Jim Hemeon has taught science for 39 years, Emmanuel Calivo applying to Princeton, among others

Published in the February 15 – 28, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Marty Cheek

Photo by Marty Cheek
Mayor Steve Tate, right, hands Emmanuel Calivo, a certificate announcing the Sobrato senior as the Chamber of Commerce’s Student of the year.

The Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce will put a spotlight this month on two of the best and brightest in local classrooms. Sobrato High School senior Emmanuel Calivo is being honored as the 2017 Student of the Year, and Live Oak High School science teacher Jim Hemeon is receiving recognition as the 2017 Educator of the Year.

The two will be feted at the 2017 Celebrate Morgan Hill gala Feb. 25 at the Morgan Hill Community and Cultural Center. Other honorees are Mary Lou Conragan as Woman of the Year, Ron Woolf as Man of the Year, Kathy Sullivan as Volunteer of the Year and Mission Bell as Business of the Year.

In December Calivo sat in his AP English Literature class when Principal Courtney Macko stepped in followed by a group of about a dozen local leaders. Macko went to the public address system microphone and broadcast an announcement to the entire school:

“Good morning, Sobrato, this is Ms. Macko. Please excuse this interruption. I am here this morning in room D101 joined by representatives of the Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Steve Tate, Superintendent Steve Betando, counselors, administrators, family and friends to congratulate Emmanuel Calivo who was selected by the Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce as the 2017 Student of the Year.”

The class of students immediately broke into applause and cheers for Calivo. Shyly, he got up from his desk and came to the front of the room where he was presented with a plaque by Mayor Tate. Calivo’s parents, Ofelia and Aaron Calivo, soon joined them for a photo op.

“Emanuel’s teachers describe him as one of a kind,” Macko said. “He is a student who is conscientious, compassionate and a high-class leader and learner.”

His fellow student, Jordyne Atkins, the 2015 Student of the Year, added: “OK, I have to tell you. It was extremely hard to sit in this classroom and look up from my work and see you sitting there and I couldn’t say anything.”

Calivo stays involved in two areas of interest: politics and marine biology. He learned about national politics for four weeks working with Sen. Barbara Boxer’s staff. And on weekends he volunteers his time at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

“Over the summer, I was a U.S. Senate page and so I flew over to Washington and I lived in a dorm for a month and I worked for the Democratic Party because Barbara Boxer is a Democrat,” he said. “I got them water when they asked me to get them water. And I sat on a little step — they call it the rostrum — and if they needed anything, I would get them documents or get them water. It was pretty much it.”

His thoughts about life in the nation’s capitol?

“I thought it was interesting to see everybody in Washington — you see a lot of things that you don’t expect to see at that point.”

He enjoys meeting visitors at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and sharing with them the wonders of the ocean realm, he said.

“I work on the floor so if people have questions about fish, I answer their questions about fish,” he said.

Calivo has applied to several top-end universities, including Princeton University. He is considering a career working in public service.

“I definitely think that working in government would be interesting,” he said. “I also thought about being a translator or an interpreter for a while because I like studying foreign languages.”

Several of Calivo’s teachers nominated him for the Student of the Year award, among them his counselor Ted Thomas.

“He’s an outstanding kid. His involvement with the school is actually second to none,” Thomas said. “He started off with our FFA (Future Farmers of America) program and now he’s quite the top of the FFA in terms of leadership positions. He’s a regional officer which means he represents not just this school and Morgan Hill but he has a span that goes as far north as San Francisco and as far south as Santa Barbara. He’s way into politics.”

FFA helps students like Calivo learn speaking skills and develop communication and academics, Thomas said.

Ofelia and Aaron Calivo both took the morning off from work to see their son receive the surprise honor.

“He’s quiet when he’s in a crowd, but at home he’s not really quiet,” Ofelia said. “He loves to speak in public.”

“He’s outspoken, he even outspeaks us,” Aaron said. “And I think he’s driven. He’s on track. When he wants something, he goes for it.”

Photo by Robert Airoldi Live Oak High School science teacher Jim Hemeon was surprised when Chamber of Commerce CEO/President John Horner presented him with a certificate proclaiming him as the 2017 Educator of the Year.

A day after, led by Principal Lloyd Webb, a group from the Morgan Hill Chamber and Betando stepped into Hemeon’s classroom during the middle of an AP biology lecture. The teacher’s face showed confusion at seeing so many people marching unexpectedly into his room.

“I’m sorry to interrupt but I have to be honest with you,” Webb said.

“Oh, someone is in trouble,” commented Chamber member Rich Firato jokingly.

Chamber President/CEO John Horner went up to Hemeon and presented him with a plaque, telling him he was the 2017 Educator of the Year.

The teacher grinned. “I got you guys fooled, I know that. Thanks,” he said. “Am I suppose to do something? I might cry, you never know. I don’t know what to do.”

Several of the Chamber members posed for photos with him. “Go, Mr. Hemeon!” exclaimed one of the girl students in the class.

During his 39-year career teaching biological sciences including anatomy and physiology, Hemeon said he has a passion for helping students grasp the wonders of the world.
“You know what, it’s kind of like John Wayne,” he told the class. “They finally gave John Wayne an Academy Award after he acted for, like, 100 years. I’ve been at it for a while, so I finally got the award, I guess. You’re going to make me kind of cry. I just like coming to school every day because I like working with kids.”

Two juniors in his class described what Hemeon was really like as an instructor.

“He’s a really chill teacher. Yes, I’d say, ‘chill.’” said Angela Tabora. “He has this tendency that if you don’t understand a lesson, he’ll go over it over and over again until the entire class gets it. His lessons are just super interactive.”

Felicity Hochhalter described Hemeon’s detailed drawings on the white board that help the students understand the principals of that day’s lesson. “It’s fun to be in his class. He’s really good at drawing,” she said. “He’s really enthusiastic about teaching. Sometimes when we were first learning, like the first lesson we did, and we were learning that people respond to stimulus, he would just randomly shout what that was. And it was pretty great.”

Fellow Live Oak science instructor Susan Paulsen nominated Hemeon for the honor.

“When you think of the ultimate biology teacher, that’s Mr. Hemeon,” she said. “He’s engaging, his students love him, everything in education he follows up to make sure his students understand the material. When you talk to him outside of class, he’s very quiet and very reserved. When he gets in front of a class, he turns into this amazing, bright sparkling star. He adores the kids. He loves to teach.”


What: Celebrate Morgan Hill
When: 6 p.m. Feb. 25
Where: Community and Cultural Center
Tickets: $105 and available at www.morganhill.org