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"You Make A Difference" Awards highlight those positively impacting Special Ed students
Posted 11/17/22


During a heartwarming gathering on Wednesday, MDUSD's Special Education Community Advisory Committee (CAC) hosted its "You Make A Difference" Awards ceremony "Celebrating our everyday superheroes who go above and beyond in the lives of Special Education students." The event recognized 26 people who were nominated by District staff, parents and/or students for their exceptional work and the caring relationships they have built with students, parents and their colleagues.

"This is one of the most joyous occasions we get to attend," said Board Member Linda Mayo, who welcomed the award recipients and their supporters to the event at Concord High School. "We appreciate the support you give to our students."

Superintendent Dr. Adam Clark added: "I cannot thank you enough for the support you give." He revealed that his own brother's life was greatly impacted by special education teachers and service providers after he was blinded in an accident as a 12-year-old boy. He learned to read Braille, graduated from high school and college with a Doctorate degree and has three children. Like his brother, Dr. Clark said the impact the award recipients are having on students now will also help them to succeed in the future. "These kids who we work with are awesome and they need caring adults," he said. "You are providing hope for their parents and brothers and sisters. I am honored to be the superintendent here and I trust our students with each and every one of the adults that we put in their care."

Dorothy Weisenberger, Community Advisory Committee chairperson, invited parents who are interested to join the CAC or participate in meetings, which are held monthly on Zoom. And Wendi Aghily, Chief of Pupil Services and Special Education, thanked the award recipients for "truly deciding to make a difference in the lives of other people."


The award winners are: 

  • Sofia Pando, an Ayers Elementary 4th-grader who helps TK students with Down Syndrome
  • Katie Roarty, Office Manager at the Bridge Program for 18-22-year-old with disabilities
  • Kami Rossi, a PE teacher at Concord HS who spearheaded the Unified Sports program at the school
  • Contra Costa Behavioral Health partners Gerold Loenicker, Marilyn Franklin and Sharon Go, who help support students with special needs
  • Jenn Kenney, a Special Education Assistant (SEA) formerly at Highlands Elementary (parent nominated)
  • Lisa Okawa, a Special Education Assistant (SEA) at College Park HS specalizing in math
  • Amy Lejano, a senior secretary in MDUSD Special Education Department
  • Barbara Scott, Director of MDUSD's Home and Hospital program
  • Joelle Kimack Piranio, Office Manager at El Monte Elementary
  • Shelly Ramos, a Special Day Class teacher at Ayers Elementary
  • Emily Maher, a Special Day Class teacher at Hidden Valley Elementary
  • Kayo Alencastre, a Special Day Class teacher at Hidden Valley Elementary
  • Cecelia Guzman, a Special Day Class teacher at Oak Grove MS
  • Seena Smith, a Special Education teacher at Pine Hollow MS
  • Ezra "Coco" Contreras, a Speech Language Pathologist at Pleasant Hill Elementary
  • Jalaine Hroza, a Special Education Assistant (SEA) at Robert Shearer Preschool
  • Barbara Carpenter, a Sign Language Assistant in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program, Robert Shearer Preschool
  • Theresa Stevens, Special Education Assistant (SEA) to Deaf and Hard of Hearing students, Robert Shearer Preschool
  • Jennifer Wayman, a Speech Language Pathologist at Robert Shearer Preschool
  • Terri Huston, a Special Day Class teacher at Silverwood Elementary
  • Margo Castellano, a Special Education Assistant (SEA) at Sun Terrace Elementary
  • Maria Teresa Healy, a Special Education Assistant (SEA) at Ygnacio Valley Elementary
  • Dr. Kathy Futterman, MDUSD's Dyslexia Education Specialist
  • Denise Lambert, Lifetime Achievement Award for former longtime CAC leader and parent advocate

Congrats and THANK YOU to all!