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CELEBRATING OJAI

WOMEN OF THE OJAI VALLEY 2021 1


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Live for the moments you can’t put into words.

805.669.8280 hello@ojaipicnicmoments.com www.ojaipicnicmoments.com 3


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PUBLISHER’S NOTE

y mother and daughter are always right. I used to struggle against this truth, determined to rise to their certain perfection. But now I feel support and love in their infallibility, and finally find my peace. I’m lucky to be in the middle of two such bright, strong women. Happy Mother’s Day to my dear mother, and to yours. Every mother had her share of challenges this past year — Please give yourself a hug too!

a small community, when we dip our hand into the pool we can see the ripple — it’s immediate. It’s easier to see the results of our caring and intended gestures on others … to observe our impact. For the women of the Ojai Valley and for those who love them, we dedicate this issue. The Ojai Valley News highlights the efforts of four special individuals and honors the achievements of Ojai Valley Woman’s Club, as it celebrates 110 years. Cheree Edwards, Kate Spiva, Bianca Rose Martinez, and Naiyma Houston are a few of the many women who have made a difference beyond their family, work and personal sphere, and enhanced the Ojai Valley as a community. We all benefit from their impact. It’s likely you know other women who are heroes great and small in our valley — please take a moment, mention the Women of the Ojai Valley issue, and thank them for making a difference — they improve upon what it means to be human, and what it means to live in the Ojai Valley.

I wonder, is it the Pink Moment that creates the feminine spiritual vortex of the Ojai Valley, or might it be the women themselves. The generosity, ingenuity, empathy and loving spirit I so often witness and experience in this valley is inspiring. In

Laura Rearwin Ward With love, admiration and thanks,

Contents PAGE 5 Ojai Valley Woman’s Club PAGE 7 Kate Spiva PAGE 10 Cheree Edwards PAGE 13 Bianca Martinez PAGE 14 Naiyma Houston

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Ojai Valley Woman’s Club Ojai Valley Woman’s Club marking 110 years of service Perry Van Houten | pvh@ojaivalleynews.com

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or more than 100 years, the Ojai Valley Woman’s Club has raised money for worthy causes and supported the community in times of need.

Helping deployed men and women is a Woman’s Club tradition that continues to this day.

Founded in 1915, two years before the town changed its name from Nordhoff to Ojai, the Woman’s Club is a nonprofit that helps other nonprofits. “We’re just a moving force and we love to help out. We’re active in the community and throughout Ventura County,” said longtime member and current 1st Vice President Patti Bagley.

Through the nonprofit organization For the Troops, the women donate basic necessities, goodies and games that are packed into “We Care” boxes for members of the American military. The club even gets local schoolchildren to write notes to veterans. “These deployed veterans getting these boxes sent by For the Troops love what we’re doing to help the program,” Bagley said, “and we’re continuing our good work from 80 years ago, helping veterans.”

The history of the club goes back to 1899, when the Presbyterian Church started a local chapter of the King’s Daughters, a service organization that sponsored classes for boys in carpentry and domestic training classes in schools for girls, raised money and materials for the needy, picked up litter on the streets and sidewalks, and protested roadside billboards in the valley. The group was so effective in improving the town that Josephine Pierpont Ginn decided she’d build the women a clubhouse, in memory of her husband. The clubhouse, at 441 E. Ojai Ave., was completed in 1911. The building became city of Ojai Historical Landmark No. 8 in 1992.

“We’re continuing our good work from 80 years ago, helping veterans.”

The Woman’s Club’s long record of service over the years includes activities such as calling on the sick, raising money for streetlights and even providing a cow to a large needy family. Awarding scholarships to local high school students, another Woman’s Club tradition, began in 1963. Last year, the club raised $680 to help toward college expenses for two graduating seniors.

The club stayed busy during the pandemic by gathering supplies to make backpacks to donate to young women affected by abuse. “These backpacks were filled with loving treasures,” said Bagley. They included socks, manicure sets, toiletries, notebooks and journals, and even a homemade mask.

Four years after the clubhouse was built, the King’s Daughters became the Ojai Valley Woman’s Club, and almost immediately the club’s mettle was put to the test by back-to-back crises. In 1917, the clubhouse served as a hub for distribution of supplies during a devastating wildfire, and provided housing for nurses during the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918.

The group is also active in support of women’s rights and the history of suffragettes. One member, Pat Essick, marched in the 2019 Ojai Independence Day Parade dressed as a suffragette. “It’s all about empowering women,” Bagley said.

