Nine Sunnyvale School District students and four Fremont High School Union District students were recognized at a special ceremony March 28 through the Association of California School Administrators’ (ACSA) Every Student Succeeding program. The program honors students who have overcome challenges that may be related to school, family, medical, or difference in ability and the educators who support them along the way. Every student who was nominated will be recognized and receive a certificate as well as a gift card from a local establishment. In addition, one student will advance to Region 8 of ACSA (Santa Clara County) for consideration of recognition at the region level, which would then receive recognition at the state level.
This year’s winners from SSD are Kathryn Li of Cherry Chase, Michael Inger of Cumberland, Michaela Johnson of Fairwood Explorer, Sebastian Sanchez of Bishop, Jose Luis Ramirez Valenzuela of Lakewood, Allison Rodriguez of Vargas, Ashley Rodriguez of San Miguel, Cage Anderson of Sunnyvale Middle and Abel Ochoa Valencia, Jr. of Columbia Middle. We are proud to highlight these students who have overcome great obstacles to succeed. They face life’s challenges head on. Their stories are remarkable, and their futures are bright.
Bishop Elementary School: Sebastian Sanchez, grade 4
Nominated by Suzanne Cicala, principal at Bishop Elementary School, Sebastian Sanchez is currently a fourth grade student who started his schooling in a special day class for two years of preschool, kindergarten, and some of his first grade year. During first grade, Sebastian was mainstreamed into a general education classroom for the majority of his school day and was able to meet grade level expectations for reading and writing. This led to him being moved into a general education classroom at his home school, Bishop, for his second grade year.
Once he arrived at Bishop he adjusted quickly to his new school setting and made many new friends. He was also able to improve his math skills as well as his writing and reading skills. Due to his progress, we hope he will be exited from special education soon.
Cherry Chase Elementary School: Kathryn Li, grade 2
Kathryn comes to school every day with the biggest smile on her face, despite the challenges that she faces with her mild cerebral palsy. Kathryn suffered a prenatal stroke, which led to hydrocephalus and mild cerebral palsy. At 7 months old, she had a shunt placed in her brain to control the hydrocephalus, and as a result she has weakness in her left hand and left leg.
Kathryn struggles with lifting and carrying heavy objects in her left hand and is unable to run as quickly as her classmates. Despite these challenges, she actively participates in PE/recess activities, even though they may be difficult. She sets personal goals for herself, such as carrying her own lunch tray, books, or backpack. In addition, she frequently practices strengthening exercises so that she can one day play on the monkey bars.
Kathryn has a positive outlook and the willingness to persevere. She does not let her condition define her!
Cumberland Elementary School: Michael Inger, grade 4
Michael Inger is a fourth grade student at Cumberland Elementary School, nominated by Edy Mourtos, Principal, and Laurie Carlson, Assistant Principal, both ACSA members, and supported by Karen Ghilarducci, former Cumberland K2 SDC teacher, Ann McCarty, retired 35 SDC teacher, Deb Mangan, Speech Pathologist, Stacie Rodriguez, teacher, and Janis Ikeda, Occupational Therapist. If you were to meet Michael today you would find him in a general education classroom happy, calm, easy going and loving, with high verbal skills. This perspective of Michael makes it easy to forget that he has an educational diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder and that he actually began his public schooling in Special Education, specifically in a Special Day Class for students with mild to moderate disabilities. With the support of his Special Education team, administrators and general education teachers, Michael has persevered through both home life struggles and social/academic difficulties to demonstrate readiness to exit SDC and fully participate in the general education classroom where he is thriving.
Fairwood Elementary School: Michaela Johnson, grade 4
Michaela is a kind and thoughtful young girl who has demonstrated great perseverance as well as a positive attitude while working to overcome both speech and academic challenges. Her work with the Sunnyvale School District began in preschool when she began receiving speech services. At that time, speech was a significant challenge, but she developed a great work ethic at a young age, practicing her speech sounds daily. That work ethic can be seen today in her determination to learn new academic concepts and master those that continue to challenge her. Over the past year, Michaela made the equivalent of three years growth in her words attack skills. This has allowed her reading comprehension to improve at a rapid rate. During the first trimester of this school year, she showed a nine month growth in this area.
