By Lt. Mike Tuntakit, AA/PIO
Avenal State Prison
May’s Teacher Appreciation Month was recognized at Avenal State Prison’s Golden Hills Adult School (GHAS) by honoring the Academic Teacher of the Year, Vocational Teacher of the Year and Support Staff of the Year. The honorees were given their award during a picnic, hosted by its Sunshine Club, after a morning of staff development training that included Cansela’s Academic Language and Transformative Correctional Communication (TCC) Staff development training.
Academic Teacher of the Year
Sharon Blanton has served CDCR and the Office of Correctional Education (OCE) for 26 years as a Library Technical Assistant (LTA), ABE I & II teacher and Voluntary Education Program (VEP) teacher. Blanton, along with her fellow VEP Colleagues, has diligently worked toward the development of one of the most outstanding VEP college programs in the state. According to her supervisors, she has abilities to positively influence her inmate students toward the path for academic success on a daily basis, and to inspire her students to believe in OCE’s “20-20 Vision” Student Success Initiatives.
Vocational Teacher of the Year
David Encinas has served CDCR and OCE for six years as a Building Maintenance Vocational Teacher. Encinas, along with his Vocational and CTE teachers, has diligently worked toward the development of one of the best Vocational Programs in OCE. Encinas, who has a General Contractor License and is certified by the National Center for Continuing Education and Research (NCCER ), has developed one of the best Building Maintenance Correctional Education Programs in the state. In addition to serving his inmate-students to achieve an NCCER Certificate in Construction Technology, he serves the institution to train and certify fork lift drivers; he is certified as an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA); a Transformative Correctional Communication Trainer; and has supervised inmates to build numerous construction projects for Avenal State Prison.
Support Staff of the Year
Jessica Frye is in her first year as a CDCR and OCE Employee. A Teaching Assistant at GHAS, she also assists VEP teachers and has been instrumental in the development of the first face-to-face co-hort college program with West Hills Community College. Frye has been busy coordinating with inter-agencies, other areas within the prison, implementing modifications, scheduling inmate students, coordinating available spaces with correctional staff and working with staff at the college.