During both World Wars, the clubhouse was used to assemble relief packages for soldiers overseas.

Since the beginning, the Ojai Valley Woman’s Club has leased the clubhouse to groups wanting to hold events there, and has even donated use of the building to nonprofits. Six churches got their start there.

Marking its 110th anniversary, the King’s Daughters Clubhouse, now the Ojai Valley Woman’s Club. Photo courtesy Ojai Valley Museum

Despite COVID-19, the 54-member club has held board meetings, regular meetings and book club meetings once per month. “We’ve continued to have meetings throughout the pandemic, by Zoom, and do almost all the things we do,” said Bagley, who hoped to be back to in-clubhouse meetings in May, and definitely by September. Part of a district of 10 women’s clubs in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, including the Oak View Women’s Club, the club has never taken on a political affiliation. “One of the rules is not to talk politics, but we have hosted the League of Women Voters,” Bagley said. “We try to see both sides of everything that’s going on.” Along with more than a century of service to the Ojai Valley, the club has served as a source of friendship to newcomers. When Bagley moved to Ojai in 2000, the only person she knew here was her mother. “One of the things about joining the Woman’s Club was this circle of friends,” she said. “I have formed lasting friendships with people that I’ll know until the day I die.” For more information on the Ojai Valley Woman’s Club, visit www.ovwc.info

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Kate Spiva Instilling passion for learning and adventure Perry Van Houten |pvh@ojaivalleynews.com Kate Spiva’s interest in education started with her parents.

the first group of sixth-graders science, math and aerospace. “It’s been successful, aside from the COVID piece,” she said.

“They were always the ones who said you can be anything you want to be; you can do anything you want to do if you put your mind to it,” said the sixth-grade teacher at Matilija Middle School.

Spiva, an accomplished pilot like her father and grandfather, calls her aerospace class her passion project. She has taken the class on field trips to Santa Paula Airport to participate in the Young Eagles Program, where students can go up in small planes and even take the controls.

Born and raised in Ojai, Spiva attended Topa Topa Elementary, Matilija Junior High and Nordhoff High schools. “Ojai has always been in my blood,” she said. And Spiva always knew she wanted to go into education. “I felt like everything was always available to me and so I pushed for anything and everything, and I realized I like bringing that back to other people. Not just doing it, but teaching others to do the same thing,” she said.

“I’ve always looked to women in leadership roles and set my sights on those.

Spiva earned her master’s degree in education administration from California State University San Marcos and has taught in the Ojai Unified School District since 2014, at San Antonio School and Matilija Middle School.

“We have such a rich aerospace history in Southern California. We have JPL nearby, we have SpaceX nearby,” she said. “I thought, how can we get that program moving here in Ojai, for students to be able to access that world?” Her latest hobby is wing walking — climbing out of the cockpit onto the top of the plane while it’s doing aerobatics.

Spiva learned early on that she loved to go out and experience things and bring that passion for adventure back to students. “The only way you can do that is by making it an adventure; by really making it so that it comes alive, so that kids can experience it. Not just read about it in a book; not just write an essay about it, but go and live it,” she said.

Education should be exciting, fun and engaging, according to Spiva. “It’s about having people fall in love with learning. If we teach kids what they need to know, the basics, that’s good and well; that’s necessary. But if we can instill a passion in them for learning and a love of learning, that’s what will carry them on and push them to do great things, and to live their lives to the fullest,” she said.

One of her recent journeys has been to get healthy, losing 200 pounds through diet and exercise, including lots of running, hiking, mountain climbing and training for a marathon. “Just striving to have that opportunity to live life to the fullest,” she said.

When Matilija added a sixth-grade curriculum, Spiva knew she wanted to be involved in creating and implementing the new program, teaching

What gives Spiva her drive? Her mother collapsed from cardiac arrest and nearly didn’t survive. Her first husband passed away when he was very young. “It really taught me, at a young age, that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed and we really have to take advantage of the time we have now,” she said. In June, Spiva will take the helm at private Monica Ros School, replacing the retiring Susan Hardenbergh. She already has a history at the private school in Ojai’s East End, where she served as a teaching assistant. Since the day Spiva started in education, the position of school director has been her dream job. And leading a school founded by a woman holds special significance for Spiva. “I’ve always looked to women in leadership roles and set my sights on those. Following in the footsteps of Monica Ros has definitely been on my list of aspirations,” she said.

