Above, Van Nuys Middle School teachers Jason Mikels and Ed Banke are joined by colleagues and students as they receive their $11,500 “Extra Yard for Teachers” award.
Taking the field at the Rose Bowl during half time of last weekend’s UCLA game, two teachers from Van Nuys Middle School were honored for going the “extra mile” for their students – an honor that carried an $11,500 prize for their campus.
Ed Banke, who chairs the Physical Education Department at VNMS, and teacher Jason Mikels, were honored by the College Football Playoff Foundation for exemplary work as educators and their empowering efforts as mentors and role models.
“They are both remarkable teachers who really connect with our students,” said Assistant Principal Debra Jelin, who joined Banke, Mikels and some of their students in the Rose Bowl celebration. “We’re doing a lot at our school with college- and career-readiness programs, and they really go above and beyond.”
Jelin said efforts to create a college-going culture are especially important at VNMS, where nearly 90 percent of the students qualify for free or discounted lunches. Banke and Mikels have incorporated character-building and social skills into their award-winning PE classes, ensuring that students know important skills like making eye contact and speaking in complete sentences when they venture out into the world as the next generation of leaders.
They also are committed to helping students develop physical and mental fitness, thanks to the Sound Body Sound Mind grant from UCLA that funded a fitness center at the middle school.
“They make the lessons meaningful,” Jelin said. “It’s a very positive vibe.”
Mikels also teaches the school’s Leadership class, which is working to create a more supportive and inclusive culture for kids in special-education programs. The class is also partnering with the Jefferson Awards Foundation, which advocates public service as a strategy for improving communities and the lives of its volunteers.
Thanks to the teachers’ efforts, Van Nuys Middle School received a donation of $11,500 from the College Football Playoff Foundation. The nonprofit partners with the NCAA, UCLA and the Pac-12 to sponsor the “Extra Yard for Teachers” programs, which recognizes excellence in promoting a college-going culture. Jelin said the award will be used to upgrade the Sound Body Sound Mind center and to provide additional computers for the school.
The award was presented Saturday during a half-time ceremony in the Colorado-UCLA game, where students joined them on the field of the Rose Bowl.
“I was so happy to see Van Nuys Middle School students not only honored and recognized, but to be part of the college experience,” said Sandra Gephart Fontana, the school’s director in Local District Northeast. “This was the first college athletic event for most of the kids. I hope that it lit a fire for them to pursue their college dreams.”