Teacher Talk Profiles

Teacher Talk

Overview

Teacher Talk is a series of profiles on California teachers and other educators.

Teacher Talk

Margaret Hicks, Oak Tree Community Day School
Teacher focuses on building relationships with students

Teacher Margaret Hicks wears a blue sweater and white shirt and smiles.

Margaret Hicks builds connections with her fifth and sixth grade students, challenging the traditional model of discipline in her work at Oak Tree Community Day School in Palmdale.

“Our students generally come to us for behavioral referrals. Sometimes students are placed there due to expulsion. Our class size is generally small, so we can help build those skills that students are lacking at bigger campuses, where there are classes of more than 30 students,” Hicks said.

Teacher Talk

Marcia Benjamin, Laney College
Love of swimming turned this coach into a teacher

Marcia Benjamin smiles, wearing bright glasses and a scarf.

When budget cuts hit Laney College’s Kinesiology Department, Marcia Benjamin added a side gig teaching a fee-based swimming class at the college to keep returning students afloat. This water-loving educator even founded her own U.S. Masters Swim team that welcomes swimmers of all abilities from recreational to triathletes. She thinks helping adults get over their fear of water and accomplish things they didn’t think possible with swimming is “the best part of teaching.”

Teacher Talk

Bob Brown, Retired 2014, Simi Valley Unified School District
Former math teacher promotes importance of listening

Retired teacher Bob Brown stands on a cliff, next to a lake.

In 2017, retired high school math teacher Bob Brown and his wife Elizabeth discovered the Empathy Tent during an event in Los Angeles and found their calling in retirement.

The Empathy Tent—a pop-up canopy set up in public spaces—encourages constructive dialogue among people with different views to de-escalate and connect. It was started by San Francisco Bay Area resident Edwin Rutsch, the founding director of the Center for Building a Culture of Empathy.

Teacher Talk

Kristina Shea, Rio Linda High School
Special education teacher brings attention to what her students can do

Education specialist Kristina Shea stands in front of water and rocky terrain.

Kristina Shea has worked the last four years as an education specialist at Rio Linda High School and is proud of the progress her students make. “When my freshmen get to me, they often don’t know the whole alphabet. We set them to read and teach them to do math, or even just how to recognize colors. We have all different ages of learners. They’re constantly growing.”

Her students are all high school age and most have moderate to severe intellectual disabilities such as Down syndrome or autism.