On Oct. 23, the San Francisco 49ers and Symetra recognized two Santa Clara Unified School District teachers during a pre-game at Levi Stadium. The honorees were Melissa Le, a kindergarten teacher at Don Callejon School, and Rylan Stewart, a first grade teacher at Central Park Elementary School. Each teacher received a certificate naming them the “2016 Symetra Hero in the Classroom”, a football signed by 49er Eric Reid, a personalized jersey, a cap, a bag, a $50 gift card to the stadium gift shop, a pair of game tickets and a $1,000 check donated to their respective classrooms.
“I want to use the money from the check to get an Apple iPad with a touch screen for the kids and a little cottage playhouse so we can put up a sign on it to commemorate that the 49ers gave money to this classroom,” says Le, who admits she felt like she was dreaming when learning she won this honor.
Le has taught in various grades for 25 years. She received her B.A. in Child Development and her teaching credential at San Jose State University.
“Teaching kindergarten is where I belong because I majored in Child Development and that focuses on the early years of a child’s life,” Le says. “I use puppetry in my class every day. In my classroom, I have over 100 puppets to make every subject come alive. I even have an Einstein puppet for science. I believe that learning should be fun.”
Maureen Chu, a Don Callejon School parent, initiated the group effort among other parents to nominate Le.
“You can really tell Ms. Le cares about her students,” Chu says. “Ms. Le makes sure that at the beginning of the day, everyone gets a warm greeting. Every morning the star of the week or class president stands at the door and, in the language they speak at home, greets every student as they walk inside the classroom.”
Stewart is considering how she’d like to spend the $1,000 donation for her classroom.
“Maybe I’d like to use the $1,000 to buy some guided reading tables, which are U-shaped tables that can allow for small group reading instruction or we might get more classroom level books,” Stewart says.
Stewart has been teaching for 10 years and has experience teaching first and second grade. At U.C. Santa Cruz, she received her M.A. in Education and teaching credential. She enjoys teaching programming skills and multimedia art to her students.
“I think every student brings something unique to the table,” Stewart says.
“Each comes with their own set of things every day and you have to greet students with a smile, meet them where they’re at, help them be a kind individual and help them love learning. I really focus on the individual student and personalized learning for each student.”
“Instead of just doing one standard lesson plan for all the kids, regardless of what their competency levels are, Ms. Stewart would make custom worksheets by hand for kids who are academically advanced and for kids who are struggling, she’d also make worksheets to help them out too,” says Tesin Dosch, a Central Park School parent who nominated Stewart. “I volunteer at school events and I have noticed that even though Ms. Stewart didn’t have to be at these events, she shows up on her own time to help out with setting things up at the new school.”