California Educator

April/May 2023

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Gretel Rodriguez Sweetwater Education Association HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD FOR WOMEN'S ADVOCACY High school English teacher Gretel Rodriguez is a longtime social justice and women's advocate at the local, state and national level. She was the NEA Women's Caucus Treasurer and is the current CTA Women's Caucus chair. In both caucuses she has liberated the space for BIPOC women to lead, expanded the idea of feminism and created a more inclusive atmosphere. Recently, she coordinated a women's consortium for her service center. She also created an ethnic studies consortium working with a women-led equity team and with other women from Southern California. Rodriguez's activism expands to broader racial and social justice issues, from leading a Black Lives Matter hunger strike to refugee marches, from collect- ing donated supplies for Bridge of Love to creating workshops and support for LGBTQ+ parents and community, and to participation in the Association of Raza Educators and Union del Barrio. In an all-wom- en-led event this past summer, she traveled to Mexico to build a coalition with teachers. She has participated in ICE patrols, leafletting neighborhoods about peoples' rights and where to seek help if ICE agents separate parents from children. She collaborated on a women-led march for families to stay together during a mass deporta- tion and detention and co-chaired a hunger strike for mothers separated from their children. She has held accountable politicians who accept detention center money. "It was important that I do whatever I can to sup- port other mothers who don't have a voice, don't have documentation to speak out," Rodriguez said. "I have to do this work. I cannot look into my children's eyes, my students' eyes, and not do anything." Dr. Phe X Bach San Juan Teachers Association PACIFIC ASIAN AMERICAN HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD What sets Dr. Phe X Bach apart as an educator — specif- ically as a chemistry teacher in the San Juan Unified School District since 2002 — is his ability and willingness to instill mindfulness into his teaching practice and to create program- ming around mindfulness to benefit his students, colleagues and the AAPI community. Dr. Bach starts his classes with a 5-minute meditation — a "vacation for your mind" — and discussion before jumping into academic work. He points to studies that find mindfulness as key to many students' success in school. He has created and led professional development training around concepts of mindful leadership and mindfulness in the classroom, and he has founded several organizations that teach mindfulness to various AAPI communities. Dr. Bach worked on social emotional learning before it became an educational buzzword because his philosophy and approach as an educator and an advocate is grounded in mind- fulness. The pandemic and other recent events have underscored the need for mindfulness as a foundational piece of educational equity. His goal is to help educa- tors become healthier and better teachers, which in turn benefits their students. With his work focusing on bringing effective and usable strategies directly to students and educators, he is keenly aware that often students with the highest needs for these resources have the least access. He recognizes and advocates for the mental health of educators as a key component to effective teaching and positive school environments. His mantra to his workshop participants is " You cannot give what you do not have." He explains, "All the peace in the world starts with inner peace, so [I want] them to cultivate that inner peace — the awareness, understanding and compassion." 30 Social Justice

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