Alvarez receives award for work with Special Education

Anne Alvarez, Special Education teacher at Newbury Park High School, was awarded the Students with Exceptional Needs Human Rights Award by the California Teachers Association (CTA) for her work with special needs students. She will receive the award at the Marriott Hotel in Irvine on Feb. 29.

“40 years to teach is really a long time, and (Alvarez) is totally eligible to retire if she wants to but she doesn’t want to. That’s a real testament to the type of human being she is. You know, she still has more to give,” Lucia Lemieux, English teacher and colleague of Alvarez said. As a recipient of the CTA Human Rights Award for LGBTQ+ Advocacy in 2018, Lemieux decided to nominate Alvarez for the award best fitting for her service to special needs students.

According to the CTA, this award is given to a “CTA member whose activities have helped to achieve significant progress on behalf of equal opportunity for physically and/or mentally challenged students.” As one of the nine categories for individual awards, it serves to recognize educators who dedicate time and effort into promoting equal opportunity for groups who are typically oppressed. 

“The day after Special Olympics, I am glowing because it is such a fantastic thing to see the interaction between non handicapped kids and handicapped kids,” Alvarez said. As the advisor of National Honor Society, a service club of high academic achievers, she works with the club to put together events for special needs students such as the VIP dance, Special Olympics and Unified Sports. 

Another qualification for the award is “promoting equal educational opportunities for disabled students,” which Alvarez has displayed not only through the integration of non handicapped students in events for Special Education students, but also through her work with Cameo Carolan, the NPHS dance teacher. They collaborated to make an opening dance performance for Special Olympics that included special needs students.

“(Carolan and I) worked together with my (special needs) kids, and (Carolan) finally said, I realize you don’t have to be perfect for it to be perfect,” Alvarez said, “She understood that to share it was the most important thing, not that it was done absolutely correct, and I’m getting more and more teachers to understand that.” NPHS has a Special Education cheer squad known as the Sparkles which performs at school rallies and some sports games.

“Every single day, I learn from my students. They do something that makes me happy or they teach me how to be a better teacher. If I can’t help them learn something one way, I try another way,” Alvarez said. Before coming to NPHS twelve years ago, Alvarez worked with special needs children at Camarillo State Hospital, Redwood Middle School, and Oxnard.

The day Alvarez will officially receive her award for her significance in NPHS’s Special Education program is also her birthday. As she recalls the experiences she has had at this school, she concluded, “I feel that Newbury Park does a really good job of not just tolerance or acceptance, but inclusion.”

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