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Carolyn J. Vondriska, Attorney (left) Megan Davis, Law Office Administrator (right) • Estate Planning • Wills • Trusts • Trust Administration • Health Care Documents • Real Estate Transactions

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Carolyn is proud to be serving the Ojai Valley as an attorney at the law firm of Waite, Jacobs & Atkinson. Carolyn is a 1993 graduate of the UC Davis School of Law, where she graduated in the top 5% of her class, earning a spot in the prestigious Order of the Coif national honor society. She clerked for United States District Judge Milton L. Schwartz in Sacramento, thereafter joining the litigation department of the international law firm of Morrison & Foerster LLP in San Francisco. She went on to become a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Washington State before moving to Ojai to be near family. Carolyn is the mother of three children. She is an active volunteer with the Ojai Valley Defense Fund, Ojai Boy Scout Troop 504, and our local schools. She is happiest when hiking or fly-fishing in the Los Padres and Yosemite back country with her family. The team includes Law Office Administrator Megan Davis, who has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Geography from UC Santa Barbara. Megan came to the firm in 2011 after a career in corporate management, followed by a decade of teaching throughout the Ojai Valley. Megan is passionate about the work of the Ojai Valley Defense Fund and the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy, especially their commitment to the conservation and protection of the valley she loves. As a team, Carolyn, Megan, and firm Partner Ross E. Atkinson are delighted to assist our clients with their estate planning and trust administration needs. This work has been particularly meaningful during the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic. We remain focused on supporting our clients and the community we serve, safely and without disruption. We are grateful to our community, now more than ever.

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Cheree Edwards An active member of the Board of Realtors, President of the Ojai Rotary Club, and the Music Festival Women’s Committee as well as the Ojai Valley Community Hospital Guild. Austin Widger | awidger@ojaivalleynews.com

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t’s quicker to list the Ojai Valley organizations that Cheree Edwards has not volunteered for. Since moving to Ojai around 1988 – and even more so in the last 15 years – she has become an integral part of the community. Edwards met her husband Don working in a local restaurant in Ventura in the early 1980s. They fell in love with Ojai coming up to hike and enjoy the warm weather. She said: “We got married up here on Sespe, actually in Rose Valley at Howard Creek. Then we took a 78-mile backpacking honeymoon from the headwaters of the Sespe all the way into Fillmore. So it was pretty spectacular. It definitely toughened me up early on.”

Edwards is active with the Ojai Valley Board of Realtors, and was honored with Realtor of the Year a few years back. She is also involved in a great deal of volunteer work in the community, including Ojai Rotary Club, Ojai Valley Community Hospital Guild, Ojai Music Festival Women’s Committee, and more.

“For me it was just natural for us to get involved.”

Some of Edwards’ most memorable work with the Rotary Club – which she is currently president of – came at the local schools. She helped form the new Interact Club at the school last year. “I was invited to the Rotary Club and I just fell in love with it immediately. It’s just a great group of people. Their motto is ‘service over self,’ and just a really incredible group of people that do a lot of good over and over. It was and is inspiring. So I joined Rotary about 10 years ago, and I became president last year. And there’s just so many avenues of service that you can pursue in that club, whether it’s youth or international or just community-based grants, scholarships. During my presidency, I was really proud to be part of the steering committee that built the Matilija Pavilion.”

After moving around a bit, the two decided to come back up to Ojai and plant their roots as their daughters grew up. While Don built a real estate business, Edwards worked as a corporate trainer and area manager at a Fortune 500 company for about 25 years. This job had her travel quite a bit. She said: “As the kids got older and our daughter was finishing high school, I finally decided to just come back to Ojai in a sense. Then in my work time here I joined onto his real estate business. My father was a broker too, so they had been tugging at me for a long time to join. I finally did, and I wish I had done it sooner, because I love it. I love working with my husband and we’ve continued on. It’s probably been the last 15 years that I’ve been in real estate with him. It’s just a really gratifying career with helping people find their homes. It’s usually the biggest transaction a person makes, and I’m really proud to work with him and facilitate that.”

