Samantha Aguirre, a social studies teacher from John O'Connell High School, was honored with a RAVE (Recognizing All Valuable Employees) Special Service Award. Photo by Jennifer Cortez.

She runs the student leadership at John O’Connell High School. She coaches track and cross country. She even runs the social media accounts for the school.

She’s a core member of the ethnic studies team, working with ninth graders to develop strong literacy, research and presentation skills.

And she “makes sure we’re chipping away at systemic oppression and that youth are having a voice at the school,” said Susan Ryan, O’Connell’s principal.

Her name is Samantha Aguirre. She’s a social studies teacher who was honored with a RAVE (Recognizing All Valuable Employees) Special Service Award at Tuesday’s San Francisco Unified School District board of education meeting.

“It’s hard to get me to leave the building,” said Aguirre, who is a graduate of the University in San Francisco, where she earned her master of arts degree in urban education and social justice. “I’m so fortunate that I landed at O’Connell and that I get to serve our students.”

Administrators there, she said, empower teachers to be radical and progressive. She’s taught at the high school for four of her five years as a teacher.

Any member of the public can nominate a school district employee to be recognized for their commitment to education, and winners are selected by a district committee.

Nominated by a parent, Aguirre is “relentless about making sure that every student under her care is successful and is a leader in the school,” said Ryan.

While Aguirre described O’Connell as a relatively small and lesser-known high school in San Francisco, she is working to create a more positive reputation.

Ryan said that the school’s graduation rates have increased to 90 percent, and it has also achieved the highest graduation rate for students of color.

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