This year’s UTLA Unsung Heroes could write a textbook on how collective action drives change. Whether organizing their site to protest a dysfunctional principal, force a charter co-location off their campus, or build mighty turnouts for the SEIU 99 solidarity strike, these members are organizing for the public schools we all deserve.

The 2023 UTLA Unsung Heroes are:


Ivonne Cachu & Maria Vargaz

Ivonne Cachu is a second-grade dual language teacher at Logan Academy, where she has regularly communicated and collaborated with the staff regarding all UTLA matters. Ivonne initiated two co-chair positions for upper grades, started a Rainbow Club at Logan, and organized for the SEIU Local 99 solidarity strike at Logan, Beaudry, and Castelar.

Maria Vargaz is a second-grade teacher at Rosemont Elementary School, where she has played an integral role in her chapter along with beautifully representing UTLA at other strikes, including the solidarity strike with SEIU Local 99, Unite HERE hotel workers, WGA writers, and UPS Teamsters. She embodies UTLA solidarity across our city.


Peaches Jones & Ana Marcela (Marcy) Rubio 

Peaches Jones is a Special Education teacher, UTLA chapter chair, and South Area Steering Committee member who teaches at Fremont High School. She is a dedicated and courageous chapter chair who isn’t afraid to challenge administrators’ unreasonable mandates. She successfully organized her chapter during the 2019 strike and then again organized UTLA members at Fremont during the 2023 SEIU solidarity strike. 

Ana Marcela Rubio has been instrumental in supporting the South Area. She has been our long-time South Area Steering Committee Secretary. Through her work as a Steering Committee member, she helped carry the South Area through the 2019 and 2023 strikes. The advancement of our union could not have taken shape without her efforts. 


Victoria Montes & Jennifer Marquez 

Victoria Montes has been the chapter chair at Bravo Medical Magnet for the last two years and will continue to lead and organize her school this coming year. She has been a strong public voice for all members at press conferences and rallies. Victoria was proudly on the picket line during our historic 2019 UTLA Strike as well as the 2023 solidarity strike. The work that Victoria has led not only has strengthened her school but helped organize UTLA East Area through collective work on the Steering Committee, PACE Committee, and UTLA Expanded Bargaining Team. 

Jennifer Marquez is an up-and-coming UTLA East Area leader. She is an art teacher who has been a dedicated chapter chair at Renaissance Academy at Esteban Torres High School for the past four years. She’s increased her leadership roles over the past several years, serving on East Area’s Steering Committee and also on the UTLA Expanded Bargaining Team. She proudly walked the line in 2019 and brought her chapter in unity to the 2023 solidarity strike. She is always willing to help not only members at Torres High School but in the East Area. Jennifer is committed, dedicated, and willing to roll up her sleeves to do the necessary work for the greater good.


Staff at Baldwin Hills & Jacqueline Porter Morris, Tracy Pharris & Jacquelyn Walker

The staff at Baldwin Hills has led a seven-year fight to kick a horrible, co-locating charter school off their site. The organizing included engaging parents, community members, elected officials, and the neighborhood council; picketing; and taking actions that many considered “too assertive.” After many years, this majority Black school — which takes pride in the education and services it provides Black, Brown and marginalized children — successfully kicked the charter off campus so now the Community School effort can thrive. These educators also supported the formation of a grassroots parent group, Neighbors in Action for Baldwin Hills Elementary School. This victory will not only improve conditions at Baldwin Hills but is a model for school communities across West Area to fight against co-location and privatization. Special recognition for this victory goes to Jacqueline Porter Morris, Tracy Pharris, and Jacquelyn Walker.


Kelly & Iris Mendoza 

Kelly and Iris Mendoza are the chapter chairs at Frida Kahlo High School. Last school year, Kelly and Iris successfully had their principal and assistant principal removed by leading one of the strongest and most organized fights that Central Area has been a part of. The fight included all staff, community members, parents, students, and even former students. Kelly and Iris have set the gold standard for organizing against a dysfunctional adminstration. 


Kate Barclay & Mary Toggenburger

Kate Barclay has been a teacher for LAUSD for 26 years, a chapter chair for 17 years, and a member of the Valley East Steering Committee for 15 years. Kate has worked on the UTLA Retirement Dinner Dance Committee and participated in the 2019 and 2023 strikes. This past year, she was instrumental in the fight to get North Valley Military Institute off of her campus. She was successful and they are now gone. Kate retired last month, and Valley East thanks Kate for her many years of service.

Mary Toggenburger has been a teacher for LAUSD for 37 years, a chapter chair for over 25 years, and a member of the Valley East Steering Committee for 12 years. Mary received the WHO Award in 2009 for her work on the UTLA Retirement Dinners and was Co-Chair of the UTLA Retirement Dinner Dance Committee for over 20 years. The daughter of one of the UTLA founders, Loretta Toggenburger, Mary participated in the 1989, 2019, and 2023 strikes. Retiring last month, Valley East thanks Mary for her many years of service.


Esther Calderon & Lourdes Ramos Quevedo 

Esther Calderon, chapter chair at Carlos Santana Arts Academy, leads the most organized elementary school in Valley West. No matter what the structure test is, Carlos Santana is always 100 percent in. Esther is incredible at developing new leaders. She inspires chapter chairs to be active in our union, including leading them through the solidarity strike. Esther served on the UTLA Expanded Bargaining Team and helped lead the Bilingual Education Committee.

Lourdes Ramos Quevedo is a chapter chair at Monroe High. In two years, she turned her unorganized high school into an organized one. She built an LSLC and a Chapter Action Team, she held her challenging administrator accountable to our contract, and she organized the entire math department when the admin was issuing unreasonable demands. On top of that, Lourdes has been an amazing cluster leader who led 12 chapter chairs through the solidarity strike.


Annette Martinez & Leah Joubert 

Annette Martinez and Leah Joubert have been co-chairs of Caroldale School since 2020. Like many of us, they began the 2022-2023 school year with high hopes and expectations for the new principal. However, their hopes were quickly replaced by fear as the new administrator became everyone’s worst nightmare. Not only was the new administrator a dictator, but they were also a bully.

Leah and Annette, along with their colleagues, used their collective power to organize themselves and the greater Caroldale community to have their administrator removed. Thanks to their leadership, the Caroldale community earned a huge victory when they learned on June 23 that the tyrant of a principal would not be returning.

After successfully removing the abusive administrator, Annette and Leah have decided to step down as co-chairs. They believe that it is time for new leadership to take the helm and continue to move Caroldale School forward.