Congratulations to our 2020 STEAM Teachers of the Year, RAFT Heroes, and RAFT Volunteer Award winners! Thank you for all you do for our students, our education community, and RAFT!

STEAM Teachers of the Year

Meredith Jones
Mission Park Elementary

STEAM Teacher of the Year presented by KPMG

Ms. Jones is an impressive leader who communicates and collaborates effectively with staff, students, and parents. Ms. Jones has generated great momentum and enthusiasm to try out new, researched-based ideas to promote promising practices in order to best support ALL students. She has mastered the art of teaching and possesses a genuine passion for STEAM education and supporting our future leaders. Her work as an instructional leader in Salinas City has earned their entire leadership team a stellar reputation.

Since we have been learning from home, she has been encouraging me to read lots of books.
-a student

Lisa Ernst
San Francisco Unified School District

STEAM Teacher of the Year presented by Deloitte

As you enter Lisa’s classroom you are instantly captured by the classroom’s environment and culture with a focus on innovation, creativity, and kids. She continually improves the setting to adapt to the learning needs of her diverse classroom. Every accommodation she implements is designed to support her hands-on approach to assessments, literacy connections, academic language support, and integrated STEAM content.

My favorite thing about Ms. Ernst is that she would  be completely honest with us about reality and the expectations we would eventually need to live up to. I know she wants what is best for us… She lives up to her reputation and she has helped me with my self confidence.
-Isabel, a student

Lisa Sawires
Walt Disney Elementary

STEAM Teacher of the Year presented by Morgan Stanley

Lisa integrates STEM challenges and projects into her daily lessons. She coordinates with teachers to create units that are engaging and hands-on. You can often see Lisa’s students engaging in centers that allow them to learn from multiple angles, reinforcing concepts and vocabulary as they learn. Students at Walt Disney look forward to Science Lab time!

Ms. Sawires is a fantastic science teacher. We get to do really cool experiments in her science class. We get to do a lot of hands-on activities.
-a student

Kimberly Pratt
St. Leo the Great School

STEAM Teacher of the Year presented by Cisco

Mrs. Pratt always offered engaging hands-on learning experiences for the kids. All students walked away from their school year excited about science and confident in their ability to be active science learners.

I love Ms. Pratt! When I was in her class she inspired me to be a chemist.
a student

You are respectful and responsible towards others.
a student

Kim Lawrence
Bollinger Canyon Elementary

STEAM Teacher of the Year presented by Brownlee Foundation

Our students LOVE Mrs. Lawrence! Kim is one of those teachers who understands the importance of sparking curiosity by asking open-ended questions. She understands the value of student voice by allowing her students to share their hypotheses with one another in a friendly and inquisitive way. Kim understands the value of collaboration and problem-solving by allowing students to work together for all activities. And, finally, Kim does not teach a lesson without a hands-on component.

Congratulations on your STEAM Teacher of the Year Award. You Deserve it. Thank you for actually caring about what we were doing and not just saying “oh cool.” You actually thought about it. Thank you for being an amazing science teacher.
-a student

RAFT Heroes

Mary Simon
Founder of RAFT

RAFT Hero presented by Intuit

I think Mary is one of the bravest people I know. She was a math teacher and organizer of an art project called the Doodad Dump at the Children’s Discovery Museum in San Jose when she realized that children loved to create art projects with readily available materials. She found that just by asking businesses and corporations she could accumulate piles of interesting things for free. With this glimmer of an idea, a strong belief that children learn best when they are working with their hands and a powerful desire to help teachers teach using hands-on projects, she decided to start RAFT. And she never looked back, never wavered in her determination to make that idea a reality. 

And in addition to this driving idea, she had the ability to convince people that they could and should join her in making her idea a reality. In the process she made some very generous friends for RAFT who supported the organization for years because of Mary.
-Ann Danner, founding RAFT board member

Chuck and Nan Geschke
Supporters of RAFT since 2001

RAFT Heroes presented by Adobe

Chuck and Nan Geschke have been giving annually to RAFT for years. They were inspired by the educational mission of RAFT.
-Peter Geschke

RAFT has always been important to us because it is an important resource for teachers. We are very happy to be part of this organization.
-Nan Geschke

Ann Danner
Founding RAFT Board Member

RAFT Hero presented by

Ann was the Executive Director of the Nonprofit Development Center when RAFT was no more than a twinkle in my eye. When I walked into her office in 1994 and told her about my idea for an organization called “RAFT,” she quickly became a committed supporter and has remained so ever since.

Ann is respected throughout our Bay Area community as an expert on effective nonprofit practices. Having her take RAFT under her wing, introduce me to the Who’s Who of Silicon Valley, help me build a stellar organization led by a stellar board of directors, teach me how to build relationships and raise needed funds, helped me build an organization that today, 26 years later, continues to shine.

Ann’s boundless optimism, even through difficult times, helps us all see the opportunities that lie hidden within the challenges we face. Even in this difficult year of COVID, you will notice that RAFT continues to benefit from that insight. Neither “glass half full” nor “glass half empty” describes Ann’s approach to life’s challenges. Ann inspires us all to see that our glass can be overflowing with possibilities and that we can all rise with it.
-Mary Simon, founder of RAFT

RAFT Volunteer Awards

Jean and Wayne Suzuki

RAFT Volunteer Award

We do not know the measure of what they do for RAFT.  From washing dishes and filling the salt shakers, to setting up and running top-notch classes and computer refurbishing programs, they do what needs to be done… Jean and Wayne Suzuki are role models for what quiet, servant leadership looks like. Their lives are beyond inspiring. Their gifts to RAFT are immense.  And the deep and constant love that they show toward each other has touched all our hearts.
Mary Simon, founder of RAFT

California Retired Teachers Association Area 5 Division 6

RAFT Volunteer Award presented by Lexus of Stevens Creek

Throughout my years at RAFT, I’ve always been impressed with the commitment and hard work of our Retired Teacher Volunteer Group.  They are committed to their community of fellow teachers, and they always come in ready to work hard and help RAFT. I know whenever they are coming in, we’ll be working twice as hard to keep up with them.
-LaVonne Simmons, RAFT Staff