Her work with the OVCH Guild happened organically. One of her twin daughters had an unfortunate and difficult bout with leukemia when she was younger. She was in remission for many years, but succumbed to a brain tumor at 13. She said: “So for me it was just natural for us to get involved with the hospital guild, and just continue to support. Even though we had to go out of town, we went down to Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles for treatments. We still had quite a lifeline with our doctors and physicians here. So that was kind of my tug toward continuing to support the guild and getting involved.” Edwards is also president of the Ojai Music Festival Women’s Festival Committee, and is excited to bring back the event in person in September for its 75th year. She will also help bring back the Ojai Holiday Home Tour for its 25th anniversary this year. “We’re really looking forward to being able to do something in person again, as everybody in town is,” she said. She said: “I’ve gotten active with Rotary on a district level, so I’m helping with other clubs. I’m an assistant governor. Rotary is kind of like a family. They call it family of Rotary. It’s pretty hard not to imagine being in it forever. We’ve got some members that have been in the club 50 years. We’ve got a lot of awesome new younger members that have a great energy that they’re bringing. Several under 40, and doing good things in town. So I don’t anticipate any changes. Same with the music festival. I’m so involved with just leading as president, but I hope to have more time to work on the BRAVO committee, which brings the music into the schools.”

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AN AWARD-WINNING ACTRESS AND DIRECTOR WHO HAS BROUGHT HER PASSION FOR THE ARTS TO OJAI SINCE 2004.

Tracey Williams Sutton TRACEY WILLIAMS SUTTON Tracey is an award-winning actress and director who has brought her passion for the arts to Ojai since 2004. Among her list of credits including touring productions, The Sound of Music Maria, West Side Story Maria, as well as Phantom Christine. Her favorite roles include Peter in Peter Pan (directed by flying master Peter Foy), Gypsy Rose Lee in Gypsy (with Carol Lawrence), Annie in Annie Get Your Gun, Eliza in My Fair Lady, Marion in The Music Man, and Irene Malloy in Hello, Dolly (she has appeared with Carol Channing). Productions she has directed for The Ojai Art Center Theater include: Kiss Me Kate, The Music Man, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Cabaret, Hello, Dolly!, The Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof, Carousel, Annie Get Your Gun, Anything Goes and Private Lives. Ms. Sutton first appeared on the Art Center stage as Amanda in Private Lives; since then she has appeared as Suzy in Wait Until Dark with her husband, actor Cecil Sutton, Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire, Beatrice in The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man in the Moon Marigolds, Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Rose in Dancing at Lughnasa, Mame in Mame, Morticia in The Addams Family, Gwen/Ghost of Sarah Bernhardt in Women Playing Hamlet, Mrs. Rittenhouse in Animal Crackers, and Dr. Katherine Brandt in 33 Variations. Ms. Sutton has won numerous Four Star awards as an actress, director, producer, music director and costumer. Ms. Sutton has served the community as the President/Chair of the Ojai Art Center Theater for many years. She holds a master’s degree in Theater, and has taught theater at university and high school levels. The Ojai community is enhanced by her visionary talents as a teacher, actress, performer and director.

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smart, funny, driven and most importantly, helpful to anyone who would ask for advice. With her perpetual upbeat attitude, Cheryl truly loved every aspect of the real estate industry. Work was not Cheryl’s only passion, however. She was an incredible gardener and an excellent chef. Over the past two years her green thumb became proficient at producing not only her fantastic heirloom tomatoes, but also cucumbers, peas, squash, pole beans, watermelons (though rabbits or squirrels got to almost all of them), kale, and corn. In addition, she tended to her peach, plum, apricot, fig, orange, tangerine, and apple trees. She canned enough of this bounty to make it through Covid without having to grocery shop for a year. On the culinary side of things, she was always looking for new and exciting recipes - she absolutely loved to cook. Some of her best creations were her apple/cinnamon brie, homemade spaghetti, green tomato soup, homemade pickles, canned applesauce, Asian chicken salad, grilled rosemary lemon chicken, homemade vanilla ice cream, and “Cheryl’s Awesome Salad” – a moniker given to it by Ray because of her ability to throw a mélange of ingredients into a salad that was delectable.

Cheryl Deckert

But perhaps the most satisfying part of Cheryl’s life was her relationship with her husband. They loved each other beyond words and had an unshakable passion for each other, a passion that never waned. They spent 22 years together, virtually 24 hours a day, then would complain, “I wish we could get away on vacation so we could spend some time alone.” Together with their Standard Poodles, Leo & Logan, Cheryl and Ray would say they lived a storybook life.

By Ray Deckert

Cheryl Deckert was born in Long Beach, California in 1956. A great year she would say, “...because that’s the year the 1956 Ford Thunderbird was available with the porthole window.” Cheryl’s childhood was not an easy one, but she persevered and was popular in school, performing in musicals, plays and in the choir. Cheryl’s first employment included working at K-Mart and May Company Department stores, but she eventually moved into the world of real estate in 1980. She initially began working as an agent, but was quickly promoted to an assistant manager’s position within a year. By the following year she was assigned to a full management position.

