Berkeley teachers honored for dedication and innovation

City Councilmember Laurie Capitelli wears a potted plant from the newly cleaned up downtown area. He promised to donate it to the largest contributor to the BPEF. The winning bid was $5,001. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD

Hundreds of people gathered at HS Lordship’s restaurant Friday to honor the teachers who shine in the Berkeley Unified School District.

The Berkeley Public Education Foundation recognized three middle school teachers for their dedication to their students, inventiveness, and collegiality. The crowd at the annual fundraiser was also wowed by a performance by Berkeley High sophomore Noah Silverman St. John, a spoken word poet who was featured on Berkeleyside in January, and whose work has been heard on NPR.

The luncheon was a “Who’s Who?” of Berkeley with numerous city councilmembers in attendance (Laurie Capitelli was the emcee), as well as state legislators including Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner and State Senator Loni Hancock. Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan was there, as was Interim City Manager Christine Daniel, Auditor Anne-Marie Hogan, Economic Development Program Coordinator Michael Caplan, and other officials.

Sponsors included the Saul Zaentz Company, Wareham Development, Bayer HeathCare, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Meyer Sound, Union Bank, Mechanics Bank, Wells Fargo, Pacific Steel Casting Company, Oliver & Company, Red Oak Realty, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, and more.

Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner was one of the guests at the annual BPEF luncheon. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD

Outgoing BUSD Superintendent Bill Huyett got a BPEF apron as a going-away gift. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD

BPEF raises hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to support teachers and projects in Berkeley’s 19 schools. In the 2011-2012 school year, BPEF gave out 243 grants totaling $224,000.

The Distinguished Educator Awards went to:

Akemi Hamai, a science teacher at King Middle School. Hamai, who went through Berkeley public schools herself and is the parent of an eighth grader, started her career in Berkeley teaching science to students newly arrived in the United States with limited English skills. Hamai still teaches about 25 of these student a year, who among them speak 10 to 15 different languages. Her students have gone on to college and industry and achieved great success. Hamai has also coached PE and the girl’s basketball team, helped strategize on a curriculum for the Edible Schoolyard, and launched the Junior Asian Student Union.

Mary Patterson took her first job as a Spanish teacher at Berkeley High in 1990. She organized a cultural exchange program where Berkeley students went to live with families in Mexico. In 2003, Patterson went on to build the district’s middle school Spanish/English dual immersion program at Longfellow, where she teaches today. In 2010, Patterson took on leadership of the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program at Longfellow, which identifies under-represented students and helps them map out a path to college.

George Rose, a Willard Middle School teacher, has taught English, History, Debate, and other topics and developed the school’s well-regarded drama program. Rose enlisted parent volunteers years ago to clean out an old shop classroom. They transformed it into the “Metal Shop Theater,” where it has become a showcase for student-written and student-performed productions. Rose also resurrected Willard’s legendary Spring Day, a day in May where students perform, take workshops, and compete in sporting events.

Noah Silverman St. John performs “Backbone & Education,” at annual BPEF lunch.

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  • Anonymous

    More like a Who’s Who of vampires who feast on the residents of Berkeley.  Well, congratulations to the teachers and I’m glad they are being recognized…It’s no surprise the grifter class was out in force to steal some of the credit.

  • Julie Wong

    Hurray for Ms. Hamai!  She deserves to be recognized.

  • Bill

    Of come on.  Would it better to have nothing for these dedicated and wonderful teachers?

  • serkes

    Will the Feds try to shut down the Capitelli Pot Dispensary too?

  • Anonymous

    As I said, I have nothing but respect for the teachers and I’m thrilled when they get any recognition instead of the usual kick in the mouth. It’s the administrators who would rather layoff teachers and staff than cut their ridiculous salaries and pet programs that I hate. Maybe the spending the last doing an insane amount of fundraising as well as giving literally thousands of dollars so that my son’s school can have the programs that BSEP is supposed to be paying for has made me bitter.

  • Completely_Serious

     “grifter class”  Ha ha ha ha ha.  Just perfect.

  • I’m Jes’ Sayin’

    Notice that there is zero correlation between the three teachers being honored and the three adults shown in the photographs for this article.

  • BerkeleyCitizen

    Indeed, how about just one picture of the lowly teachers? 

  • Completely_Serious

    Can anyone tell me what the Auditor does?  What results has she ever produced?

  • Google

    The Auditor’s Office provides independent oversight of City operations;
    its mission is to be a catalyst for improving City government. Our
    audits, conducted in accordance with Government Audit Standards, provide
    the City Manager, City Council, and the public with objective, timely,
    and accurate information about City program performance.  By providing
    this information and making recommendations for improvement, we help to
    hold government accountable in its stewardship of public resources. Ann
    Marie Hogan was elected Auditor of the City of Berkeley in December

  • Frances Dinkelspiel

     Please note that the photos I used were not produced by the luncheon’s host, the BPEF, but Mark Coplan, who works for the school district. He was there as a guest. While Mark took some photos of the teachers, they were not as good as the ones I selected. The BPEF will not have its photos available for use for a few days. I was not intending to slight the teachers; I was looking to use interesting photos. (And I am not sure how Laurie Capitelli will ever live down that plant on his head.)

  • Anonymous

     Frances, I don’t think anybody is criticizing you for the photo selection.  That the district photographer (we really have a district photographer?) only took “some” pictures of the teachers, the ones being celebrated and the whole reason for the party, demonstrates the pathology of BUSD administrators and Berkeley politicians.

  • Anonymous

    Their primary responsibility used to be the of rolling the coins from the parking meters so Bates could deposit them in the bank.  Now with the new credit card based ones they mainly spend their time making sure the bogus percentages in the various city reports add to something near 100%, model the budgetary impact of the city council banning radiation and chemicals, etc.