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FEBRUARY 9, 2018


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Maria Walker is named Educator of the Year

Leadership & Honor A supplement to the Gilroy Dispatch & Morgan Hill Times



FEBRUARY 9, 2018

he right leadership makes all the difference. And, Solorsano Middle School’s Principal, Maria Walker’s dedication and commitment epitomize the essential qualities today’s youth look to in a leader. Recipient of numerous awards, Solorsano Middle School is one of the highest performing schools in the school district according to Gilroy Unified School District Superintendent, Dr. Deborah Flores. Many such honors that wouldn’t be possible without the leadership of Walker. “Maria is one of the best,” Flores says, whose belief in Walker’s overall career achievements prompted her to nominate the middle school principal for this year’s Gilroy Chamber of Commerce Educator of the Year award—and Walker won. “Maria’s commitment to her students extends beyond the classroom,” Flores wrote in her nomination letter to the Chamber. “She makes decisions using the lens of both a parent and an educator. She strongly believes in building relationships with her students, parents and the community.”


HIGH ACHIEVER Named Educator of the Year, Solorsano Middle School

principal Maria Walker exemplifies leadership.

FEBRUARY 9, 2018




FEBRUARY 9, 2018

INSPIRING WORDS Walker began her teaching career as a substitute teacher in Gilroy nearly 30 years ago.


“She is a trusted, respected and admired leader in the eyes of students, parents and staff not only for her accomplishments but also for the unique and valuable leadership qualities she possesses.” Walker was pleasantly surprised late last year when Dr. Flores, along with several board members including Mark Turner, showed up at a scheduled “staff meeting.” As it turned out the meeting was a ruse planned by her assistant principal, Charla Mittman. Turner and the others were there to inform Walker she’d been selected as the 2018 Educator of the Year. “Dr. Flores, our Superintendent, is the one who nominated me, and that’s an honor for me, because obviously she sees something in me. That’s very touching. It was very nice,” Walker says. For the past five years Mittman has worked alongside Walker who she believes is more than deserving of this prestigious award. “When she says she has an opendoor policy—it is. When she says she puts her teachers first—she does. She’s genuine, she’s transparent and she doesn’t judge. She knows what is good for the school,

and she will move heaven and earth to get it,” Mittman says. “Educator of the year, she’s probably the educator of the century.” On Saturday, Feb. 3, Walker along with six other recipients was presented with their awards at the Spice of Life Awards event held at San Juan Oaks Golf Club, in Hollister. Although Walker prefers to stay out of the spotlight she does admit, “It’s nice to be acknowledged—that warms my heart.” In 1976, after graduating from Cal Poly, in San Luis Obispo, Walker was ready to immerse herself in the education profession, but her career took a detour. “I moved back up here to San Jose and they were having a teachers’ strike, so then I just went into business. I became an executive secretary for years,” Walker says. It was her father, George Piane’s, continued support and insistence to not give up on her dream of teaching that brought her back on track. “My dad kept prompting me, ‘if you’re going to do teaching you need to go back and do your teaching,’” Walker says. “So I did. ➝ 6



WINE AND CHOCOLATE Indulge during the Valentine’s weekend with a very special pairing of chocolate and wine at Jason-Stephens Winery. Each chocolate has been hand selected to express and compliment the flavors of wine. Children and pets on leashes are welcome on the front patio; the tasting room and back patio are restricted to guests that are 21 and over. Experience this special wine and chocolate pairing Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 10-11, 11am-6pm at Jason-Stephens Winery, 6500 Brem Lane. For more information, visit


VALENTINE FUNDRAISER Join The Morgan Hill Teachers Aid Coalition as it presents Chocolate & Wine for Valentine. Help support Morgan Hill teachers and children while enjoying student art work and performance, fine wine tastings, delicious chocolate sampling and fabulous finger foods. All funds raised will go directly to purchasing school supplies for teachers and students. Show support and appreciation for Morgan Hill teachers at this fun event Saturday, Feb. 10, 2-5pm at Morgan Hill Community and Cultural Center, 17000 Monterey St. For more information, visit


BBQ & BEER Join The Running Shop and Hops as it welcomes Oregon’s Breakside Brewery’s beers to the area. Be sure to come hungry to this special Launch Event. Running Shop will be smoking up some delicious barbeque to pair with Breakside’s award winning brews. Don’t miss the fun and great food Sunday, Feb. 11 4:30-8pm at The Running Shop and Hops, 17500 Depot St. For more information, visit


Experience a symphonic duo concert with Francesco Attesti and Matteo Galli on piano and organ. Attesti is from Cortona, Italy and is a pianist of international acclaim. Galli is from Milan, Italy and is the chief organist at local Basilicas in his hometown. The duo will perform a free concert to the community at large Thursday, Feb. 15, 6:30-8:30pm at Hartnell College, 411 Central Ave, Salinas. For more information, visit

