Golden View Elementary School – 2006 Winner

Ozma Ferren, a kindergarten teacher at Golden View Elementary School in San Ramon has taught at every single level, kindergarten through twelfth grade, for 36 years.  She still has tremendous enthusiasm and energy.

Ozma has an M.A. in Fine Arts and is an outstanding musician.  Throughout her career, Ozma has devoted herself to bringing art, music and drama into the classroom.  Her way of motivating students is to use the hook of creativity to introduce fine arts throughout the curriculum.  She helps the children discover the “artist inside them.”  She believes that music, art and drama promote confidence, connect the students to themselves and each other and enhance math and reading.  She recognizes that creative expression is where ideas are born.

She operates a hands-on, child-centered classroom, which the kids help to run – each child is President for a day.  She makes sure that each child she teaches feels special, loved and self-confident.  And in her spare time, she goes to other schools and becomes “Miss Rainbow,” complete with a costume, puppets, props, music, dance and a standards-based art lesson or project.

Many people associate Ozma with her guitar, which she plays beautifully and uses as a teaching tool.  She teaches her students to play song flutes.  She makes up songs for the children, often to illustrate academic lessons.  Every day starts with a song.    She has written hundreds of them.  She runs the fine art program for all the students in her school, not just those in her classroom.  She is in charge of a special physical education program at her school, which she created, that uses five different physical activities to improve students’ all-around balance, strength and coordination.  And she somehow finds the time to write and direct plays which the children produce in the classroom.  In her spare time, she has served as a summer school principal; has initiated and, for eight years, has run a program to mainstream special education students; and has served as a special resource reading teacher.

How does she do all this?  And how does she maintain her incredible enthusiasm after 36 years of teaching?  She says about herself:  “I am a lifelong learner.”  Her life and her example encourage her students to keep growing and learning.

A glowing example of Ozma’s love for her students, and her willingness to do whatever it takes to meet their needs, involves Kirsten, a child in Ozma’s class who was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  As the year progressed, the girl’s prognosis worsened and it became evident that her tumor was inoperable.  She began to miss days of school and, when she was there, her motor skills were deteriorating.  Without missing a beat, or denying the other children her attention, Ozma made certain that Kirsten was included in all of the activities.  Whether it meant taping her paper down so she could write or holding Kirsten in her lap, Ozma did whatever she could so Kirsten could participate with her classmates.  When Kirsten was no longer able to come to class, Ozma would leave school as soon as her students had gone home and drive straight to Kirsten’s house to play the guitar for her, sing to her and talk to her about what had happened that day and how her classmates missed her.  When Kirsten died, the day before her sixth birthday, Ozma wrote a special song for her, played it on the guitar and sang it at her memorial service.

One parent who wrote to us said:  “No parent in the world could ask more from a teacher…she is truly a gift to our children.”