As graduation season quicky approaches (and passes) for the class of 2019, Seniors have the opportunity to bestow thanks, gratitude and appreciation to those who have supported them throughout their journey to graduation.

Two students, in particular, have acknowledged two individuals as their “Most Inspirational Teachers” in their educational careers.

Makaelah Napolitano and Crystal Quintero-Ahumada, both North Salinas High School (NSHS) graduates and co-Valedictorians for the NSHS Class of 2019.

Makaelah and Crystal are former students of El Gabilan Elementary School where they attended from Preschool through their Sixth grade years. They were taught by former teachers Jeremy Galimba and Martha Ruiz. Jeremy is now an Academic Coach and Martha is an Administrative Secretary for El Gabilan who both have a combined total of close to 30 years of teaching experience.

Jeremy and Martha were nominated as Makaelah and Crystal’s most influential teachers.

We interviewed both Makaelah and Crystal to gain insight on their elementary school journey and to see what next steps and goals they have planned for the future. In addition, we interviewed Jeremy and Martha to see how being teachers, has positively changed and enhanced their lives.

Did you graduate with any honors or accolades?

Makaelah: I graduated as Co-Valedictorian and with the Seal of Biliteracy.

Crystal: I graduated as co-Valedictorian and was the California Scholarship Federation Seal Bearer, recognized as part of National Honors Society and community service.

What is your most favorite memory of Mr. Galimba and Mrs. Ruiz, and why is it your favorite?

Makaelah: For Mrs. Ruiz, my favorite memory was walking into my class for the first time. Being the little preschooler I was, I bawled my eyes out, however, she reassured me with a hug and she became the first teacher on my academic journey. My favorite memories of Mr. Galimba was Pi Day. Don’t make fun of me, but as I said I am big on math so it was really memorable to measure my variety of circle foods in order to eat it.

Crystal: My favorite memories with Mrs. Ruiz have taken place when I have been doing community service in the main office with Mrs. Ruiz. While doing community service, Mrs. Ruiz has always taken time to talk to me about what and how I am doing and my plans for the future. These times are my favorite memories with her because it reflects her good hearted and kind nature. My favorite memory of Mr. Galimba has been during class (in sixth grade) when we would discuss the presidential election and had class debates. This is my favorite memory because through these times in class I learned so much and my interest for politics and government grew.

What inspired you most with Mr. Jeremy Galimba and/or Mrs. Martha Ruiz?

Makaelah: I had nominated Mr. Galimba as my most inspirational teacher because he embedded key values into my brain that resonated with me all the years after. He taught life lessons in his class that surpassed just the academic portions of school and it opened my perspectives and helped me develop my own morals.

Crystal: Mrs. Ruiz inspired me through her good heart and kind nature, she is so kind and genuinely cares about students, which has always inspired me to be a better person. Mr. Galimba inspired me by being a very kind and knowledgeable person, his class taught me to always be informed about the world around you and take into consideration all perspectives.

What was your motivation while being at El Gabilan? Why?

Makaelah: In all my schooling years, my mom has always been my motivation because everything that I do, is for her. We are not the most blessed family in the sense of finances, however, I am the most blessed for her. I will be a first-generation college graduate, speaking it into existence now.

Crystal: My motivation to do well while being at El Gabilan was my own desire to do well and excel in school as well as the motivation of my teachers.

What college will you attend next year?

Makaelah: I will be attending UC Santa Cruz.

Crystal: I will be attending UC Berkeley in the Fall.

What do you want to study in college? and, Why?

Makaelah: I want to study biomedical engineering and further specify in the development of making prosthetics. I have always been a hands-on person and a lover of math, so engineering was always the route I knew I was going to take. However, I also wanted to be able to help people, therefore, making prosthetics for those in need called my name.

Crystal: I will be studying Biology at UC Berkeley because I aspire to become a doctor, specifically a family practitioner.

What inspires you (now) to work hard and do good in school?

Makaelah: Again, my mom and my brothers are my biggest inspirations, always. They say I inspire them with my achievements but they forget to recognize how much they inspire me.

Crystal: I am inspired by the goals I have and my vision for my life in the future. I know in order to have the life I want and to help my parents, I need to work hard and do good in school so I can get the job of my dreams.

What advice do you have for elementary students who are working hard to promote to middle school?

Makaelah: Elementary and Middle school is confusing and you may lose friends, but stick to those ones who stay true to you. They will help light up even the darkest of times.

Crystal: My advice would be to work hard and continue to move forward. Prioritize yourself by knowing that your end goal is graduating high school some day and going on to college to get the job of your dreams. While you will have to work hard for a long time, your end goal will be worth it in the long run.

What advice do you have for teachers who want to inspire students to do great?

