Pittsburg Pride Posts
Pittsburg Pride Post: Hue Phan, Vice Principal, Heights ElementaryPosted by Nicole Mora on 11/15/2018
My journey with Pittsburg Pride began in August 1998 as a first year second-grade teacher at Willow Cove Elementary. I was a young graduate from Saint Mary’s College, and as a new teacher, I wanted to make a difference. My desire was to serve and inspire our scholars to reach their fullest potential. I believe that all students are capable and have the potential to succeed with support, respect and the right resources and tools. The metaphor I like to use is a beautiful garden with a variety of flowers in different colors, sizes, and shapes, and they need the right amount of water, sun, soil, and care. Similarly, our scholars need a champion who believes in them and shows them what they are capable of accomplishing. I have had students come to my classroom at the beginning of the year, not knowing how to read and disliking math, but then leave my classroom at the end of the year as a reader and enjoying math. Over the years, former students have visited me and told me that I inspired them to go to college. It’s an extremely rewarding feeling, and I am continuously motivated to do what I do because of it.
After 15 years of being a classroom teacher, I made a very difficult decision to leave the classroom and become a BITSA mentor. I was driven by the desire to have a bigger impact and help more than 25 students in a classroom. As a BITSA mentor, I worked with 15 new teachers across the district to inspire and help them improve their instructional practices. I enjoyed supporting our new teachers because I can see their passion for helping and educating. After a year as a BITSA mentor, a vice principal position at Heights Elementary became available, and I knew I wanted to do more and have an even more substantial impact on education and our students. In 2014, I became vice principal of Heights Elementary.
I am honored to be vice principal at Heights Elementary where I am proud to serve our students, parents, and staff within the Pittsburg Community for the past four years. Over the years, Pittsburg has significantly changed for the better, and I wear this like a badge of honor when I hear administrators from other school districts say they notice the many incredible things PUSD is doing. Pittsburg has been my second home for 20 years, and it will be home for many more years to come. I wake up each morning looking forward to greeting our scholars as their parents drop them off and excitingly waiting to hear what stories the students will share with me. I cherish the daily hugs and smiles that come my way. I recently had a first-grade student hug and say, “Where were you yesterday, I wanted to tell you something, but you were not here.” I cannot imagine being anywhere else but here.
My passion to teach, guide, and lead stems from my personal life. My family escaped Vietnam and came to the United States when I was nine years old. As the oldest of nine children, I matured quickly and developed leadership skills early to help raise and guide my eight younger siblings. I began working at the age of 16 to assist my family financially. I also supervised and advised my siblings through both academic and personal matters. I supported them with their homework, attended conferences on my parent’s behalf, and guided them through college applications and decisions about their future academic and professional endeavors.
I know many students I serve come from a similar background like mine, where parents are immigrants and may not speak English fluently. This naturally makes it difficult for the parents to support their children academically, due to language barriers. However, I want to show our students that with perseverance, hard work, dedication, and, of course, with the great Pittsburg staff, they can achieve and become anything they desire.
I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone at Pittsburg Unified School District for their endless support and dedication in helping me learn and continue to grow. It is because of you that I am who I am today and for that I am grateful.
Pittsburg Pride Post: Johanna Estrada-Ballardo , PHS GraduatePosted by Johanna Estrada-Ballardo on 11/8/2018
My name is Johanna Estrada-Ballardo and I am a Criminalist with the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office Crime Lab. I am a native of Pittsburg and attended Foothill Elementary, Central Junior High School, and lastly Pittsburg High School. After graduating from Pittsburg High School in 2002, I went on and received my Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Sciences from the University of California, Davis. I have been working at the Crime Lab since 2006 in both the Forensic Biology and Crime Scene Units.
My role as a Criminalist is exciting and each day is different from the next. I examine evidence for biological fluids, perform DNA analysis, and testify in court to my findings. I examine evidence in a variety of case types, ranging from property crimes to homicides. I also document crime scenes and collect evidence for potential future testing.
