By Staff Reports
(Victor Valley)– Six champions of public education – representing six San Bernardino County school districts – will be recognized with the 23rd annual County Education Medal of Honor banquet today. The awards dinner will be held from 6-9 p.m. at Etiwanda Gardens in Rancho Cucamonga.
Each year, County Schools, along with the San Bernardino County School Boards Association and County Communicators Network, recognizes individuals and groups who give outstanding service and support to public education with the San Bernardino County Education Medal of Honor.
“Our communities are better places because of the dedication these groups and individuals demonstrate on behalf of our public schools,” County Superintendent Gary Thomas said. “Each year, it is an honor to recognize their accomplishments.”
The six categories, respective winners and districts served this year are:
- Volunteer in Action/Community Volunteer: Linda Blair, community volunteer, Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District;
- Volunteer in Action/Service Group: Mojave Environmental Education Consortium for Apple Valley Unified School District;
- Partners in Education/Small Business or Franchise: Larry and Maria Dabour, owners of the Mad Greek Café, Baker Valley Unified School District;
- Partners in Education/Corporation or Government Agency: San Bernardino/Riverside County Joint Electrical Apprenticeship and Journeyman Training Program for Colton Joint Unified School District;
- Excellence in Education/Education Professional: Sybil Acevedo, Spanish and English language development teacher at A.B. Miller High School in the Fontana Unified School District;
- Excellence in Education/Student Alumni: Garner Holt, founder and CEO of Garner Holt Productions, for San Bernardino City Unified School District.
Following are narratives on each of the individual winners.
Volunteer in Action/Community Volunteer
After retiring 18 years ago as an accountant, Linda Blair has hardly slowed down in providing a wealth of volunteering efforts for the Yuciapa-Calimesa district. She first put her math skills to good use by helping to tutor elementary students.
Today, Blair is entrenched in a variety of school programs and activities that benefit students across the district.
At Wildwood Elementary, Blair now is the chairwoman for two annual Scholastic Book Fairs at the school. In addition, she is an active participant in the site Parent Teacher Association, as well as volunteers to help with the school’s science fair, in five classrooms on campus, in the library and with an annual Santa Shop for students.
“Linda Blair is an unsung hero to public education,” says Lucia Hudec, the principal at Wildwood Elementary who nominated her for the Education Medal of Honor.
Volunteer in Action/Service Group
For the past 13 years, the Mojave Environmental Education Consortium has been an asset to the High Desert in improving environmental literacy for students.
Offering environmental education resources to more than 2,600 teachers in the region at no charge, the consortium offers standards-based instructional programs that utilize science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) principles, as well as new Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards. As a previous winner of the Education Medal of Honor in 2004, the Mojave Environmental Education Consortium has expanded on both its scope and reach for programs and opportunities it offers.
Annually, the consortium offers more than 15 workshops on STEM that teachers can participate in following school. It also has provided scholarships to teachers to attend the nationally recognized Keystone Education Center in Colorado that supplies standards-based curriculum and materials on outdoor exploration.
Partners in Education/Small Business or Franchise
As a longtime landmark in Baker along Interstate 15, the Mad Greek Café with owners Larry and Maria Dabour have become valuable supporters of creating educational opportunities in their community.
With less than 200 students attending school in the Baker Valley Unified School District, finding additional support for programs is challenging in the remote desert community.
“Whatever we ask for, they are there with a helping hand,” says Baker Superintendent Ronda Tremblay, who nominated the Dabours for the Education Medal of Honor.
Three years ago, the family provided prizes, display boards and even volunteered to do judging so that a district science fair could start up. In 2013, the family supported a joint effort with the Death Valley district to hold a field day that fosters friendship and resources between the two remote districts.
Partners in Education/Corporation or Government Agency
The San Bernardino/Riverside County Joint Electrical Apprenticeship and Journeyman Training Program has been an active and willing participant in supporting educational programs tied to career pathways.
In November, the training program opened its doors to middle school students from the Colton Joint Unified School district for two six-hour electrical boot camps, which not only related how students’ math skills translated into the trade, but also provided helpful safety information about electrical occupations.
“The training program is an example of the great things that happen when industry and education work together to form a more purposeful community, one that recognizes that students do not only belong to schools, teachers and parents,” says Colton Superintendent Jerry Almendarez in his nomination of the organization.
The training center has been a valuable community partner that helps students focus on career and academic readiness.
Excellence in Education/Education Professional
Simply put, Sybil Acevedo of A.B. Miller High School serves as a role model to her students about following their dreams and persisting in making sure they come true.
With 25 years in the classroom, including her present positions at A.B. Miller High School in Fontana and the Chaffey Adult School, Acevedo has been an advocate and inspiration for her students and the community for her work teaching Spanish and in English language development.
She has served as a parent involvement coordinator, worked in the Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment program and even helped tutor in after-school programs at Maple Elementary in Fontana.
As a teacher at Miller since 2003, she brings a vibrant energy to the classroom that creates enthusiasm for her students. She was recognized by California Association for Bilingual Education with the Inland Empire Teacher of the Year Award in 2010.
Excellence in Education/Student Alumni
As a world-renowned manufacturer of animatronics, Garner Holt not only sees big pictures very well, he can pretty much build them to specifications with all the bells and whistle included.
A 1977 graduate of Pacific High School in the San Bernardino City Unified School District, Holt stayed home to build his business – one mechanical, animated figure at a time.
Drawing on his successful 35 years of business after starting from scratch when he was in high school, Holt has been a willing partner to share his success and insights with students from his hometown school district, as well as students from California State University, San Bernardino.
“Through hard work, dedication and a vivid imagination, Garner Holt has become the world’s largest animatronics builder,” wrote Dale Marsden, superintendent of San Bernardino City Unified and nominator of Holt for the Education Medal of Honor.
The Education Medal of Honor is sponsored by the San Bernardino County Schools Board Association, in conjunction with the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools. Corporate sponsors include SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union and Frick, Frick and Jetté Architects of Apple Valley.