Makaelah: 1. Connect with your students. Students cannot retain information or feel motivated to learn if they don’t feel any sort of relationships with their teachers. 2. Be open to more. Reach beyond just the world of science, math, english, and history. Expose your students to things that are happening in the world around them. 3. Support your students. Failure is when students give up on themselves, so help them see that they have the potential to succeed.

Crystal: 1. Teachers can truly inspire students to excel in school when teachers show their true passion for the subject they are teaching. 2. Students truly appreciate and are motivated to do better when teachers reach out to students when they need help or are struggling in class.

Is there a quote or saying that you live your life by?

Makaelah: “Grasp the world for what it is then you will find true happiness.”

Crystal: The quote by Martin Luther King Jr. that states, “If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”

If you can take a trip to anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Makaelah: Somewhere in the Philippines because I have never been there so I want to see where my family came from and explore my own culture and heritage.

Crystal: If I could go anywhere in the world, I would want to visit France because that has always been a lifelong dream of mine and I am interested in the culture and history of the country.

Do you have a favorite book you like to read?

Makaelah: I have read many books, ranging from children books to nonfiction novels throughout the year, but since I was younger, it has always been The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.

What are your top three apps you have on your smartphone?


1. Instagram, 2. Twitter, 3. Lumosity


1. YouTube, 2. Snapchat, 3. Netflix

Makaelah and Crystal are well on their way in acheiving everything they want in life. With hard work, commitment, and continuing their superb effort to reach their goals, they’ll succeed in anything they put their mind to. We don’t succeed alone. We succeed by having supportive individuals around us, pushing us forward and providing us motivation and inspiration along the way. We conducted an interview with Martha and Jeremy to see what type of inspiration they gave to Makaelah and Crystal and how they use these milestone moments as fuel to inspire our current and future students.

Jeremy Galimba, former classroom teacher and now Academic Coach, has been with Salinas City for 13 years, and Martha Ruiz, former preschool teacher and now Administrative Secretary has been with the Salinas City for 21 years.

What do you remember most about Makealah Napolitano and/or Crystal Quintero?

Jeremy: I was fortunate to have both of these amazing students in my 6th grade class. They were very conscientious as learners, and carried with them a very mature perspective on life. Crystal was so kind and respectful, and would regularly have something clever to say with the biggest smile on her face. Makaelah was a born leader with incredible integrity, whose warmth and laughter brightened up the whole world around her.

Martha: What I remember the most about Crystal Quintero is how well spoken she was when she was only 4 years old!

Do you have an amazing memory of either Makealah, Crystal or both?

Jeremy: I remember us having several class-wide debates during the election season, where Crystal developed a comprehensive argument for her position. Let’s just say the opposing viewpoint was not left with much to say. I also remember Makaelah designing an innovative water rocket for our annual competition. It still holds the record at El Gabilan for the most epic rocket launch ever, clearing the entire grass field and finally landing in a nearby backyard.

Martha: Both Crystal and Makealah were my little leaders in preschool. Always ready to help anyone that needed help. I remember them comforting students that were missing their moms on the first few days of school. Helping students understand directions on how to do certain activities, tying shoe laces for their friends, etc...... Very smart and kind little ladies!

Tell me your feelings when finding out you were considered as a student’s most inspirational teacher?

Jeremy: I was thoroughly honored to make that kind of impact on a student’s life. My deepest satisfaction comes from being a mentor that guides someone to be the hero they have always wanted to be.

Martha: I felt very joyful and honored!

Who was your most influential teacher or mentor growing up?

Jeremy: Mr. Corpus, my 2nd and 4th grade teacher

Martha: My most influential mentor was my beloved aunt Maria.

So many students admire you. How do you make those connections?

Jeremy: The strongest connections happen when students feel known, loved, and challenged.

Martha: I truly loved teaching preschool. I think strong connections were made when students know and feel that you truly care about them.

What tips can you give other educators about building rapport and connections with their students?

Jeremy: 1. Take the time to know your students. Quality time only happens in the context of quantity time.

2. Love students unconditionally. Make sure they know it is okay to make mistakes, as long as you fail forward.

3. Always challenge students to be a better version of themselves. They don’t need to go for perfection, just better than before.

Martha: Be a good listener. Be kind. Make learning fun.

What is one mantra you live by as an educator?

Jeremy: “Be like bacon”...because bacon makes everything better!

Martha: Teach them well, love them much!

How do you want to be remembered as an educator?

Jeremy: I would love to be remembered as a lifelong mentor who inspired and influenced others to be the best version of themselves.

Martha: I would like to be remembered as someone that inspired love of learning.

Congratulations to Makaelah, Crystal, the class of 2019, and our educators who are insprining our future generations and going above and beyond their call of duty to positively effect the lives of so many!