Michaela continues to blossom not only as a student, but as a young lady. Her confidence has increased, and she is feeling empowered with the various academic “tools” she has gathered along the way, thanks to the support of the school team, her loving family, and her determination. This year she has pushed herself to grow socially and joined Girl Scouts. We are so proud of all that she has accomplished as a result of her positive attitude and best effort. We are so very proud to nominate Michaela Johnson for the Every Student Succeeding Award.
Lakewood Elementary School: Jose Luis Ramirez Valenzuela, grade 5
A Lakewood Lion at heart, Jose Luis Ramirez Valenzuela has been a student at Lakewood since kindergarten. While he has had some bumps in the road, he always takes responsibility for his actions and learns from his mistakes. Jose Luis has developed a growth mindset and shows real determination in making positive choices and being a leader at Lakewood. Jose Luis asks for help when things are tough and perseveres through the task until his question is answered. His courage in taking risks in the classroom and in trying even when he is unsure encourages his peers to do the same. Jose Luis leads by example and supports those around him. He checks in with teachers regularly, asking them if they need help. He works with kindergarteners in need during his lunchtime to support their good decision-making. Nominator Pamela Cheng, principal, and the team at Lakewood want to offer a huge congratulations to Jose Luis Ramirez for taking control of his education and becoming a role model for all students at Lakewood.
San Miguel Elementary School: Ashley Rodriguez, grade 5
During her fourth grade year, Ashley Rodriguez learned that her younger brother needed a liver transplant. Knowing that there was not much she could do to relieve his pain, Ashley made sure to help out more at home to try to provide support to her family. While she tried not to fall behind in school, it was difficult because of the overwhelming emotions she was experiencing. With the support of a team overseen by principal and ACSA member Christina Ballantyne, Ashley received academic and social-emotional interventions that helped her make a year’s worth of reading growth in only a few short months. We are happy to support Ashley as she works to help herself and others as much as possible.
Vargas Elementary School: Allison Rodriguez, grade 5
When Allison Rodriguez, who had always enjoyed coming to school, learning and playing with her friends, withdrew and began refusing to go into her classroom on a daily basis, principal and ACSA member Kathryn Armstrong knew that a plan was needed to support Allison. A team composed of the school counselor, psychologist, parent outreach assistant, administrator, teacher, and parent worked together to develop a check-in, check-out program that would move Allison toward the goal of going to class regularly. With this support, Allison has accomplished positive change since the beginning of the school year.
Columbia Middle School: Abel Ochoa Valencia, Jr., grade 8
Abel Ochoa Valencia, Jr., arrived at Columbia Middle School in sixth grade with a reputation for negative behaviors, which were determined to be a function of his ADHD. With support from Assistant Principal and ACSA member Daniel Poo, as well as other staff members, who capitalized on Abel’s assets, changes began to happen. The team put a 504 plan in place and provided academic interventions to support Abel with learning. Now in eighth grade, Abel continues to work hard, has no behavior issues, and continues to make progress academically. The turnaround that he has made is impressive, and we congratulate him on all that he has accomplished.
Sunnyvale Middle School: Cage Anderson, grade 8
Cage Anderson is currently an eighth-grade student in the Therapeutic Special Day Class at Sunnyvale Middle School. Before attending SMS, Cage struggled in elementary school. Cage had difficulty articulating his feelings and needs and then managing his behavior and emotions. Although he had support in the process, the transition for Cage from elementary to middle school had its challenges.
Once in the TSDC program at SMS, Cage received support from Behavior Specialist Samantha Jensen, TSDC Therapist Valerie Raps, Classroom Teacher Michael Finch, and Assistant Principal Ron Gantvoort. This team built on the work done in elementary school and provided the therapeutic, behavioral, and academic support needed to help him reach his potential. With their guidance, Cage showed steady progress in attendance, behavior, and academics throughout his time at SMS.
In seventh grade, Cage began to access mainstream classes in general education. As his confidence grew and leadership skills began to surface, Cage became part of the Leadership Class and began helping produce the daily Spartan TV morning program, something he continues to do in eighth grade.
During the last three years at SMS, Cage has made huge strides in his behavior, academics and emotions. Cage is a student with high academic potential and a determination to succeed. He has an eye on the future and wants to start working, go to college and earn a degree in business. Cage is a model of perseverance who represents the idea that success is just around the corner for all students. Cage Anderson deserves to be recognized for his personal growth, which has enabled him to achieve academic success.