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Jan. Teacher of the Month: Thomas Carroll, Cameron Ranch Elementary

Carroll chosen for national magazine position, preaches tolerance.

Name: Thomas Carroll

Occupation: 4th grade teacher at

Years At School: Two at Cameron Ranch; 18 years in the at Thomas Edison, Dyer-Kelly, Skycrest and Whitney Avenue elementary schools and Encina High School; 37 years total as a teacher, at schools in the San Francisco Bay Area and Oklahoma including Catholic schools

Accomplishment: Chosen as a teacher advisor for Teaching Tolerance magazine, a publication of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala. He’ll travel there for a board meeting during the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.

He is one of 20 teachers from throughout the country chosen for the role. At San Juan Unified, he has led diversity trainings for teachers related to issues such as race, gender and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth through professional development programs of the San Juan Teachers Association.

"I'm really honored," said Carroll, who is openly gay. "I've been involved with the district in tolerance issues so it's great to be recognized."

"Tolerance is a difficult path. There were Eastern European immigrants who came into our district in the 1990's... and had their traditional views... that led them to hold protest signs at gay rallies. I started the first gay-straight alliance club in the district at Encina (others have followed). At Encina, I received death threats as the moderator of the gay-straight alliance so that was a real eye opener... The workshops (for teachers) have been very effective. The (national) "It Gets Better" campaign, with its message that you are not alone, is great. (Being openly gay) is a very difficult thing. The changes in this district, where bullying and teasing is just not allowed anymore, have worked. I've worked with the Sacramento City Unified School District on issues of tolerance as well."

Education: Bachelor's degree in English and lifetime teaching credential from the University of California, Riverside; master's degree in theology from St. Mary's College, CLAD credential

Personal: Lives in south Sacramento.

What he likes about teaching:

"I enjoy working with the kids when they have an 'aha' moment. I became a teacher because you touch the future, as the saying goes. I enjoy watching them become what they can be. Teachers do all this work for little money and recognition. All the teachers I know put the kids first, as it should be."

What influenced him to become a teacher? 

"My English teacher in high school, Mrs. Surfass, was very hard but she made me do my best in school."

What he likes most about the school and Carmichael community:

"I moved here (to Cameron Ranch) two years ago from Edison and this is an inclusion school so the special ed(ucation) students are in class with regular students so everyone learns to work with one another. It works amazingly. The staff is dedicated to this school. Coming from the other end of the district... Carmichael is definitely more of a community here. We have great parents in our schools. Carmichael has a distinct feel. Kids feel safe, this is home and the school is like a community center. The has become a partner to Cameron Ranch Elementary. It's a great place to teach."

Advice to new teachers:

"(Regarding technology, kids) know more than we do and we ask them for help when a computer isn't working. Social networking is a way of life and the younger teachers have grown up with all of this. There is a danger of it being abused. I would tell new teachers to be aware of what they're posting and who has access. In school, just use common sense."

What others say:

"He has only been here two years but I consider him a person of integrity and honored to call him a friend." -Theresa Altieri, Cameron Ranch principal

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The San Juan Unified School District contributed to this report.

Richard Keefe January 13, 2012 at 01:06 PM
"Chosen as a teacher advisor for Teaching Tolerance magazine, a publication of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala." Ironically, the SPLC doesn't seem to have much tolerance for diversity at the top. NOT ONE of the SPLC's top executives is a minority, and the SPCL has NEVER hired a person of color to a highly paid position of authority in its entire 41 year history. http://wp.me/pCLYZ-7m Even Teaching Tolerance has been led by "whites only" for 20 of its 21 years. http://wp.me/pCLYZ-bD It's time the SPLC began to practice what it preaches.

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