Above, Walk of Hearts Foundation founder Joe Andrews addresses this year’s inductees into the tribute to educators.
Recognizing their lifelong influence on the lives of their students, six veteran L.A. Unified educators were inducted this week into the Walk of Hearts, a sidewalk tribute that is to teachers what Hollywood Boulevard is to celebrities.
During a ceremony held each May during National Teacher Appreciation Month, the nonprofit Walk of Hearts Foundation pays tribute to educators with personalized bronze plaques featuring the logo of an open heart and an apple. A total of 64 educators, most from the San Fernando Valley, have been honored by the group.
“A teacher’s passion comes from the heart,” said Joe Andrews, who founded the Chatsworth-based organization in 2003, and created the logo while doodling at work one afternoon. “The heart is open because a teacher’s love flows out while their students’ love flows in.”
Individual bronze plaques representing 50 teachers, most of them affiliated with L.A. Unified, are installed in the sidewalks along Sherman Way, between Alabama Avenue and Topanga Canyon Boulevard, in Canoga Park. Last year, the organization began embedding the markers in the walkways encircling The Village at Westfield Topanga, and 14 of the plaques are now located at the bustling Woodland Hills mall.
This year’s inductees include:
- Renee Cofield, principal of the Academy for Enriched Sciences, a K-5 science magnet in Encino.
Cofield began her L.A. Unified career as an early education teacher in 2000, and over the next quarter-century served as an educator and administrator on the Westside and in the Valley. Lauded for being a motivational and dedicated leader, Cofield was described as “the heart and soul of the school.” Cofield is out on medical leave and was represented at the ceremony by her husband, Michael.
- Carol Hadju, a special-education teacher at the Miller Career and Transition Center in Reseda.
Hadju has taught special-needs students since 1989, providing them with occupational skills and life skills they need to succeed after graduation. She currently oversees the center’s textile works program, but also has taught American sign language to hearing-impaired students, many of whom crowded around her as her plaque was unveiled. “My students are a gift,” Hadju said.
- Diedra Shumante, currently a sixth-grade teacher at Porter Ranch Community School, who is set to retire next month after a 36-year career with the District.
Shumante has taught at Porter Ranch since the K-8 school opened in 2012, teaching history and starting a Leadership class. She also created an entrepreneurial program for the middle school students, winning raves from the kids – and parents – excited to learn marketing skills and business acumen.
“She has an incredible ability to empower students to take on the world,” Porter Ranch Principal Mary Melvin said. “She has high expectations, but then she prepares the students to handle it.”
- Dr. Conrad Ulpindo, a science teacher at Lawrence Middle School in Chatsworth, who also has championed nutrition and anti-obesity programs at dozens of schools.
Ulpindo maintains a school garden at Lawrence, where students can put to use the lessons they learn in the classroom.
“He gets excited, and his students, get excited – everyone gets excited,” said Principal Marilu Pigliapoco. “He’s an amazing teacher.”
Ulpindo formerly was director of NEOP Los Angeles, previously known as the Network for a Healthy California, which promoted the importance of wellness to academic success.
Ulpindo said the Walk of Hearts tribute is one he will “treasure forever.”
“It means the students and parents recognize the dedication, passion and sincerity of my service to all of my students,” he said. “It’s been an honor to work for LAUSD.”
- Eileen Capinha-Viadero and Kathleen West, teachers at Taft Charter High School in Woodland Hills.The pair left careers in the fashion and banking industries, respectively, to co-found a business and professional academy at Taft. Known as L’Atelier (French for “The Workshop”), it teaches students management, design and merchandising, but social and business etiquette, and communication and life skills.
“This dynamic duo has revolutionized instruction with their approach to bringing real-world experience into the classroom,” said Daniel Steiner, principal of the affiliated charter high school. “Their annual fashion show and the L’atelier Boutique are a perfect example of how Ms. West and Ms. Capinha-Viadero complement each other by connecting both classrooms and blending business with fashion.
“In addition to the extensive content knowledge and effective instructional approaches, the passion for their craft and compassion for their students elevate them to a league of their own.”
About 200 colleagues, students and supporters attended Sunday’s induction ceremony, cheering as each plague was unveiled and educators lauded.
“It is more meaningful to have a Walk of Hearts than a Walk of Fame,” said City Councilman Bob Blumenfield. “We can’t honor teachers enough. We need to support our teachers and students because nothing is more important than their education.”