What I enjoy most about working in the county I was raised in, is that I get to work with so many other Pittsburg graduates who have gone on to work in Law Enforcement. Whether they are bringing evidence into the lab for analysis or working with them while processing a crime scene, it’s always a nice surprise to see a familiar face. Some of these faces were with me the day I decided I wanted to go into the Forensics field and have been nothing but supportive in my goals.
I always have a sense of pride when I tell people I am a product of Pittsburg. The diversity, the friends that turned into family, and the continuous support have shaped me into the person I am today. I only hope that I can inspire other future grads to pursue their dreams.
Thank you, Johanna, for sharing your #PittsburgPride story with all of us!
Pittsburg Pride Post: Mia Flores, Vice Principal, Los Medanos Elementary SchoolPosted by Nicole Mora on 11/1/2018
Meet Mia Flores, Vice Principal at Los Medanos Elementary School. We asked Ms. Flores a few questions about why she has Pittsburg Pride. You'll see from her answers below that she is deeply rooted in the Pittsburg community. Thank you, Mia, for sharing your #PittsburgPride!
Why Do You Have Pittsburg Pride?
Pittsburg Pride can come in many forms. For me, My Pittsburg Pride stems from being part of a diverse community that embraces the cultural melting pot Pittsburg is made of. Born and raised in Pittsburg attending Highlands Elementary, Hillview Junior High School, and Pittsburg High School, I can only speak from experience that Pittsburg has attributed to the many qualities that make me who I am today. Growing up in the City of Pittsburg I knew I wanted to give back to a community that gave so much to me. Education growing up was of importance to our family who not only grew up and resided in Pittsburg for generations but who also served the community to which they lived. From a great-grandfather who served as an officer for the Pittsburg Police Department, to a father who served and worked for the City of Pittsburg Recreation Department and contributed to the Development of the City of Pittsburg, I can say that Pittsburg Pride has been instilled in me all my life.
Why Did You Come Back to Pittsburg to be a Vice Principal? Why is Pittsburg Different from Other Communities?
Being able to start my career as a Social Studies/English/and Leadership Teacher at Hillview Junior High school, a school that I attended when I was a little girl was very special. It was then that I knew I had chosen a career that could not have been more fitting. Being nominated and receiving teacher of the year among colleagues, and being nominated as FSN 2007 Teacher of the Bay Area was an absolute honor, as I knew at best I represented Pittsburg Unified and my city that was known for Hard work, Determination, and Perseverance. Throughout my career, I have been afforded many opportunities that have made me a better teacher, a better administrator, and a lifelong learner. With 16 years in education serving Pittsburg Unified School District, Monterey Peninsula Unified School District, and Oakley Union Elementary School District, the saying will always hold true in my heart that “There is No Place Like Home”. Pittsburg is home. It is a place I am proud to say I am from. It is a place that when people ask me “why did you come back home to Pittsburg?” I ask them... “Why Not?” I am a product of Pittsburg Unified School District and the community to which I serve and I am very proud of that.
What Do You Love Most About Your Job?
Having the opportunity to serve as Vice Principal of Los Medanos Elementary school is an absolute honor. Every day when I go to work I am excited. I love what I do and I love who I serve. It is an honor to co-facilitate a school and work with a team of teachers and for a district that I have the utmost respect for. From the hugs at recess, to the parent meetings, to the planning of Professional Development, to the teachers and staff of Team Los Medanos and the families and students that make up our school community, there is not a day that goes by where I remind myself how lucky I am to get to do what I do on a daily basis. I absolutely love my job and appreciate the opportunities I have been entrusted with to make a difference in my community.
Any Other Thoughts?
Pittsburg Pride is not just about claiming a city with victorious colors of orange and black. It is not just about chanting in a stadium the story of pirate territory. Pittsburg Pride is knowing that the harder you work for something, the greater you will feel when you achieve it because Pittsburg Pride is something that through humility and gratitude can be achieved and can be shared for generations to come.
