluable skills about friendship, empathy, and acceptance that last into adulthood. An educator for 25 years, her classroom was one of the first places where LAUSD piloted the Sanford Harmony social emotional learning program. As a result, she says she sees less conflict and more friendship between boys and girls.

“My belief is that if a child does not have the social skills, that child is not going to be focused on numbers and letters,” she told KPCC news in Los Angeles. Ms. Campos said she has always tried to reinforce ideas about friendship, empathy, and acceptance in creative ways, and that’s made easier now through Sanford Harmony, as it comes with a curriculum, books, and structured activities that teachers can use at a designated time for 15-20 minutes a day to reinforce those skills.

The deadline for submissions is November 20, 2019.

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