Follow Your Bliss Awards Celebration
2021 Follow Your Bliss Awards Recipients
K - 5th Grade Winner
Binh Dao, Longwood Elementary, Hayward, CA – Binh’s work as an Educator at a Title 1 school and in a community where resources are limited has led him to engage both students and parents to ensure needs are met. Binh has worked as a substitute teacher for 6 years and as a fulltime teacher for the past 7 years to diversify learning to be inclusive and honor the entire community. He hopes to become a school principal in the future to increase his ability to make a greater impact. Also, for over 20 years, Mr. Dao has volunteered his time to direct and run youth programs at the non-profit, Vietnamese Educational and Cultural Association (VECA) and at Buddhist temples throughout Northern California. Through VECA, he has taught life and leadership skills, art lessons, and Dharma (Buddhist teachings) classes to over 600 youth from ages 5-18.
6th - 8th Grade Winner
Urban Promise Academy (UPA), Oakland CA. - Cory teaches 6th-grade Humanities and starts the school year off with building relationships. She teaches with the mindset of "they don't care what you know until they know that you care." She has made regular home visits with students during the pandemic to reinforce her commitment to helping them succeed. Cory is dedicated to instilling a deep sense of pride in students and goes above and beyond to help students build confidence in themselves. She is excited to be at the forefront of ethnic studies curriculum development at the middle school level for the district. As staff sponsor of Warriors for Justice, she supports the organizing of a youth-led, school-based social justice club addressing intersectional climate justice issues. She is pursuing her passion as an educator-organizer, encouraging students to gain leadership experience and to “be the change they wish to see in the world.”
9th - 12th Grade Winner
Michele Lamons-Raiford is a hearing American Sign Language (ASL) teacher at Pinole Valley High School in the West Contra Costa Unified School District. She has been a High School teacher for the past nineteen years, previously teaching all levels of English, from remedial to Advanced Placement courses. She has also been an Adjunct English Instructor at Solano Community College for the past fourteen years. Mrs. Lamons-Raiford has a BA and MA in English from Cal State University Sacramento, and teaching credentials in English and ASL from Cal State University East Bay. At Pinole, she is also the co-sponsor of the African American Student Union, sponsor of Indian Pakistani Student Union, co-sponsor of the New Teacher Mentor Program, and Coach for the Speech and Debate Team. She was born, raised and still resides in Vallejo, is married, has a six year old son with special needs, and considers herself blessed to still have both of her parents living in their early 80s. Lastly, she plays guitar at her church, where she has attended for the past thirty years.
Community Educator Winner
Brittney is the acting unit director at our Lomita Park Elementary School site for the Mid-Peninsula Boys & Girls Club (MPBGC). Under her leadership and direct teaching, she has led over 125 students, many of whom are at-risk youth, to meet grade level standards both before and during the pandemic. MPBGC use the same standardized testing program as their partner schools, including Lomita Park Elementary, which allows us to measure students' academic progress both at our Club sites in comparison to the schools they attend. The most recent annual assessment showed that even during the pandemic, all 8 Kindergarten and Transition-Kindergarten students in Brittney's program scored higher in their assessments than the other students in their classroom.
Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy (HMCRA) Elementary School in San Francisco –“ Emmanuel has been a leader and educator in the San Francisco Unified School District for 30 years. He leads with empathy, commitment, and dedication to students and the community. By emphasizing trust and transparency in his work, Mr. Stewart builds relationships and credibility amongst his community. Since joining the Harvey Milk community, during the Pandemic and school closure his commitment has been reopening. Harvey Milk is one of a few elementary schools in the San Francisco Unified School District open five days a week!"