Cheryl truly loved living in Ojai; it was her forever home. And although she never owned a ‘56 Thunderbird, she did eventually get the next best thing…

Cheryl’s ability to communicate with people and remain calm in difficult situations became her greatest strength. Over the next 20 years she became known as a “fixer” - the type of manager who could come in and quickly turn around an office that was declining in performance and sales. She eventually became one of the vicepresidents of her company, a position she held for several years. In 1998 Cheryl moved to Tampa, Florida. Friends, co-workers and family would ask, “Why on earth would you want to move from southern California?” “For love,” she would say. She would then follow her response with, “...but I plan to get him to move to California.” Cheryl and her husband, Ray, moved to Ojai in 2005 to be near Cheryl’s side of the family, who’ve been Ojai residents since 1990. Once in Ojai, Cheryl picked up where she left off in California real estate, first by bringing Ray into the business, then by forming a real estate team. In and around Ojai, Cheryl has been viewed as

Cheryl Deckert passed away in September, 2020.

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Bianca Rose Martinez ‘Rebel kid’ turned compassionate eating champion, Bianca can teach us a thing or two about healthy eating. Karen Lindell | karenlindell2@gmail.com

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microwave dinners, cheese, cold cuts and hot dogs. Still, she did experience the beginnings of her compassionate-eating self. As a little girl, she worried that animal cookies “died” when she ate them. And she cooked “special” meals with her dad featuring recipes from around the world.

birthday meal for a 1-year-old must include cake. When you are Bianca Rose Martinez’s 1-year-old son, that means vanilla spice cake with raw coconut cream frosting, made in part with dates and whipped coconut. Also on the menu (pre-dessert) are cassava wraps and veggie fritter patties with yogurt dill sauce. Yummy, healthy — and compassionate. Martinez served such a menu recently for her son Jaden’s first birthday party. And through Compassionate Eating, the Ojai company she founded in 2009, Martinez offers “conscious catering” for local retreats and events; cooking classes; personal chef services; and “food medicine” for people with cancer, diabetes and other health issues. Compassionate eating, Martinez said, is “eating by doing the least amount of harm to yourself, the planet and animals, while honoring yourself and your needs.”

Martinez, who grew up in Ventura, said she was a “rebel kid” who acted out in school due to childhood trauma. Eventually, she graduated with honors from CSU Chico, where she studied communications and environmental science. Learning about industrial agriculture “I’m an and “the connection between toxins going into the earth and going into people” heightened her interest in organic advocate for foods, vegetarianism, and eco-friendly living.

what works best, always encouraging high-vibration foods.”

Post-graduation, Martinez worked as a graphic designer, but when her aunt developed cancer, she found a new calling: food medicine chef.

She made her aunt such recipes as green juices and vegetarian wraps that “made a big difference in her overall well-being.” Her aunt eventually died from cancer, but served as Martinez’s inspiration.

Nearly all the food she prepares features organic, plant-based, unprocessed ingredients, from a local source if possible. She avoids gluten, dairy, GMOs, dyes, cane sugar, emulsifiers and thickeners.

In addition to learning about healing foods, she began practicing such techniques as art therapy, reiki, aromatherapy and hypnotherapy to help heal her own childhood trauma. She also spent time living at Full Circle Farm, an alternative Ojai community, leaving after she met her husband.

She doesn’t insist on a particular diet, however. “People might need meat or grains if it helps their digestion,” she said. “I’m an advocate for what works best, always encouraging high-vibration foods — keeping it organic, pure and local.”

Preparing meals for groups at the farm gave her confidence to cook larger portions, which made the transition to catering easy when she founded Compassionate Eating.

Compassionate eating is not simply about ingredients, however. The concept also embraces “the art of self-love through cooking, and the energy, joy, love and healing thoughts that go into the food,” Martinez said.

When Martinez helps people who are new to compassionate eating, she begins with small changes, usually by making healthier versions of foods they already like.

