Shining Light On Incredible Oakland Teachers Who Build Relationships

Categories: Oakland

This past Tuesday, 70 students, educators, administrators, board members and community members came together to honor Oakland’s educators at the annual Teacher Appreciation Awards sponsored by Californians for Justice and Oakland Education Association. Students nominated and awarded 10 unsuspecting teachers from 9 high schools for the positive impact they’ve had in their students’ lives. The room filled with tears and laughter as students went up one by one and told teachers how much they meant to them – many for the first time.

Shannon Carey, Metwest High School

A student from Metwest said: She [Ms. Shannon] really cares for us, and always wants us to do our best and supports us in our goals and dreams…She works so hard to have her students do their best in school and also in our future. I hope she knows, even if I don’t say it enough, that I appreciate her and thank her and love her.”

The night not only brought up lots of good feelings, but something that we often forget to do as a community – acknowledge our educators who often go above and beyond for their students. In many ways our teachers are making relationship centered schools real right now, but it often goes unnoticed. And if we are to change the narrative of our public education system, we need to come together more often and honor those really transforming our young people in the classroom. Congratulations to the Oakland teachers awarded for making relationships real in their schools!


Deborah Green, Oakland Technical High School

“Ms. Green, at Oakland Tech, is very kind and open-minded. She helps with everything I need. Ms. Green, you are simply a different teacher and an amazing academic instructor. You have patience and tolerance for students that are rare as gold. Your understanding of our lives is appreciated. I love how you always give us critiques with compassion and validation. You are an amazing teacher and you deserve this award. Congratulations, Ms. Green!”

-Zhi Hao Gao, 10th Grade 

Irene Kim, Oakland International High School

“Ms. Irene Kim is person who had impact in my life. This year, her class helped me a lot. English is easier with a person who wants to teach students. She is such a wonderful teacher. She taught me to never give up and if I want to do something I can do it by working hard.” 

– Leidy Jimenez, 10th Grade

Samuel Seider, Oakland High School

“Mr. Seider always makes it a point to check in with students. He also tries to help students understand the content and allows them to share many ideas. He puts in the effort to make a connection with his students outside of what he teaches. He’ll ask about your day and make a point of caring about you, as a person!”

-Jiawen Wang, 10th grade 

David White, Oakland High School

He taught me not only academic things but how education can really direct how you are in life. He encourages me to do my best not only as a student but as a person. They noticed I was having a hard time with grades and attendance. They sat down with me (individually) and tried to connect with me. They are always there to help when I have any types of issues.”

– Kweko Power, 10th grade

Nina Portugal, Life Academy of Health and Bioscience

“She is always willing to support students and encourage others. She goes out of her way to support me and other fellow students. On Sunday’s she hangs out with my family and has pupusas. My family is happy that I have a teacher like Mrs. Portugal. I know that I can succeed with a teacher like Mrs. Portugal.”

– Gema Cardenas, 11th grade

Nicolas Parker, Fremont High School

“Mr. Parker,  you have been a very big part of my life since freshman year. You aren’t even my teacher anymore and you still support me so much. I see every day how you interact with students and how real you are. You taught me more than any class ever has and will. A lot of students appreciate you because you feed us, but you do more than that. Fremont High is known for standing up when we disagree with something, the united and organized way. You have been down for every action, and every meeting. The biggest support system any organizer or activist can ask for. You taught me a Mexican proverb: “They tried to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds.” The motivation that pushes me through every day to resist is what I learned from this class and this amazing human being.” 

– Reyna Juaregui, 11th Grade at Fremont High School

Jessica Sawczuck, Coliseum College Prep Academy

“I want to let you know that not only are you the best teacher ever, but you are also a very good friend to me and a great woman to your family. I want to let you know that you are highly appreciated for everything you have done for me and for making a positive change in my life and my peers lives as well. I love you, and Coliseum College Prep Academy loves you too!”

– Alondra Rangel, 9th grade 

Kurt Kaaehuahiwi, Madison Park Academy

“You inspire us to be the best version of ourselves and reach the highest cloud. You let us know we are destined for greatness. You are great when it comes to comforting us and giving advice. You relate to the students and the community. You remind us that we belong in this community and have the power to change it for the better. You believe that we can change the educational system, and we thank you for that.”

-Darshaya Washington, 11th grade

Shawn Taylor, Gateway to College

“You are a very powerful individual. Gateway to College would not be the same without you. You work hard every day and what’s so great about you is how you connect with the students. Even when you have a lot of work to do, you take time out of your day to talk to us. You can be strict sometimes, but you are always supporting of your students by giving them opportunities, helping with essays, and having personal conversations with the students. And even if you can’t always talk to all of us personally, you show up to talk to all the students on Fridays and show support. I want to say thank you, Mr. Taylor, and congratulations.”

-Nailah Williams, Senior