Ben Rust Award


Ben Rust Award
The CFT’s most prestigious honor

The CFT Ben Rust Award is the most prestigious honor that the Federation bestows upon its members or friends. The award honors an AFT member for their commitment and involvement in education, politics, and the trade union movement. The award is presented at the CFT Convention.

Ben Rust was a master teacher, a CFT president, a political activist, and a dedicated trade unionist in the Richmond Unified School District. He set a high standard for this award. 

The award itself has been honored by those who have been selected in previous years. All of these recipients dedicated substantial parts of their lives to excellence in education, to the welfare of those who work in education, to effective union member involvement in the political process, and to the union movement. You may read brief biographies of many recipients below.  

More About Ben Rust 

Ben Rust served as president of the California State Federation of Teachers from 1951 through 1958. He was a full-time teacher throughout his tenure in CSFT, and his brand of unionism sprang from his commitment to teaching and his skilled trades background. He was dedicated to the mission of convincing teachers that the path to true professionalism was through the AFT and collective bargaining.

His accomplishments on behalf of teachers were many. Among other things, the CSFT membership more than doubled during his presidency. Under his leadership the CSFT became a player in Sacramento, sponsoring the first-ever collective bargaining bill for teachers in California and numerous other legislative proposals that began to educate politicians about the conditions of teachers.

But perhaps Rust’s greatest contribution to teacher unionism in California was his philosophy and vision. Rust believed that teaching was a craft. On the way to becoming a master teacher, the teacher should pass through an apprenticeship that forges the qualities of independence, scholarship and pedagogical sophistication. He proposed an organic link between the activities of teaching and the craft union tradition, and anticipated reform proposals of the coming three decades.

Ben Rust’s visionary legacy to the California Federation of Teachers is honored by the annual bestowal of the union’s highest honor: The Ben Rust Award.

Nomination deadline is January 4, 2021

Local unions may submit nominations. The deadline to submit Ben Rust Award nominations for Convention 2021 is January 4.

For more information, email Sarah Callahan, CFT Executive Director. 

Ben Rust Award Recipients

Most recent recipients are listed first. Click on names to read awardee bios.

  • Joshua Pechthalt Former CFT President, United Teachers Los Angeles, Local 1021
  • Dennis Kelly United Educators of San Francisco, Local 61
  • David Yancey San José/Evergreen Federation of Teachers, Local 9157 
  • John Perez United Teachers Los Angeles, Local 1021
  • Laura Rico ABC Federation of Teachers, Local 2317
  • Dick Hemann Diablo Valley Federation of Teachers, Local 1902, and CFT Field Representative 
  • Linda Tubach United Teachers Los Angeles, Local 1021
  • Marty Hittelman Former CFT President, Los Angeles College Faculty Guild, Local 1521
  • Jacki Fox Ruby Berkeley Federation of Teachers, Local 1078
  • Mark Newton San Jose/Evergreen Faculty Association, Local 9157
  • Mary Bergan Former CFT President, Pittsburg-Antioch Federation of Teachers, Local 2001
  • Charles “Chuck” Canniff Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers, Local 1794, and CFT Field Representative
  • Phillis Basile Coast Federation of Educators, Local 1911
  • Sandra Mack United Educators of San Francisco, Local 61
  • Lance Widman El Camino Federation of Teachers, Local 1388
  • Joan-Marie Shelley United Educators of San Francisco, Local 61
  • Don Maxwell Greater Santa Cruz Federation of Teachers, Local 2030
  • Michael Crowley Los Rios College Federation of Teachers, Local 2279
  • Larry Bordan Culver City Federation of Teachers, Local 1343, and CFT Field Representative
  • Joe McDonough San Mateo College Federation of Teachers, Local 1493
  • Jerry King LongBeach Federation of Teachers, Local 1263
  • Ken Lane Berkeley Faculty Union, Local 1474
  • Maya Decker Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers, Local 1794
  • Janet Hedlund Salinas Valley Federation of Teachers Valley, Local 1020
  • Barbara Kleinschmitt AFT Staff Guild, Local 1521
  • Miles Myers Former CFT President, Oakland Federation of Teachers, Local 771
  • Marvin Katz Former CFT President, United Teachers Los Angeles, Local 1021
  • Marian Hull Archdiocese Federation of Teachers, Local 3448, and CFT Field Representative
  • James Ballard Jefferson AFT Federation of Teachers, Local 1481
  • Chuck Sohner El Camino Federation of Teachers, Local 1388
  • Raoul Teilhet Former CFT President, Pasadena Federation of Teachers, Local 1050
  • Dr. John Sperling United Professors of California
  • James Herndon Jefferson Elementary Federation of Teachers, Local 3267
  • Eddie Irwin Los Angeles College Guild, Local 1521
  • Maurice Englander Former CFT President, San Francisco Federation of Teachers, Local 61
  • Ethel Sheehan Lukovich Salinas Valley Federation of Teachers, Local 1020
  • Dorothy Sue Noland Los Rios College Federation of Teachers, Local 2279
  • Roger Segure United Teachers Los Angeles, Local 1021
  • Carl Megel Former AFT President
  • Herb Bauers United Teachers Los Angeles, Local 1021
  • Richard Martin San Diego Federation of Teachers, Local 370
  • Hy Weintraub Los Angeles College Guild, Local 1521
  • Al Tapson San Francisco Federation of Teachers, Local 61
  • Paul McGinnis Contra Costa County Federation of Teachers, Local 866
  • Art Carstens University Council–AFT
  • Evelyn Carstens United Teachers Los Angeles, Local 1021
  • David Selden Former AFT President

Jerry King
Long Beach Federation of Teachers


When asked to remember the events that stand out during this long career of teaching and activism in the Long Beach Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 1263, Jerry King responds “Being on the right side of so many damn good issues,” Another answer Jerry gives to the same question is “Meeting really good people.”


Ken Lane
Berkeley Faculty Union


Kenneth S. Lane, “Ken” to all who know him, brought his commitment to the labor movement and his deep interest in teaching English together all through his career. Says old friend Miles Myers, “I connect Ken to a solid set of core values which he was willing to work for. He did not lose the force of his outrage at injustice.”


Maya Decker
Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers


In everything she does, Maya Decker epitomizes the qualities exemplified by Ben Rust. She demonstrates strong commitment to the three major areas of involvement of any AFT leader/member: education, politics and the union movement.