They shield kindergartners from oncoming traffic in crosswalks outside schools. They lay cool hands on fevered foreheads, encourage the inclusion of a fruit or vegetable with lunch or use their keen math skills to keep the PTA’s books clean.
They are the employees, teachers and parent volunteers who make La Cañada Unified School District campuses centers for learning and support, and last Thursday several among their ranks were honored when the La Cañada PTA Council presented this year’s Founders Day Awards.
In a March 21 ceremony held at La Cañada High School, Council President Lisa Dick explained how the National Parent Teacher Assn. created Founders Day awards to recognize individuals whose commitment to improving the lives of children embody the spirit of the group’s original founders.
“The founders of the PTA were women of imagination and courage. They understood the power of individual action, worked beyond the accepted barriers of their day and took action to change the world for all children,” she addressed the crowd. “All the people we’re honoring tonight continue that spirit and progress.”
Dick presented three awards at the PTA Council level and was followed by school site PTA presidents and administrators, who awarded recipients from their respective campuses. For each honoree, speakers provided brief remarks highlighting how that person daily goes above and beyond the ordinary call of duty.
During the one-hour ceremony attendees learned, for example, how parent Lee Chumo lends her green thumb to La Cañada Elementary School’s many garden areas, and how longtime Paradise Canyon Elementary School third-grade teacher Kristen Brown instills confidence in every student she encounters.
“She truly is like Mary Poppins with the children,” said Valerie Talbert, the school’s PTA president.
Palm Crest Elementary School PTA President Emily Biondo praised campus security staff member Brandon Norman for his winning ways with students and parents and ability to diffuse tense situations while supervising the school’s car drop-off line.
“Mr. Brandon has mastered the art of diplomacy to such an extent that he can swiftly broker a deal between two frustrated, in-a-rush parents who both believe with all their hearts that they have the right of way,” Biondo said of Norman, who was nominated by several students. “(And) he makes the students feel supported, heard and safe.”
Passing out awards on behalf of La Cañada High School 7/8, PTA President Christa Evans recognized parent volunteer Caren Sait for her successful effort to ban cellphone use among students during the school day, which drew applause from the audience, and thanked paraprofessional Shannon Ortiz for being an educator, substitute parent and life coach all rolled into one.
Principal Jarrett Gold presented an award, and a cupcake with a candle in it, to eighth-grade math teacher Megan Dever, who is famous for getting students to love mathematics and happened to be celebrating her birthday.
Tamar Tujian, PTA president for LCHS 9-12, praised mom Judy Kwon for diligently attending every PTA meeting and relaying important information to parents among La Cañada’s Korean American community. Tujian also thanked parent volunteer Frances Delgatty for putting her heart into every cause she takes up, like reinventing the school’s Red Ribbon Week antidrug campaign.
“Thank you for your energy and your heart — your huge heart — you deserve this award 10 times over,” she said.