San Antonio Educators Win National ‘Teacher of the Year’ Titles

For Immediate Release:
May 2, 2022

Contact:
Nicole Meyer 202-483-7382

San Antonio – Just in time for Teacher Appreciation Month (May), TeachKind—PETA’s humane education division—has crowned co-winners in its national 2022 Teacher Appreciation Contest: Anne Frank Inspire Academy (AFIA) educators Zach Sokoloski and Steve Calamars. Through research projects, field trips to meet rescued pigs, and much more, Sokoloski and Calamars are helping their high school students explore the animal issues they’re passionate about—and, along the way, teaching them compassion for all sentient beings.

Every quarter, AFIA students choose a new research project, and Sokoloski and Calamars have helped their students delve into topics such as the cruelty of the fishing industry and the impact of oil spills on animals and the environment. With their guidance, students eagerly discuss how animal rights intersect with other issues that young people also care about—such as the climate catastrophe, deforestation, and plastic pollution—and how to challenge speciesism, the archaic belief that other animals are inferior to humans. Sokoloski and Calamars have also supported two students in starting a book club focused on animal rights—and now the members even include Sokoloski’s father.

Outside their classroom, the duo has arranged a field trip to a pig sanctuary in Central Texas, and many students who met the rescued pigs told Sokoloski and Calamars that they were going to stop eating meat. The two compassionate teachers also took interested students to see PETA’s traveling “Without Consent” exhibit, which reveals the long history of suffering inflicted on nonconsenting animals in laboratories.

“Whether they’re discussing how going vegan can fight pollution or chaperoning students on trips to eye-opening animal rights displays, these teachers are helping their students think critically about how our actions affect others,” says PETA Senior Director of Youth Programs Marta Holmberg. “TeachKind is delighted to honor them for building innovative curricula that inspire young people to champion justice for animals.”

In addition to framed “Teacher of the Year” certificates, Sokoloski and Calamars will receive vegan prize packages that include a sustainably made Mountain backpack from “PETA-Approved Vegan” company Lefrik and a vegan picnic bag filled with specialty vegan snacks.

TeachKind—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. The group offers free resources, presentations, lessons, and more to help teachers add compassion to their curriculum.

For more information, please visit TeachKind.org or follow the group on Facebook, or Instagram.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind