California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

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Hayward High School Teachers Set Example for Students

Twelfth grade Hayward High School economics teacher Ashley Cooper gives one of her students her undivided attention. Cooper and her colleague Herberta Zuleuta were both named Teacher of the Year.

In a community of over 150,000 residents, two Hayward High School teachers make it their objective to facilitate the city’s youth and future with the knowledge that they are important and brilliant members of their town.

Lindsay Cooper and Herberta Zulueta were awarded by their school’s Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program as the 12th grade Teachers of the Year, as students say they are representations of excellence at its best.

“They make us want to be the best we can possibly be,” said 12th grade AVID student Anthony Niuatoa. “They are what teachers should always be like, 100 percent devoted to our success.”

Cooper and Zulueta were chosen, AVID students say, based on their engagement with students and the overall impression they have made upon the Hayward High student body.

Not only are they a representation of the senior class, they say, rather they are a representation of Hayward’s public school educators, as they mentor inner-city youth to believe in themselves and pursue higher education.

Therefore, by being chosen as two of Hayward High School’s Teachers of the Year, the Hayward community now has a symbol of who the educators of their children are and who serve as the inspirations their youth need.

For Niuatoa, who says he is planning to take pre-med classes at Chabot College this coming school year, teachers like Cooper and Zulueta were instrumental in the way he appreciates himself and his future.

“Ms. Zulueta takes pride in our school, and then teaches us to take pride in ourselves,” he said. “Ms. Cooper teaches us to see our future positively and that we can be as successful as anyone else. They’re both what kids like us need, just great teachers.”

During a time where public education seems to be slipping through a daunting economic crises and where not enough funds and supplies are available to meet the demand, the need for dedicated, fresh and motivated teachers many say is needed now more than ever.

Cooper, who has only been teaching for 2 years, says she is so dedicated to public education, that she would gladly give half of her pay check to fund it.

“I love the population here. I have never wanted to teach children of privilege,” she said. “Lower income kids don’t usually have qualified teachers who care and I really care.”

As a graduate of San Francisco State with a degree in Humanities and credentials from CSU East Bay, the Temecula native now teaches Economics, saying that the tangibility of the subject is just what Hayward students need as they embark upon their adult lives.

Through projects that engage students in their government and educate them on finances and human-capital among others, Cooper believes they will leave high school knowledgeable about their country and how to make the best choices for their future.

“I love being able to show them that taxes pay for their education right now,” said Cooper. “It blows their minds to know the behind-the-scenes aspects of how their world works.”

Cooper believes that Hayward students, as well as students in general, need to realize their value as intelligent and mature members of society, saying she is always amazed by the level of intelligence her students are capable of once they are given the chance.

“I made this quest to make sure I would always challenge and push my students,” said Cooper. “I just don’t care about anything else.”

Saying she was incredibly honored to be chosen as one of the teachers of the year, Cooper says her bond with her students and the Hayward community has transformed into an everlasting one.

Her motivation to create upward mobility through education for the communities’ youth, she says has made her life-long desire of being a teacher the greatest pleasure she has known.

“I love my kids,” she said with a smile. “They say the most amazing things when inspired and I want nothing more than to give them the tools to succeed. I want to be their facilitator of inspiration just like my teachers were for me.”

For Zulueta, a teacher of over six years, the desire to always want to become a teacher like Cooper, she says, stems from the teachers she also had growing up, adding that she too hopes to stimulate her students with a thirst for knowledge and enrichment.

“We need to celebrate our students’ successes and strengths,” she said. “We have to allow them to go forth with an idea and build up their visions. We need to help them realize they’re as good as anyone else, no matter where you’re from.”

As the Activities Director, Zulueta works with students to create school events which she says adds to the overall high school experience that builds up students’ self-esteem, pride and self-worth, which she says is unfortunately lacking.

“They don’t think they’re as good as other schools and I always tell them ‘It doesn’t matter, you are good enough!’” Zulueta said in response to the challenging image of Hayward High presented in the media, and how it affects her students.

Describing the community’s outlook on the school as the “biggest challenge,” Zulueta says that her position has enabled her to reach out to the public and build a bond between its youth and its members.

“This role has allowed me to have a better sense of who are as a school and as a city. I love that,” she said “Being in a position where I can create memories is such an honor. How cool is that?”

With a degree in Marine Biology and Masters in Science Education from UC Santa Cruz, the San Diego native also serves as a Biology teacher and the Department Chair of Science, believing that being a woman of color teaching science can inspire her students to take the next step with their lives by having a role-model who has done the same.

“It’s so important to have people of color in education, educating students of color,” she said. “Biology teaches us that our communities and our world are incredibly diverse and that’s fantastic, and we need to show our students that being diverse is beautiful and valuable.”

Saying she wants to retire as a Dean of Activities, Zulueta says teaching and working with students is a heartening and fulfilling experience, and while she says she was “surprised” to be awarded as teacher of the year, she also feels honored and happy to know that she made a difference for the students this year.

“I hope they have pride in themselves and feel like their experiences at Hayward High were invaluable this year,” she said. “If I can get them to feel like they are worth something, then I’ve been successful.”

Both teachers agree that the next step for Hayward High is to increase parent involvement to further improve their student’s success and opportunities for their futures so they can improve their jobs as educators as well.

For Hayward High School Principal George Bullis, having outstanding teachers such as Cooper and Zulueta gives him pride in his school and hope for the future of California’s education.

“In urban high schools, teachers need to be committed to students beyond the time they see them in the classroom,” said Bullis. “They need to be dedicated beyond school, and they are definitely and always willing to go the extra mile for them.”

“Zulueta is a dedicated and experienced teacher who goes above and beyond any assignment she is given,” he added. “She’s an exceptional teacher whose love for her job and for her students is apparent in everything she does.”

“Cooper has shown that she is really connected to senior students and has really been able to make a difference in their lives while still providing a high rigorous curriculum.”

Hayward’s 150,000 residents can now look to teachers such as Cooper and Zulueta and have faith that their children are in good hands.

The future of California and its education reside in our students, but the teachers who impart wisdom and intelligence upon them, like Cooper and Zulueta, should be recognized for their work.

“Their absolute drive is what we need to move the education system in California,” said Bullis. “They are examples of teachers who are moving in the right direction regardless of economic and societal challenges, and we are very lucky to have them.”

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Hayward High School Teachers Set Example for Students