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Our Teachers in the News

Their awards and accomplishments prove what we already knew – Jefferson teachers are the best. Here’s some news about just a few of our stellar staff.

Tony Acquarelli – 826 Valencia Teacher of the Month, April 2010

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Once a month, 826 Valencia recognizes an exceptional teacher from among the many nominated by students, parents, and administrators from all over the SFUSD – and gives them a $1,500 check. Here’s the announcement that appeared on about Jefferson’s own Tony Acquarelli, one of our 4th grade teachers:

826 Valencia is proud and pleased to introduce Mr. Tony Acquarelli, fourth grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary, as our April Teacher of the Month!

Parents of students in his class and fellow teachers at Jefferson sent us a bundle of letters testifying to “Mr. A’s” patience, playfulness, super-cool musical talents, and dedication to helping his students learn. A former student wrote, “Through his class I evolved a curiosity for academics. I think this was because his way of teaching was very visual and interactive. It was through his class I learned to enjoy reading and writing.”

Not only does Mr. A make an effort to get to know each of his students personally and talk to them individually every day, but also he makes learning fun and easy, asking lots of questions and making sure his students are given examples to help them understand the subjects they are learning. A parent of a student in his class wrote to us about his openness and how he goes out of his way to help each student learn and feel included: “He never loses his temper and has a very calming personality…he treats all 33 of his students with respect, talking with them eye-to-eye about things they are interested in.”

For one writing assignment, Mr. A had the students write about who was their personal hero and why. When Mr. A was out of the classroom, all the students wrote about why he was their personal hero “Funny, smart, great artist, very cool, teaches well, playful, joins in with us, makes learning fun, music-loving, and patient were just a few of the adjectives used to describe their teacher.

Mr. A encourages creativity and musical expression in his class, incorporating art, guitar-playing, and songwriting into his lessons to show how rich reading and learning can be. When Mr. A read an abridged version of Moby Dick to his class, they worked together (and with the San Francisco Opera Company) to rewrite the classic Beatles songs, creating Moby Dick: The Rock Opera! How cool is that? Call us impressed!

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Gail Kabat - 2011 Youth Education Garden Champion Award, San Francisco Botanical Garden

gail.jpgJefferson kindergarten teacher Gail Kabat has been an enthusiastic and energetic supporter of our school garden for years, but her contributions to outdoor education don’t end there. In 2011, the San Francisco Botanical Garden honored her as one of just three people who’ve made their Youth Education Program what it is today.

San Francisco Botanical Garden Society youth education director Annette Huddle, who’s run the youth program for over 14 years, was asked to select ateacher whose respect for the natural world and participation in the Youth Education Program inspires both students and colleagues.She says, “Gail came to mind immediately! I consulted with a few other people connected with our program and they all agreed.”

Here’s what appeared about Ms. Kabat in the SFBG Garden Feast benefit program:

Youth Education Champion 2011 – Educator – Gail Kabat, for her commitment as a long-time kindergarten teacher at Jefferson School, ensuring that her kids have the opportunity to experience the natural world. She was one of the early participants in our Children’s Garden school year program and helped us fine tune our kindergarten curriculum. She has participated in several of our teacher workshops, bringing other teachers from her school as well. She spearheaded the effort to create kindergarten garden in the Jefferson Elementary schoolyard, using plants donated by the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society to create a magical place for the youngest children to enjoy.

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Loret Peterson - 826 Valencia Teacher of the Month, September 2011

loret.pngWe were thrilled to learn that Loret Peterson, who teaches our combined 4th/5th grade class, was recognized by 826 Valencia for her years of work. Along with $1,500 check from the organization, she’s got the appreciation of hundreds of Jefferson students and parents. Here’s the profile posted on to announce her award:

We are delighted to announce that Loret Peterson, a fourth and fifth grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary in San Francisco, is our September Teacher of the Month. Ms. Peterson’s dedication to dynamic, in-depth projects for her split class has all of us at 826 Valencia in awe.

Since 1999, Ms. Peterson has created a close-knit community within her classroom through social exercises and long term projects. These projects include research, writing, and artwork and result in student preparedness for middle school–level work. By the end of the year, her students feel “very comfortable with such projects” as one parent said. Ms. Peterson creates lesson plans for her students that bring the subject matter to life. While covering the westward movement, the students are grouped into families and incorporate the historical context of the movement into all subjects: language arts, mathematics, science, and even performing arts.

Not only is her enthusiasm evident within the classroom, but Ms. Peterson’s class spends a great deal of time furthering their learning by going on field trips all over San Francisco. She inspires an interest in culture by bringing her students to events at the San Francisco Ballet, the San Francisco Symphony, and several museums. Her “Poetry in the Gallery” trip involves her students going to the de Young Museum, learning about the African art in the museum’s collection, and then writing poems inspired by the work. It’s these interactive and creative lesson plans that keep Ms. Peterson’s fourth and fifth grade students engaged and interested in learning the material. Ms. Peterson brings the material out of the textbooks and into real life.

She has also shown great dedication to the Jefferson Garden Committee, a nine-year project that aims to transform the asphalt yards into a “creative outdoor space.” Ms. Peterson has been at the forefront of the committee since its formation. This ongoing project has built herb and native plant gardens, and soon will include an outdoor classroom complete with running water. Her seemingly endless energy for all of these projects has earned the admiration of students and parents alike.

The students at Jefferson Elementary are fortunate to have such a dedicated, creative, and enthusiastic teacher, role model, and mentor. Congratulations again, Ms. Peterson, and keep up the great work!

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