The Pasadena Unified School District teacher, principal, classified employee, and community service awards were announced Monday at the District’s annual school year kick-off event for all district employees. The awards ceremony was followed by a day of professional development.
More than 1,500 employees filled the Pasadena High School auditorium for the District’s “Welcome Back” event.
The program began with a spirited performance by the Pasadena High School drumline and cheer team, who created a new “Let’s Go PUSD” chant. Blair High School’s JROTC presented flags, and a group of students sang a flawless National Anthem. PUSD Board of Education, union representatives, and representatives from the Pasadena Educational Foundation (PEF) also attended.
PUSD’s annual all-staff “Welcome Back,” which includes a pre-event breakfast and employee benefits fair, is sponsored by PEF.
Alicia Montgomery, Ed.D. from the Center for Powerful Public Schools delivered the keynote address on dismantling system inequities in schools, which has been the focus of PUSD’s efforts for several years.
Interim Superintendent Elizabeth J. Blanco, Ed.D., welcomed employees to the new school year. Her address focused on building a culture of “with” in PUSD so that the voices of students, employees, parents/caregivers, and the community are heard and benefit the achievement of all students.
Dr. Blanco also discussed last month’s Data Dive, a three-day review of student data by principals and members of their school instructional team. Dr. Blanco also previewed stronger school safety practice and the District’s multi-tiered system to support students furthest from opportunity. Under her leadership, the district’s leadership team will hold its weekly meetings at school sites to get a first-hand look at “the joys and challenges” of working in District schools.
The program culminated with an awards ceremony when six awards were presented.
“Every year, we honor the individuals and community organizations whose extra effort, dedication, and insight make a difference in the lives of our students,” said Interim Superintendent Elizabeth J. Blanco, Ed.D.
2023 Superintendent’s Awards
The Superintendent’s Awards recognize individuals and organizations that go above and beyond to benefit PUSD students. This year’s recipients are:
- The Helen and Will Webster Foundation The Webster Foundation has supported students and teachers with grants for programs in art, continuous improvement, middle schools, and early grades. “It’s always a pleasure to support PUSD,” said Rich Webster in accepting the award. “The Webster Foundation has supported PUSD for 18 years, including last year’s Into the Woods which was a wonderful showcase of the talent within PUSD.”
- Drs. Jackie and David Jacobs The married couple are civil rights pioneers and founders of the Pasadena MLK Community Coalition. The 2023 PUSD Superintendent’s Award honors their contributions to advancing civil rights and the couple’s powerful impact on PUSD students and teachers. The Coalition’s annual MLK, Jr. art/essay contest and celebration has inspired generations of PUSD students. “We are so honored and grateful to be with you here today,” said Dr. David Jacobs. “Remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr : ‘If you want to be great, you have to serve.’”
Principal of the Year
Charlene Tucker, Ed.D., Principal, Field Elementary Elementary
A dynamic and engaged leader, Dr. Charlene Tucker became principal of Field Elementary in 2020. Prior to that, she was a special education teacher, assistant principal, and interim principal at Wilson Middle School; she also served as assistant principal of Willard Elementary and Sierra Madre Elementary.
Dr. Tucker, who recently completed her Doctorate in Organizational Leadership, moved from being a teacher to becoming an administrator because she could help more students than those in her classroom. “This award is for all the teachers and staff I’ve ever worked with,” she said. “I am who I am because of the people around me and the relationships we have cultivated.”
Classified Employee of the Year
Rogelio Macias, Head Custodian, John Muir Early College Magnet High School
The annual award honors the contributions of classified employees such as maintenance and operations, cafeteria, office staff, and IT techs who have key roles in creating a positive school environment for children in public schools.
Macias has worked for PUSD for 19 years and is head custodian at John Muir Early College Magnet. “We keep the campus clean for students and staff,” he said. “This award is special for me because it recognizes not just me, but the custodial crew who work here. I want to thank everybody for their support all these years in PUSD. Go Mustangs!”
Community Service Award
The Community Service Award recognizes outstanding individuals or organizations that make an impact on the students of PUSD. The PUSD Student Think Tank and their facilitator, Sebha Sarwar. The mission of the Student Think Tank is to create and sustain a safe space for students to connect across campuses and provide multiple platforms through which they can share their stories and advocate for student representation in district decision-making structures. This mission has so far led them to research and inform the state of PUSD’s curriculum, equity, and mental health initiatives, to elevate student autobiographical stories in their publication and The Learning Curve (TLC).
“This has been an incredible journey that we hope to see continue after we graduate,” said student Mya Hernandez.
Teacher of the Year Award
Marion Yamada, Kindergarten Teacher, Hamilton Elementary
The teacher of the year award honors outstanding teachers who inspire and guide students to become innovators, problem solvers, and leaders.
Marion Yamada has taught kindergarten at Hamilton Elementary for six years and has been a teacher in PUSD for 16 years.
“I want my students to have fun and remember the moments in kindergarten,” said Ms. Yamada. “I want to see them grow and succeed, and be part of their journey to help them learn.”