KATHRYN MAYO, instructor of photography at Cosumnes River College and member of the Los Rios Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 2279, grew up in a rural farming community just outside Selma, Alabama. Her narrative photography work – We are Selma: The Selma Portrait Project – will be honored at the local’s Union Hall Gallery in Sacramento in February.

Mayo says there’s a lot of misunderstanding about the place that stands as a symbol and ground zero in the fight for civil rights.

“Selma has such a huge place in American history, and I realized my students didn’t have as great an understanding of where it fits in our history,” she said in an interview for the CalSTRS series Teacher Talk. “I felt if I could go back and do some sort of project to give people a better understanding of this place, it would be interesting to investigate. There’s so much pain involved in being from a place like Selma. There’s still a lot of work to be done there to bring the white and African American communities together.”

MARY LAVALAIS, paraeducator and member United Educators of San Francisco, AFT Local 61, received the San Francisco mayor’s first-ever Paraeducator of the Year award. The native San Franciscan began working in early childhood development in 1970 and joined the unified district as a student advisor in 1986.

Lavalais has been at the S.F. Community School since 2000 and represents instructional aides on the executive board of her union. She attended San Francisco City College, earned a bachelor’s degree in social work, and then a graduate degree in marriage, family, and child counseling at San Francisco State University.

The mayor based the awards on dedication and professionalism, as well as an educator’s ability to promote innovative learning, accountability, and equity and access in the classroom and school site.

NEELAM CANTO-LUGO, an adjunct professor of communications at Yuba College in Marysville, and member of the Yuba College Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 4952, was awarded the gold-level President’s Volunteer Service Award for her work in poorer communities of Bangladesh, Nigeria, and Nepal, among other countries.

Canto-Lugo’s list of volunteer activities is quite extensive and varied, from training Bangladeshis about sustainable food and organic farming with a business focus, to working with Nigerian faculty on developing coursework, curriculum, and educational policy at a polytechnic college.

In 2016, Canto-Lugo received the Volunteer of the Year Award from VEGA (the Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance) for her “Farmer-to-Farmer” program work in Nepal. One of Canto-Lugo’s main missions has been to better the lives of children and women in these communities, many of whom suffer from a variety of cultural and socio-economic barriers. Most recently, Canto-Lugo has been working in Burma (Myanmar).

JULIEN MINARD, a charter member of ABC Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 2317, and union president when collective bargaining rights were established, was honored by ABC Retired Chapter, AFT Local 2317-R, which named its 2018 student college scholarship in her honor, in gratitude and recognition of Minard’s service as a role model for future teachers.

Minard helped to coalesce the teachers, nurses and librarians of the district into a cohesive, progressive and dedicated unit. Under her stalwart direction, the ABC Federation defended women’s rights, and communicated around such hot-button issues as gender equity, bilingual and cross-cultural education, teacher stipends, diversity, and more.

The student scholarship goes to graduating seniors in the ABC district, recognizing their achievements, and encouraging their pursuit of teaching careers in public education.

Minard also worked for the CFT as a field representative and as its first training director.

SANDRA GUZMAN, an academic counselor at Sacramento City College and member of the Los Rios Community College Federation, AFT Local 2279, received the Quetzal Award from the Latino Leadership Council for her work with the Puente Project, implementing STEM support strategies, and her advocacy with the local union’s UndocuAlly program.

Guzman is an activist committed to social justice and increasing access to education for all communities regardless of background.The award recognized her “advocacy and dedication to Latino communities in the area of education.”


KEVIN CRONIN, a CFT field representative who recently retired from CFT, died November 19 in Palm Springs. He was 56.

Cronin served CFT local unions in the Los Angeles area for 17 years, negotiating countless contracts that improved the working conditions for teachers and support staff. In particular, he worked with a large number of private school locals and was the first to negotiate teacher salaries that surpassed the $100,000 mark. He negotiated the first contract for the instructional support staff at Pasadena City College after they joined the CFT. He also served as chief negotiator for the CFT staff union, the Field Representatives Union.

When Cronin joined CFT in 2001, he brought 20 years of labor activism with him as the former president of the Los Angeles chapter of the Association of Flight Attendants. Later he joined the union’s staff, where he was in charge of leadership development with a focus on internal organizing.

Cronin was a dedicated unionist his entire career and his negotiating talent brought improved benefits and conditions to all the workers he represented.

A celebration of his life will be held on January 12 at 11 am at the Center for Spiritual Living in Palm Desert.