Pittsburg Pride Post: Officer Pena, Pittsburg Police DepartmentPosted by Nicole Mora on 9/21/2018
My name is James Pena and I am currently the new School Resource Officer for Black Diamond High School and Pittsburg High School. I am excited for the 2018-2019 school year and getting to know the school staff and students.
My goal for this school year is to be a positive role model within the Pittsburg Unified School District and to help students succeed.
I enjoy talking sports and academics with the students because I was a collegiate athlete and can relate to the balancing of homework and practice.
Let's have a great year and Go Pirates!
Pittsburg Pride Post: Officer Y. Smith, Pittsburg Police DepartmentPosted by Nicole Mora on 9/20/2018
Ofc. Y. Smith
Officer Y. Smith is a native of the Bronx, New York. He attended Saint Mary’s College of California on a full basketball scholarship.
After graduating with a bachelors degree in communication, he played professional basketball in Australia for two seasons.
Upon his return to the United States, he joined the Pittsburg Police Department in August of 2017. He says he has a passion for working with the youth and being a role model.
Officer Smith is currently assigned as the School Resource Officer (SRO) at Martin Luther King Junior High School. His goal is to provide a positive influence on the scholars.
Pittsburg Pride Post: Officer Brady, Pittsburg Police DepartmentPosted by Nicole Mora on 9/12/2018
My name is Officer Cory Brady. I have been working in law enforcement for seven years. Prior to working for the Pittsburg Police Department, I worked for the Antioch Police Department.
Currently, I'm assigned as a School Resource Officer at Hillview JHS. I enjoy working with our youth and coach soccer and wrestling. I have a Bachelors degree from Chico State University in Social Science, which I received in 1999. Before my career as a police officer, I was a school teacher for six years. I taught elementary school and middle school students.
My motto is: "Yesterday is the past, tomorrow is the future and today is a gift, that is why it is called the present. Live for the moment and plan for the future."
Pittsburg Pride Post: Officer Curran, Pittsburg Police DepartmentPosted by Nicole Mora on 9/7/2018
Officer Curran was born in Mexico City and immigrated to the United States at the age of nine. She is the oldest of five siblings.
As a teenager, she was part of a Police Explorer program. In 2002, she graduated from Diablo Valley College (DVC) and began working for the Pittsburg Police Department. Currently, she is enrolled in California Coast University and is studying administration of justice.
Officer Curran is married and has four children. You will most likely see her at Rancho Medanos Junior High School where she is assigned as a School Resource Officer (SRO).
Pittsburg Pride Post: Officer Manly, Pittsburg Police DepartmentPosted by Nicole Mora on 8/31/2018
Officer Manly, a native of the City of Pittsburg, joined the Pittsburg Police Department in July of 2016, after receiving his Undergraduate degree in Sociology and Master's Degree in Leadership from Saint Mary's College.
Officer Manly has a history of family members who have worked for the Pittsburg Unified School District and would like to continue this tradition as a School Resource Officer and giving back to the community in which he grew up in and loves.
In his spare time, he loves to play recreational basketball and travel with friends. Officer Manly is currently assigned to Pittsburg High School and he hopes to make a difference in everyone he comes in contact with.
Officer Manly traveled with PUSD on a Sister City trip to Shimonoseki, Japan in August of 2018. He along with Superintendent Schulze, Principal Peyko, and five Pittsburg High School students were introduced to traditional Japanese culture and welcomed by the people of Shimonoseki.
Pittsburg Pride Post: Meghan JonesPosted by Meghan Jones on 8/24/2018
Growing up, Pittsburg has always had a special place in my heart. I was born and raised in Pittsburg and come from a long line of Pittsburg Unified School District educators. My grandmother taught with Pittsburg Unified for well over 20 years and my mother taught at Central Junior High School, leaving a legacy of love and passion for education in all of her scholars. Watching two of the most important women in my life give their hearts and lives to Pittsburg was nothing less than a motivating force behind my academic years.
I attended Stoneman Elementary and Christian Center School until the 8th grade. I later graduated high school from Berean Christian High School in Walnut Creek. Leaving my community for my high school years only strengthened the pride I had in my hometown. After graduating from Clark Atlanta University, I knew that I needed to come home and make a difference in the community that played a huge role in making me the adult that I am today.