She grew up eating meals prepared without much thought: canned food,

A daily menu might include flax oatmeal with goji berries, cinnamon, and hemp milk (for breakfast); collard wraps with sprouted sunflower pate (for lunch); and vegan pizza (featuring a chickpea/cassava flax crust) with vegetables and cashew cheese (for dinner). Martinez said she has done a lot of research on her own by reading and watching documentaries about healing nutrition. She has studied Ayurvedic food medicine, and is the author and illustrator of “Compassionate Eating: Conscious Consumption for Mind, Body, Spirit and Planet.” Martinez, who took a shamanic training course through the Ojai Foundation, also describes herself as a “shamanic chef.” Shamanic cooking, she said, “has to do with the intention and energy that go into the food. Be in gratitude with the food, and I guarantee you will have better digestion.”

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Naiyma Houston Inspiring next generation of scientists

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Marianne Ratcliff | editor@ojaivalleynews.com on to work for two more companies as a project manager of clinical trials at Genzyme Genetics, and Quest Diagnostic Clinical Trials.

aiyma Houston did not take a direct route to her Nordhoff High School science classroom. She made several stops along the way as a scientist, including working for one of the world’s largest independent biotech companies — Amgen in Thousand Oaks.

After a while, she said she realized her work as a project manager “had gotten too far from the science. I did some soul-searching and asked myself, ‘What do I want to do? What is fulfilling me?’”

After a day of teaching in her spacious classroom dotted with microscopes, the award-winning educator described her journey. Houston’s love for science was nurtured by her Cerritos High School teachers and the school’s Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement program (MESA).

When she realized, “I actually like teaching others about science,” she started Upper Hand to College to increase girls’ and women’s interest in science, technology, engineering and math, holding conferences at colleges around the state.

“If you follow your interest, that’s where happiness and fulfillment lie.”

When Houston enrolled at UCLA with her identical twin sister, she wanted to study biomedical engineering, but her interest changed. She recalled hearing a scientist at Genentech speak at a conference about how much he loved his job. “His talk really resonated with me,” Houston said, so she asked herself: “What can I change my major to, so I can work in a lab like that guy?” Searching through the course catalogue, she chose microbiology and molecular genetics. Working in a biochemistry department research lab her freshman year, followed by a summer internship at a research lab at Cornell fueled her desire to be a scientist.

In 2015, she applied to teach biology at Nordhoff High School. “As soon as I started teaching, I found my happy place,” she said. “I was really fulfilled. It was just a joy sharing my passion for biology with students. After my first year, I knew I definitely wanted to continue teaching.” She is now director of Nordhoff’s Health Science Academy and teaches biology, honors biology, integrated physical sciences, medical terminology and emergency medicine.

Her inspired teaching earned her the 2019 VC Innovates Pathfinder Award for Nordhoff High School from the Ventura County Office of Education, in the field of health science and medical terminology.

While Houston applied for research associate positions after graduation, her mother — a retired school principal — suggested she apply to be a substitute teacher at ABC Unified School District in Cerritos. Houston was hired the next day to be a long-term substitute, teaching seventh- and eighth-grade math. “I liked it!” she said, and that was a problem. “At the end of the year, I was really conflicted about what I should do.”

“Naiyma loves what she does and it’s really contagious,” said Nordhoff Principal David Monson. “She is kind and compassionate” and listens to her students. “My message to students is just to always pursue their interests,” Houston said. “If you’re interested in the sciences, there are so many career options available to you. … If you follow your interest, that’s where happiness and fulfillment lie.”

Although she decided to pursue a career in research, Houston thought she might someday return to teaching. Her next stop was UC Irvine as a research associate with a scientist working on a novel tick vaccine. She then applied to Amgen, where she worked for six years as a research associate in the Protein Science Department. She went

The pandemic has put science front and center. Since Houston’s favorite subject is molecular biology, she has been able to teach how COVID-19 tests and vaccines work. “I knew there would be an effective vaccine,” she said. When Houston is not teaching, she is traveling, even taking Nordhoff students to Iceland a couple of years ago. Plans for students to travel to Switzerland and Germany this summer were curtailed by the pandemic, but Houston is looking forward to more globe-trotting adventures. Houston and her husband share their Oxnard Shores home with their Bichon Frise named Lily, and Brisa, a chihuahua. Swimming, camping, hiking and cooking are some of her favorite pastimes. (Just ask her about her seafood gumbo and herb and mushroom lasagna!) She is also an aunt to her sister’s 8-year-old fraternal twin daughters.

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Houston and her sister’s success was nurtured by their parents who “instilled a good, strong work ethic in both of us,” Houston said. “Education was always important in the house.” Doing well in school was important, but, she said her parents’ main message was “work your hardest.”


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Profile for Ojai Valley News

Ojai Valley News. Women of the Ojai Valley 2021  

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