FEBRUARY 9, 2018






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FEBRUARY 9, 2018

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It was hard because in those days I had to take a pay cut to go back into teaching. But actually, it’s the best move I ever made.” Looking back over her 29 years as an educator she would not change a thing. “You can really make a difference in a child’s life. You can touch a soul. Sometimes you may not know that until years later. You never know when a simple word— or sometimes just listening—you never know when you will make an impact,” Walker says. In 1990 Walker’s first assignment was as a substitute teacher for the Gilroy School District. She jumped at the chance, even though she was the mother of three, Jennifer, then, two and a half, and twins, Bryan and Stephanie, who were 6-months-old at the time. “I’ve always been a working mom,” Walker says. “Which now, when you look full circle, now you become the mentor for others. So my staff if they have young children, I get it.” The bulk of her career in the

educational system was spent teaching all throughout the Gilroy School District, including Jordan elementary, Las Animas, Rod Kelly, and South Valley. In 2003, she was an integral part of the original staff of Solorsano Middle School, in her role as the first English department chair. Five years later, she moved to the administrative side when she became assistant principal, and in 2011, she moved into the Principal position. Although Walker admits she misses teaching, she sees advantages to the administrative side— believing that a key factor in her current role is, “to be visible and to build relationships with students.” “The thing about being an administrator is you’re still teaching, you’re still mentoring, building relationships with students and staff,” Walker says. “I have a great staff here, we’re very cohesive. I truly enjoy what I’m doing in this role. I love working with the parents, because parents are our customers. I love working with the ➝ 12 children.”

FEBRUARY 9, 2018




FEBRUARY 9, 2018

Enjoy an intimate Valentine culinary experience hosted at the estate home of Fernwood Cellars. Dinner will feature library wines and a multi-course dinner unlike anything Fernwood Cellars has done to date. Guests will enjoy a skillfully prepared menu by chef Dianna Phipps, garde manger at award winning Aubergine Carmel. Several other special treats and surprises will make this the ultimate date night for couples and lovers. Experience an unforgettable Valentine Estate Winery Dinner Saturday, Feb. 10, 5:30-9:30pm at Fernwood Cellars Winery, 7137 Redwood Retreat Road, Gilroy. Seating is limited. For tickets and more information, visit


GILROY COMEDY THEATER Enjoy a comedy with heart at Limelight Actors Theater’s production of

The Savannah Sipping Society. Over the course of six months four very different Southern women share laughter, misadventures and cocktails, and form lasting

friendships while taking back the joy of life. Guests are invited to bring dinner and wine to enjoy, corkage fee does apply. The Savannah Sipping Society runs February 9 through March 3 at Gilroy Center for the Arts, 7341 Monterey St. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit VALENTINE’S CELEBRATION Enjoy an evening of exquisite food and romantic music with that special Valentine at Cafe Thyme. Guests will indulge in a four-course meal and delight in the acoustic folk rock music of Jeff and Juli Strametz as they perform folk and soft rock hits from the ’60s and ’70s. This extremely

popular event is limited to guests 21 and over. Celebrate that special Valentine Saturday, Feb. 10, 6-9pm at Cafe Thyme, 433 First St. For more information, visit VALENTINE’S PARTY Dance the night away at the Tortilla Soup Annual Valentine’s Dance at The District Theater. Enjoy Tortilla Soup’s R&B, Soul, Cumbia, Top 40 and Old School sounds as they play music from the ’60s to the present at this Valentine’s celebration for all. Dress to impress in club-dressy attire, no jerseys allowed. Don’t miss the party Saturday, Feb. 10, 8pm-2am at The District Theater, 7430 Monterey St. For more information, visit



DRIVER SAFETY Teens and their parents are invited to a free Driver Safety Education Start Smart Class presented by Christopher High School and the Hollister-Gilroy CHP office. Students from all schools are welcome. Community service hour credits will be given to students enrolled within Gilroy Unified School District, but enrollment in Christopher High School is not a requirement to attend. Start driving smart Thursday, Feb. 15, 6-8pm at Christopher High School, 850 Day Road. For more information, visit

exhibit. Experience the featured art of black folk artists, collage artists, photographers, sculptors and more through March 3 at Gilroy Center for the Arts, 7341 Monterey St. Admission to the gallery and receptions are always free. For more information, visit

Bublé tribute artist Scott Keo. Guests must be 21 or older to attend and dress to impress with collared shirts and no ball caps. Celebrate romance Saturday, Feb. 10, 6-10pm at Granada Theater, 17440 Monterey St. For tickets or more information, visit

general public are encouraged to attend the Artists’ Reception, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 5:30-7pm at the Morgan Hill Community and Cultural Center, 17000 Monterey Road. For more information, visit


PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBITION Experience the photography exhibition “Where in the World?” presented by The Morgan Hill Photography Club and the City of Morgan Hill. This exhibition will be held at the Community and Cultural Center Feb. 1-27, Monday through Friday, 8am-5pm. Local artists, club members and the

Celebrate Lunar New Year and the Year of the Dog at Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose. Guests will learn about the customs and traditions of Lunar New Year, traditionally observed by many Asian cultures. Revel in the lively Lion Dance, make culturally-relevant art and crafts and enjoy traditional and ➝ 10

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with romantic live music and an elegant three course champagne dinner at beautiful San Juan Oaks Golf Club. Guests will enjoy appetizers, champagne and a three course dinner including chocolate mousse with local chocolate dipped strawberries. The Moondance Band will set the mood for the evening with romantic live music. Celebrate Valentine’s Day Wednesday, Feb. 14, 6-10pm at San Juan Oaks, 3825 Union Road, Hollister. Reservations are required, call 831.636.6127. For more information, visit


BLACK HISTORY Join the Gilroy Center for the Arts at the fourth annual Black History Month

VALENTINE’S DINNER SHOW Enjoy a romantic dinner and musical performance just in time for Valentine’s Day at Granada Theatre. Guests will savor a threecourse dinner by executive chef Mark Johnson and delight in a musical performance by Michael

Seek out early wildflower blossoms that bloom and are gone before the start of spring during an afternoon hike at Rancho Cañada del Oro. Participants will stroll along the Longwall Canyon and Mayfair trails during this 4.5 mile long hike. Be prepared for muddy conditions and a stream crossing. Look for early blossoms Sunday, Feb. 18, 1-5pm at Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve, 4289 Casa Loma Road, Morgan Hill. For more information, visit



9 300 Maranatha Dr, Hollister. For more information and to register, visit BAND FUNDRAISER Get creative, paint a picture with your sweetheart and support Ann Sobrato High School’s Sobrato Band. Learn how to paint two canvases that will fit together at this unique fundraiser. Participants will receive canvases, paints, brushes and two hours of step by step instructions. Profits will benefit Sobrato Band. Food and beverages will be available for separate purchase at the venue. Paint with your sweetheart for a good cause Sunday, Feb. 11, 1-3pm at The Grapevine Morgan Hill, 17520 Depot St, #100, Morgan Hill. For more information, call 408.234.2442 or visit


Experience The Tabard Theatre Company’s presentation of William Gibson’s Tony-award winning play, The Miracle Worker. Based on Helen Keller’s autobiography, The Story of My Life, this story follows the journey of Keller and her tutor, Annie Sullivan, revealing the power of commitment and strength when the choice is made to reach beyond the understandable and tangible. See The Miracle Worker Friday, Feb. 16-Sunday Mar. 11 at Theatre on San Pedro Square, 29 N. San Pedro St, San Jose. Visit

FEBRUARY 9, 2018

contemporary music and dance performances. Explore Lunar New Year Saturday, Feb. 17, 10am-5pm and Sunday, Feb. 18, noon-5pm at Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose, 180 Woz Way. For more information, visit


EVENTS BOOK SALE The Gilroy Library invites the community to join them for their Friends of the Gilroy Library book sale. All ages are welcome to browse the variety of great reads. Proceeds from purchases go toward supporting the collection and programs at the Gilroy Library. The

sale is held on the second Saturday of every month, Feb. 10, 10am-1pm at the Gilroy Library, 350 W. Sixth St, Gilroy. For more information, visit or call 408.842.8207. VALENTINE’S COMEDY Celebrate Valentine’s Day with a night of laughter, dinner and dancing. Enjoy the comedy of Dennis Gaxiola and dance to the music of Soul Kiss. Executive chef Mark Johnson will present a threecourse dinner in the romantic Barrel Room. Guests must be 21 or older and dress to impress with collared shirts and no ball caps. Celebrate Valentine’s Day Saturday, Feb. 10, 6-10pm at Leal Vineyards,

FINANCIAL AID WORKSHOP High school seniors and their parents are invited to attend the Cash for College workshops, hosted by South County Cal-SOAP. These free one-on-one workshops offer professional financial assistance to families completing the FAFSA or Dream Act. Workshops will be held Tuesday, Feb. 13, 6-8pm at Ann Sobrato High School, 401 Burnett Ave, Morgan Hill and Thursday, Feb. 15, 6-8pm at Live Oak High School, 1505 E. Main Ave, Morgan Hill. For more information, call 669.205.5474. STUDENT ART SHOWCASE Experience “The World Around Me, Celebrating Diversity in the Arts,” a County Arts Showcase featuring the work of students in grades Pre-K through 12th. Artwork categories include 2D, 3D and literary art. Live student performances will be featured along with paintings, drawings, ceramics, sculpture, mixed media, fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Admission is free Thursday, Feb. 15, 5-7pm at Veterans Memorial Building, 649 San Benito St, Hollister. For more information, visit MARDI GRAS SOCIAL Join Westmont of Morgan Hill at its Mardi Gras Social, featuring food,

