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Special education teacher Rami Aweti has a knack for finding fun and creative ways to ensure students feel welcome at Mission High School.
He once worked with a parent of one of his students to bring Axis Dance, a dance company comprised of performers with and without disabilities, to Mission High School for Ability Awareness Month. It left a big impression on one of his 11th grade students, who nominated Mr. Aweti in 2015 for a Mayor’s Teacher of the Year award.
“That showed all the students how many ways disabled people can participate in the performance arts,” the student wrote in his nomination.
“He is a very unique teacher who really cares about our well-being and works hard to ensure that the inclusion students are truly included in all aspects of school life,” the student wrote.
Mr. Aweti said landing his job at Mission High School “felt like fate.” He first worked there as a paraprofessional substitute teacher about nine years ago, and he said he could tell on his first day that this would be a job he could love. “It was the first time I approached a job that didn’t feel like work,” he said.
After studying to become a teacher and earning his credentials, he ended up back at Mission High as an educator in 2010. Along with teaching students, he also started an after-school club for students with and without special needs.
“Rami had the idea to begin a Best Buddies Club here at Mission and has driven its success ever since,” said Mission High School Principal Eric Guthertz. “It is a great group that builds bridges between students and forges lasting friendships.”
Mr. Aweti helps organize ongoing activities like games and field trips as part of the Best Buddies Club, making the club a household name at the school.
“He is always building real and strong relationships with students, families, and staff,” Principal Guthertz said.
Mr. Aweti sees himself as a champion for his students, especially when obstacles stand in the way of their learning.
“You have to be comfortable navigating numerous bureaucracies and advocating to bring the right supports for your students,” Mr. Aweti said. “Luckily, I landed at Mission High School, where teachers and administrators share the belief that each child can learn and achieve.”
Though his colleagues and students sing his praises, Mr. Aweti is not one to take up the spotlight. He’s quick to give credit to others and emphasizes how important it is to team up with other teachers, school staff and families to support students. On a day we visited his class, Mr. Aweti touted the dedication of paraprofessionals Aryeh “RJ” Raskin and Laura Natahusada. “Special education teachers really can’t do the work we do without paraprofessionals,” Mr. Aweti said.
“Special education teachers must have two critical skill sets to meet the need of their students, and that is collaboration and a comfort with modifying and adapting lesson plans,” he continued. “Collaboration ensures our students are better supported by tapping the perspective and skill sets of staff that work with our students.”
Toward the end of the school year, Mr. Aweti taught his students a unit on the Special Olympics. He wants them to know about their strengths, and he wants to educate the community-at-large about those strengths, too.
Inclusion is truly what “drives Rami every day,” Principal Guthertz said.
“Our students need someone to see their inherent strengths and then help them use those inherent strengths to navigate the world around them,” Mr. Aweti said. “It is a creative journey that taps every bit of me, but is extremely rewarding. It is the best decision I ever made.”
If you love this story, share with your friends on social media and spread the word about the amazing work teachers like Mr. Aweti do in our schools. Want to learn more about how you can thank a teacher in San Francisco? Visit thankateachertoday.org.