Teaching at Martin Luther King Jr. Junior High School has been such an awesome and fulfilling experience. I have been able to learn from peers who have also decided to return to Pittsburg in order to serve their community. Most of all, I feel more connected than ever to my community and look forward to continuing to educate here while walking in the footsteps of those who worked to pave the way for me.
Pittsburg Pride Post: Toni TorresPosted by Toni Torres on 6/1/2018
Pride for Pittsburg:
My family moved to Pittsburg a month before I turned 6 years old in 1986. I went to Parkside Elementary, Hillview Junior High School, and Pittsburg High School. I participated in Pittsburg sports, such as PYC (Pittsburg Youth Cheerleading), Pony League Softball, and PHS Varsity Cheer. I also did well in school and was always on the honor roll or principal’s honor roll. I even graduated at the top of my class at PHS in 1998, which I credit to many of my teachers and striving to do well.
Pittsburg has been a part of my life for almost 32 years…my parents still live in the same house. Pittsburg has changed a lot over time with new schools, homes, downtown renovation, and so much more, but I feel it is still the town I grew up in. I still have pride every time I hear good things about Pittsburg, especially about our students, teachers, and staff...from seeing the news of the PHS band’s invite to Rome to a post I saw this morning on Facebook about the good deed PHS Leadership students and teachers did for a fellow student and Warrior fan to listening to so many wonderful Project Based Learning presentations at Rancho Medanos. It definitely makes me proud to be here.
Returning to Teach in Pittsburg:
Like so many other PUSD alumni teaching in Pittsburg, I wanted to return here to teach because I loved the community and I wanted to give back. I realized in my first year of college at Diablo Valley College (DVC) that I wanted to teach math. My goal was to start my career at PHS. I stayed at DVC and earned an AA in Liberal Arts, then transferred to San Francisco State University to earn my BA in Mathematics. While there, I started volunteering in schools. My first placement was in Eileen Chen’s summer school class during her first year teaching. The following summer, I started working as a college assistant with the Summer Algebra Success Academy (lead by Eileen Chen and I continued working for the Summer Algebra Success Academy until I graduated college).
I eventually continued my education at UC Berkeley to pursue my MA in Mathematics Education and my single subject credential. During my time there, two of my four teaching placements were at PUSD. I did my student teaching assignment at PHS, teaching Algebra Support (master teacher was Phil Lucido), and my observation assignment was at Hillview Jr High (with Pinder Jaggi). It was my time at Hillview that made me change my mind about going to PHS to teach…instead I wanted to start my career at Hillview.
I started my first year of teaching the fall after graduation from UC Berkeley (2006-2007). I taught 7th and 8th grade math for five years at Hillview, until I became a TOSA (Teacher on Special Assignment) (2011-2012). I was sad to leave the classroom, but understood my new position would support more students in the district than I could in my classroom. I was a Project Manager for our CaMSP grant for three years, which focused on professional development in math for 3rd - 8th grade teachers. Once the grant ended, I transitioned to be an Elementary Math Coach for two years.
One day, I decided to branch out and see what else was beyond Pittsburg because it was all I knew, so I left for the 2016-2017 school year. I recall Anthony Molina telling me, “I give you one year and you will be back.” He was right because I came back after that one year because I missed being at PUSD. I am now at Rancho Medanos Junior High School as an Instructional Coach and I also specialize in Math for the middle schools. My dad, Julian Torres Jr., even joined me in the district a few years ago and currently works in the Maintenance Department as a painter.
Passionate About Teaching:
I am passionate about teaching because I believe every student can do well in school. I want students to see themselves as someone who is capable of learning and understanding. There is no better reward than seeing a student have an “a-ha” moment, tell you they finally understand something, see the pride they have in themselves for doing a good job, or see them persevere when something is not so easy. Having a good educational foundation leads to so many opportunities for students and that foundation starts for them here at PUSD.