EDUCATOR of the Year : NICKY AUSTIN
Nicky Austin is the Science Department Chair and AP Environmental Science and Marine Science teacher for Christopher High School . said , “ the kids will see right through you .” Austin added that the kids have to know you care . “ I do that with excitement about what I ’ m teaching . I ’ m always striving to do better in my classroom . It ’ s never done . I never want it to be static . Science is always changing .”
Austin has been teaching in Gilroy for thirty one years , with 18 years spent teaching science – including Biology , Marine Science , and AP Environmental Science – at Gilroy High and 11 years at Christopher High . Austin enjoys her work .“ I get to go to work everyday and talk about stuff I love ,” she said .
Ever since she was a kid , Austin knew she wanted to teach science . She always loved playing outdoors . “ Those experiences taught me to appreciate those places around me .” She grew up in the countryside of Morgan Hill , where her family has lived for three generations . She still enjoys helping them with their vineyards and making their own wine .
Teaching is more than just a job to Austin . She feels it requires a passion and love for what you ’ re teaching . “ If you don ’ t ,” Austin
While Austin was shocked to earn the Spice of Life Award , she is very grateful . She attributes the honor to all of her colleagues . “ I have so many role model teachers , and I ’ ve been blessed to learn from so many amazing people .” Austin feels especially honored when her students go on to major in science degrees because of one of her science classes .
She has three daughters who have clearly been inspired by their mother ’ s work — one majored in public health , one is earning her environmental engineering degree , and the other is a senior in high school . She also enjoys their animals , including a llama , sheep , emu , goats , chickens , a Saint Bernard , and four cats .
One day , after Austin retires , she hopes to teach at the junior college level , do docent work at nature centers , fish habitat restoration , and fishing , a favorite pastime .
She offers some advice for students and the community : “ Put your phones down more and experience the beautiful world we live in . I hope you find beauty in all things — you have to look to see it .”
YOUNG PROFESSIONAL of the Year : LEO KHOOSHABEH
Part of what keeps Leo Khooshabeh “ young ” may be the very people he works with — youth and the young at heart . years ago , when COVID-19 put many youth sports programs on hold , Khooshabeh began to oversee the Gilroy Senior Nutrition Program and the Gilroy Senior Delivery Program , which delivers meals to local seniors .
Khooshabeh has worked with YMCA programs for over 20 years , beginning as a referee for youth basketball games when he was 15 at the San Jose YMCA where his mom worked . He has since worn many hats — front desk , child care , swim instructor , lifeguard , and more .
For over six years , Khooshabeh ran the Power School program in Gilroy , contracted by GUSD , providing curriculum , homework assistance , and physical activities for kids . He then began working more with youth sports and recreation in the after school childcare at the Centennial Recreation Center in Morgan Hill , where Mt . Madonna YMCA is based , which grew into his current role .
Today Khooshabeh is Senior Program Director for Mt . Madonna YMCA . In this role , he oversees the youth fitness and youth sports programs , coordinating sports leagues and other activities . Three
Khooshabeh has called Gilroy home for nearly 15 years . " I ’ ve made my own friends and connections ; I ’ ve made it my own community ,” he said . He plans to remain in Gilroy for the rest of his life . As a part of the Gilroy community , Khooshabeh would like to see further growth in downtown and youth sports programs , and for Gilroy to become a place that encourages the youth to stay .
On receiving the Young Professional of the Year Spice of Life Award , Khooshabeh said , " It ’ s amazing . I really didn ’ t expect it . It means a lot .” He also said , “ I ’ d like to thank everyone that ’ s been a part of my career throughout my journey .”
Andrea Nicolette , his coworker of 16 years at the YMCA , said , “ I couldn ’ t ask for a more hard working , dedicated partner !”
In his career , Khooshabeh would like to continue growing and is always open to learning new things . His approach to his job and his life is “ to put my best foot forward , my best effort , while showing up everyday , leading with a smile .”
So far , so good .
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