In one of the most challenging years in the history of modern education, the Optimist Club of Malibu recently held two remote events to honor students and teachers for their significant contributions locally.

Five teachers, one from each Malibu school, were singled out in December for the Excellence in Education event held online. Charline Kim, third grade teacher at Our Lady of Malibu, was recognized for her five years of providing a “safe and positive learning environment. Mrs. Kim can often be seen playing four square or tetherball with students during recess.”

Jennifer Gonzalez was recognized for her 24 years at Malibu High School. Under Gonzalez’s guidance, every freshman at MHS has been CPR certified.

Webster Elementary’s Maribeth Majewski received an honor as the school’s “literary coach extraordinaire.”

Tammy Mackey is a fourth-grade teacher at Malibu Elementary, honored for innovation, especially with distance learning.

And Malibu Middle School’s sixth grade physical education teacher Lisa Lambert was credited with going out of her way to make sure students transitioned smoothly into middle school.

“It is such an honor to receive the award—the Optimists have such a strong and positive impact on our community,” Gonzalez shared in a message to The Malibu Times. “I feel so lucky to have been able to teach in this community for 26 years—the students at Malibu and their families have enriched my life and it has been my hope to give back to them what they have given me.”

On Jan. 21, the Optimist Club of Malibu held its Youth Appreciation Awards, hosted by Malibu City Council Member Karen Farrer and Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board Member Craig Foster.

The Optimist Club presents the award to honor students nominated by teachers and counselors in the Malibu schools (grades fifth-12th) as individuals who demonstrate exemplary character and positive attitude, show sincere devotion to the welfare of others, demonstrate positive leadership, encourage a greater exchange between young people and adults in the community, uphold the dignity of youth, and offer positive, generous and unselfish contributions to the Malibu community and society at large.

“This year, the Optimist’s Youth Appreciation Awards was particularly meaningful to me because being they are being honored in the midst of a pandemic. They are attending school remotely. These are student achievers that are all the more to be recognized for being student leaders and achievers while learning at home, trying to be motivated and keep their peers motivated,” Farrer said.

“It was a celebration of the kids and acknowledgment of teachers,” Foster added.  

“Working with the Optimist Club has been one of the best things about being on the school board. They represent the best of our community in terms of dedication to the youth of Malibu.

To honor them (kids) publicly is a real gift for all of us, especially in these dark times.” Foster pointed out one “silver lining” to the program held over Zoom: Grandparents from around the country were able to tune in to see their grandchildren recognized.

“It’s a reminder of what kids as young as 10 are capable of contributing to their friends, to their school, and in many cases to society,” Foster said. “It’s one of my favorite things to do every year. This is a time we get to hold up a mirror to our community and recognize outstanding people who live among us who normally go day to day without being seen in this way.”

Special thanks were also given to Malibu school principals, teachers and counselors:

Malibu High School 

Patrick Miller, principal

Adam Almeida, assistant principal

Katie Dahm, high school counselor (L-Z) 

Makenna Samsel, high school counselor (A-K) 

Linh Snyder, college and career counselor 

Malibu Elementary School 

Chris Hertz, principal

Diane Sullivan, administrative assistant 

Nancy Levy, fifth grade teacher

Jill Matthews, fifth grade teacher

Our Lady of Malibu School 

Michael Smith, principal 

Ruth Marsden, fifth grade teacher

Lisa Hall, office manager

Jennifer Rastein, fifth grade teacher

Marguerite Wolfe, sixth grade teacher

Cerene Larson, eighth grade teacher 

Malibu Middle School 

Melisa Andino, principal

Tania Jolly, assistant to principal 

Elle Nickerson, counselor 

Webster Elementary School 

Lila Daruty, principal

Kristina London, fifth grade teacher

Kelly Morris, fifth grade teacher

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