It came close to bedlam in Carl Erickson’s science classroom at Buchser Middle School when 13 mascots from the Pac-12 Conference universities stormed the room on Nov. 30. His wife, Hughes Elementary School teacher Jennifer Erickson, and her third grade students had been bused to the campus to join his students and collaborate on a special class project. Or so they thought.
Then the mascots arrived—Stanford’s tree, USC’s Trojan Warrior, Berkeley’s Oski the Bear, University of Arizona’s Wilbur and Wilma T. Wildcat, 13 of them in all. Who had ever before seen so many mascots all in one small room?
Nobody knew what to think as the mascots pranced around, giving hugs and high fives to students, wrapping students and each other in masking tape and being as disruptive as they could get away with in a classroom with teachers, principals and the assistant superintendant of schools looking on.
What the Ericksons and their wide-eyed students never dreamed of was that the surprise visit was all about the two Santa Clara teachers. As part of the College Football Playoff Foundation’s Extra Yard for Teachers Program, the Ericksons were being honored for going the extra yard for their students throughout their teaching careers. Each was presented with a check for $5,000 by the Pac-12 Conference.
The literally bigger-than-life-sized checks were presented by Pac-12 Chief Marketing Officer Danette Leighton and 2017 Football Scholarship Athlete of the Year Matt Anderson, a place kicker for the California Golden Bears.
“Recognizing great teaching today is such an honor. My own third grade teacher, Mrs. Claudia Motal, had the biggest impact on me coming up from my schooling,” said Anderson.
Everyone but the Ericksons and their students had been in on the surprise.
“I’m really excited that we could partner with PAC-12 in honoring exemplary teachers that serve our students and our community,” said Santa Clara Unified School District Assistant Superintendent Kathie Kanavel. “It’s been difficult to keep it a surprise!”
“I don’t know what to say!” said Carl Erickson.
“I think both of us are beyond surprise and I’m close to tears but very honored,” said Jennifer Erickson. “Thank you for recognizing us. It’s very special.”
“Jennifer is amazing. I love being in her classroom,” said Hughes principal Teri Morrow. “She’s a great team player and ahead of the curve utilizing technology in her classroom.”
Jennifer Erickson has taught at Hughes Elementary for 10 years. She has been a lead teacher on the school-wide technology 1:1 initiative supporting other teachers in the use of tablets with students.
Carl Erickson has taught science at Buchser for 18 years and is on the District Science Leadership Team. At Buchser, he runs the Tech Challenge Team, guiding students in taking on technology and engineering challenges.
“Carl is an enthusiastic, energetic teacher. He’s curious and inspirational. He just wants his kids to love science as much as he does,” said Buchser principal Monica Stoffal. “He’s willing to take risks with teaching, which is how creativity comes to life.”
The Ericksons and their students were further recognized and honored on the field at Levi’s Stadium on Dec. 1 during the first quarter break of the Pac-12 Football Championship Game between Stanford and USC, with USC scoring 31 to Stanford’s 28.
As part of the Extra Yard for Teachers Program, each Pac-12 university donated $10,000 over the football season to outstanding teachers in their communities, totaling $120,000 donated across the region.
Pac-12 Networks, launched in 2012 and headquartered in San Francisco, is a nonprofit media company owned by the Pacific-12 Conference universities: Arizona, Arizona State, UC Berkeley, Colorado, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, University of Southern California, Utah, Washington and Washington State. Pac-12 promotes 13 women’s sports and 11 men’s sports.