Couple named as Golden Apple winners

Fernando and Valerie Aenlle-Rocha were named Jan. 20 as this year's recipients of the Golden Apple award from the La Cañada Unified School District.

The Golden Apple award is given to outstanding community leaders in California and is sponsored by the Association of California School Administrators. The Aenlle-Rochas have been fixtures of the La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation since 1999 and continue to volunteer at individual LCUSD schools where their children are, or were once, enrolled.

Fernando and Valerie said they felt as though there was someone else in the community who was more deserving. When the announcement was made that they were the winners of the 2010-11 Golden Apple award, Fernando turned to Valerie and asked, "What have we done to win this?"

It's a fairly long answer.

The couple has filled big roles in the Educational Foundation over the years. Fernando served as a Foundation director from 1999 to 2005, acting as the organization's chairperson of publicity, the back-to-school-night committee and the yard-signs committee. Valerie stepped in as the Foundation's president this past June after working as a director since 2006.

"Fernando and Valerie are great examples of the outstanding parental leadership and support we have in the La Cañada Unified School District," said district Supt. Jim Stratton in a prepared statement. "They are creative, hard-working and inventive. They build consensus and get people positively involved in projects."

The Aenlle-Rochas are best known for their work with the Foundation, but they've been working behind the scenes in La Cañada Unified's schools for years. Fernando and Valerie took turns serving as weekly parent volunteers in all three of their children's kindergarten classes. Valerie worked Wednesdays and Fernando filled in on Fridays.

Fernando and Valerie are also Junior Great Books parent volunteers at Paradise Canyon Elementary and co-presidents of La Cañada High's Music Parents Association. Valerie also serves as a parent representative on the school site council for both La Cañada High 7/8 and 9-12.

It's not as if the couple has time to kill — they are both attorneys. Fernando is a lawyer for White & Case LLP, an international legal-advisory service, at the firm's Los Angeles office. Valerie works as the grand jury legal advisor for Los Angeles County, overseeing all criminal cases heard in the Los Angeles County Criminal Grand Jury.

Although both of their jobs are demanding, Fernando and Valerie are firm believers in giving back to their community.

"We do it because we're vested in the community and you get as much out of life and the community in which you live as what you put into it," Fernando said.

Valerie also uses her legal experience in La Cañada Unified's schools, teaching three different Gifted and Talented Education classes, including the program's criminal-law and crime-scene investigation courses.

Despite the couple's resume, Valerie still couldn't help but be surprised they were chosen for the recognition.

"Quite frankly, I was shocked," Valerie said. "I felt very proud to be acknowledged, but there are so many wonderful people in our community to support our schools and the district and [Fernando and I] are honored to have been chosen for this wonderful award."

The couple will receive their Golden Apple awards at a special breakfast ceremony for all 10 school districts in Region XV of the Association of California School Administrators on Feb. 17.

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