fun, beads and entertainment. Guests will enjoy live entertainment including a stilt walker and music by Michael Schifano Saturday, Feb. 17, 1-3pm at Westmont of Morgan Hill, 1160 Cochrane Road. For more information or to RSVP, call 408.779.8490. TRAVEL & ADVENTURE Discover the world in one weekend, all under one roof at the Bay Area Travel & Adventure Show. Head to America’s favorite travel show, explore endless vacation options and learn from travel experts representing more than 250 destinations from around the globe. Find thousands of vacation options under one roof Saturday Feb. 17, 10am-5pm and Sunday, Feb. 18, 11am-4pm at Santa Clara Convention Center, 5001 Great American Pkwy, Santa Clara. For more information and tickets, visit PLANT COMMUNITIES HIKE Hike through grassland, chaparral and oak woodland to learn about local plant communities in Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve. See serpentine outcrops and unique native plants that have adapted to succeed in a challenging environment on this moderately paced 4-mile hike. Dress in layers for winter weather and bring water, a hat, lunch and any favorite hiking accessories Sunday, Feb. 18, 10am-3pm at Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve, 550 Palm Ave, Morgan Hill. Meet in the parking lot. Space is limited, please register. For registration and more information, GRANT REQUESTS The Gilroy Assistance League is now accepting grant requests for the year 2018 benefiting Gilroy youth organizations. Thanks to generous donors and sponsors and a very successful 2017 Home Tour, Gilroy Assistance League will award $26,000 in grants this year. Submit a formal grant request no later than Monday, Feb. 26. Forms may be downloaded at For additional information, call Gina Anderson at 408.843.8604.

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FOSTERING RELATIONSHIPS Walker feels the ability to make a connection with every child ought to be a top priority for all teachers. Throughout the years the challenges for teachers and administrators are constant—and yet guaranteed to change. Walker believes a current challenge for today’s teachers is the impact of social media. “The social media has been a huge change and challenge in the educational system,” Walker says. “Parents need to understand where their children can go with the technology. These kids are very savvy, they’re very good at this stuff. At the end of the day it’s like synchronized phones, 800 plus phones come out.” Walker feels another top priority for all teachers is the ability to make a connection with every child. “We have a very rigorous curriculum here in Gilroy, which is excellent,” she says. “And I think trying to make sure you reach all the children, educationally, sometimes it’s hard, because you get a wide range of levels. We want all children to be successful. I think that’s the bottom line. And I have a staff here

of phenomenal educators who try every day to get kids to be successful, but it’s tough.” Walker believes educators would have a much better chance of reaching that goal if additional funding were provided to the school district. “We just need the funding and the support from the state too, to help us get all kids up to where they need to be,” Walker says. This educator of the year remains undaunted by the challenges, and committed to the students and staff—ready to move forward on the road to success. “You always go into every day with the right attitude, that positive attitude. I genuinely care about all these children, I want them to get a solid education,” Walker says. “We work with them every day. They’re children, they’re changing and they’re growing. Yes, I’m a principal, but I’m also a mom, and I’m also a grandma, so I look at everything through that lens as well, and it’s always about teaching.”


LIFESTYLE CHANGES Even after reaching goal weight, managing weight is a lifelong process.

Loser, part two

Keeping resolutions beyond January By CURT HENTSCHKE


period of reckless food abandon), I managed to regain 30 pounds! That’s why I’m back to eating wisely in 2018. 7. Repeat after me: I will NOT shed my unwanted weight overnight! Steer clear of ANY diet that promises dramatic weight loss in a short period of time. Danger! Need someone with whom to ride bikes? Check out area bicycle clubs, like the Alameda Cycle Touring Club ( Many offer rides catering to everyone from beginners to seasoned vets. Also, inquire at your local cycle shop; many know the 411 on area

group rides. (Just search “nearby bicycle shop” on your map app!) Speaking of local bike shops, congratulations to Doug and Jodi Hall (and Dylan), on the recent opening of their Bike Therapy shop in Morgan Hill! Give your sweethearts what they really want: a bicycle!

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elcome to February, month of presidents and sweethearts! Register now for the spring rides; many are filling up! Lots of reader response to last month’s Cycle Guy’s Five Secrets to Success. Let me wrap that list up with two more. 6. Remember, even after you reach your goal weight, managing weight is a lifelong process. After retiring last June (and enjoying one fortnight cruise, two week-long vacations, and a Halloween-through-New Years




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Friday, February 9


Friday, February 9