An award-winning Salinas educator and former California Teachers Association member has died of cancer, her family and friends said.
Cynthia Peña of Pacific Grove, 56, died Sunday surrounded by friends and family at a Burlingame hospital.
She served for decades as a special education teacher with the Alisal Union School District in Salinas. She received the district's Outstanding Teacher Award from her peers in 2000.
"She remained an advocate for human rights, and justice for children and teachers throughout her professional life and never wavered in her advocacy for education,” her family said in a statement. “While we are deeply saddened by the loss of a very caring and loving woman, we also celebrate her wonderful life and hope that it serves as an example to current and former students, and colleagues in the education field.”
She's survived by four siblings, and a number of aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces. Funeral services are pending.
"Cynthia worked tirelessly to improve the lives of children and teachers in California through her many years of service at Bardin Elementary School, Alisal Teachers Association, the National Education Association, and as an elected member of the California Teachers Association Board of Directors," CTA officials said in a release.