Language Learner Celebration honors those who accelerate biliteracy and bilingualism in Orange County

OCDE’s Services for Language Learners team honored Orange County educators, administrators, community liaisons and parents who have championed the success of language learners, impacting students and their communities, during its fifth annual Language Learner Celebration.

Flanked by classic cars and automotive memorabilia, attendees gathered on the evening of May 11 at the Marconi Automotive Museum and Foundation for Kids, where the theme was “Accelerating Language Learner Success.” In all, representatives from 17 districts, charter schools and learning centers were recognized at the event.

Attendees take the state at the fifth annual Language Learner Celebration on May 11Countywide Advocacy Leadership Awards were presented to Renae Bryant, executive director of the Office of Language Acquisition for the Westminster School District, and Nuria Solis, director of the English Learner Programs & Student Achievement Department at Santa Ana Unified.

Meanwhile, featured speakers amplified the value of biliteracy and bilingualism. They included keynote speaker Shelly Spiegel-Coleman, executive director of Californians Together; Mike Matsuda, superintendent of the Anaheim Union High School District; Dennis Cole, OCDE’s director of humanities; and Consuelo Reyes, a Westminster School District parent whose daughter speaks English and Spanish and is now enrolled in the district’s Vietnamese dual-language immersion program, which, as the Orange County Register reported, is the first in California.

A pair of former language learners also shared their perspectives. Miguel Bravo, a Capistrano Unified senior set to attend CSU Chico, and fellow Capo senior Vanessa Moz, who has been accepted to Washington State University, urged educators in the room to stay true to their commitment to bilingual education programs.

“I am finally bilingual, bicultural and biliterate, and I can use that to my advantage,” Vanessa said. “I will continue to use all the resources the educational system has given me ever since I started my educational career at the Capistrano Unified School District.”

Here’s the full list of this year’s awardees:


Allen Cadatal, High School Teacher
Nils Soe, High School Teacher

Anaheim Elementary School District

Rhonda Robertson, Director of Program Evaluations
Samia Saad, Noon Yard Supervisor and Community Facilitator 

Anaheim Union High School District

Carlos Horacio Hernandez, Family and Community Engagement Specialist
Esther Park, Korean District Translator and Interpreter

Buena Park School District

Liz Arcos, Bilingual Clerk and Community Advocate
Brenda Torres, Parent, ELAC and DELAC Member

El Sol Academy

Francisca Darney, Middle School Teacher
Susan Saldaña, Third-grade Teacher

Garden Grove Unified Unified School District

Sandra Isassi-Ramirez, Elementary School Community Liaison
Belen Ortega, ELD Department Chair

Huntington Beach City School District

Dr. Monique Huibregtse, Principal, Huntington Seacliff Elementary School
Dr. Renee Polk Johnson, Principal, Joseph Perry Elementary School

Irvine Unified School District

Ani Bailly, Kindergarten Teacher
Sherilyn Cammarato, Educator and Member of the IUSD Secondary English Learner Curriculum Committee

La Habra City School District

Michelle Atkinson, English Language Lead, Las Positas School
Mary Gomez, Language Assessor

Laguna Beach Unified School District

Deborah Finnerty, Second-grade teacher

Newport-Mesa Unified School District

Miriam Gudino, Parent, ELAC President
Laura Wagenseller, School Community Facilitator


Mayra Jiménez, First-grade teacher
Magdalena Martínez, Intervention Tutor

Ocean View School District

Lilia Bernardo, English Learner Department Clerk
Lisa Wilson, Fourth-grade Teacher

Orange Unified School District

Patricia Chavez, Teacher on Special Assignment, Community Outreach
Dr. Lucia Perales, Teacher on Special Assignment, Family Engagement

Santa Ana Unified School District

Rita Pereira, Principal, Franklin Elementary School
Peter Richardson, Principal, Martin Elementary School

Tustin Unified School District

Rich Avellana, Middle School Teacher
Stephen Hochschild, High School Teacher

Westminster School District

Mimosa Ha, First-grade Teacher
Lisa Krallman, K-5 Intervention and ELD Teacher