3 teachers honored by nonprofit for service to students

The man is smiling.
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Three longtime educators will be inducted into the Ventura County Educators’ Hall of Fame at an awards ceremony at California Lutheran University in June.

Joe Perata, a Pleasant Valley School District teacher for 38 years, retired kindergarten teacher Sharon Harada and former Rio Mesa High School principal, Ed Phillips, will be recognized at the dinner event. Perata and Phillips will be recognized posthumously.

Perata, who died in 2011, taught at El Rancho, El Descanso and Los Nogales elementary schools in Camarillo. Those who nominated him praised Perata as an “absolute master” in guiding students with special needs.

Darrin Parrent, a founder of the county hall of fame, said Perata was his second-grade teacher.

“(Perata) was so loving and caring, and it motivated you to want to do more and want to do better in school,” said Parrent. “You would do your best because of his attitude, and just by being who he was it would uplift you to a level of achievement that you had no idea you could reach.”

Harada, a teacher for 34 years, taught kindergarten through fourth grade at Valle Lindo School, Las Colinas and, most recently, Tierra Linda Elementary School. She retired in June 2011.

Harada was hired as a teacher at Tierra Linda when it first opened in 1994. There she helped establish a literacy program for kindergarten-through-thirdgrade students.

She also helped develop “Bridging the Gap” curriculum at the school, which eases the transition for preschool students as they enter kindergarten.

Harada said being named to the Educators’ Hall of Fame is an honor she owes to her fellow teachers.

“There are so many deserving teachers out there, and to be singled out like that is very humbling,” she said. “(Teaching) is a profession where everybody works very, very hard, and I loved what I did.”

Looking back on her career, Harada said teaching brought her many rewards.

“I think people go into teaching because, like me, it’s a passion for them,” she said. “As (teachers) we learn so much. Not only from our students but from other teachers, and that’s why I feel there’s so many other deserving teachers, because it is a profession where you gain so much when you work collaboratively.”

Harada was nominated by Tierra Linda kindergarten teachers Kelli Luna, Julie Silvertrust, Lauren De La Torre, Janet Newton and Krista VanWagner.

“Sharon taught us all the importance of getting to know your children,” Luna said. “The best thing you can do for your children is create a relationship with them.”

She said Harada encouraged teachers to meet and together discuss ways to improve how students are taught.

“She was our mentor on how to work as a team,” Luna said, adding that they have a saying when things get stressful: “What would Sharon do?”

Phillips, who died of a heart attack during a Rio Mesa football game in 2004, worked in education for 32 years as a math teacher, a football and basketball coach, and a principal.

He taught for a decade at Santa Paula High School and worked the remainder of his career at Rio Mesa High. The school’s swimming pool is named in his honor. Phillips was named Camarillo Chamber of Commerce Educator of the Year in 2004.

Brian FitzGerald, Rio Mesa’s athletic director, said Phillips had a contagious smile.

“One of the reasons we loved Ed was that we knew he cared about us,” FitzGerald said. “Without fail, he would put aside the mountains of work on his desk to listen to students, staff and parents alike.”

The VCEH is a nonprofit organization founded in 2005 to honor educators in Ventura County.

“We need to honor those who have given so much to academia,” Parrent said. “They have impacted generations upon generations in a positive and powerful way. They deserve this night.”

The 2013 VCEH Induction Dinner will be at 6 p.m. Sat., June 22 at CLU’s Gilbert Arena, 130 Overton Court in Thousand Oaks.

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