Congratulations to OEF's 2018 Education Heroes!

Each year, OEF recognizes an “Education Hero” for his / her outstanding service to public education in the Ojai Valley. OEF's Education Heroes are honored at our annual Fall Fundraiser. (For information on our 2018 fundraiser, go to “OEF Celebrates!”)

For the 1st time in OEF history, and in a nod to our 25th anniversary, OEF is proud to recognize 3 individuals as our 2018 Education Heroes:

  • Natalie Hay, Science Department Chair & Teacher, Nordhoff High School,

  • Abilene Runyan, Senior Honors Student and OEF Grantee, Nordhoff High School, and

  • Asli Ruf, Full-Time Volunteer, Ojai Unified School District

Read more about each of our Heroes below!

Natalie Hay
2018 Education Hero - Teacher of the Year

Natalie Hay, Nordhoff High School Science Department Chair and Teacher (1st from Left), along with Nordhoff High School Science Students in Iceland during the Summer of 2018. Hay and fellow Nordhoff Science Teacher Naiyma Houston, lead nearly 40 Nordhoff students to Iceland as part of a Science Exploration Trip.

Natalie Hay, Nordhoff High School Science Department Chair and Teacher (1st from Left), along with Nordhoff High School Science Students in Iceland during the Summer of 2018. Hay and fellow Nordhoff Science Teacher Naiyma Houston, lead nearly 40 Nordhoff students to Iceland as part of a Science Exploration Trip.

Natalie grew up in a Lompoc, CA and has fond memories of helping her mother, a teacher, in her 2nd / 3rd grade classroom. In the 8th grade, Natalie started thinking about becoming a teacher, and set her sights on a career in education.

Natalie is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara with a B.A. in Chemistry, with Minors in Math and Science Education, and a Master’s degree in Education from the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, with a teaching credential in Single Subject Science, Chemistry & Physics.

Natalie started as Chemistry teacher at Nordhoff High School during the 2013 - 14 school year. She choose to teach in Ojai because she felt it was a special community to live and work.  As a science teacher at Ojai Unified School District, Natalie has taught Chemistry, Honors Lab Physical Science, AP Physics and Geoscience - a class the NHS Science department is designing to meet the applied and conceptual physics concepts required by the new education standards in Science - the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

In further support of integrating NGSS into student learning, Natalie worked with teachers and students across school sites as the district’s “Teacher on Special Assignment” (TOSA).  During the 2017 - 18 school year, she brought hands-on lab and practice-based learning experiences and terminology to 5th and 6th grade elementary school students.  Natalie also provided an NGSS Professional Development workshop for all K - 6th grade teachers. In addition, Natalie led an after school enrichment science class at Mira Monte once a week.  And in the Summer of 2018, she lead a Science Exploration trip to Iceland with nearly 40 Nordhoff students along with Naiymah Houston, fellow Nordhoff High School Science Teacher.

Due to her passion, work ethic and drive, Natalie has quickly risen to Chair the Nordhoff Science department.  Natalie is a popular young teacher, bringing new ideas and strategies to the department, as well as serving as a role model for females in a male-dominated discipline.

“I speak on behalf of the Nordhoff Science Department when I say we are so thankful for all the support we've had from OEF these past few years and beyond. It takes a community to make things happen, and I've known no better community than Ojai. This is a wonderful place to learn, work, teach and live!  I am honored to be recognized by OEF in this capacity this year, but know I could not do what I do (and love doing) without so many others equally as deserving of this recognition. I am so grateful for all my fellow Science teachers who are a huge part of what makes working and teaching at Nordhoff such a joy. Thank you for the recognition and for celebrating and supporting the work that teachers and students are doing in Science.”- Natalie Hay, 2018 OEF Teacher Education Hero of the Year


Abilene Runyan
2018 Education Hero - Student of the Year

Abilene Runyan, Senior Honors Student at Nordhoff High School, pictured with Galileoscopes donated to Nordhoff by teachers from the California State Summer School for Math and Science (COSMOS) at UC Davis. The COSMOS teachers donated 36 scopes to Nordhoff to supplement the $2,500 OEF grant Abilene, and Science teacher Natalie Hay, received to fund the purchase of 50 scopes for Nordhoff students use.

Abilene Runyan, Senior Honors Student at Nordhoff High School, pictured with Galileoscopes donated to Nordhoff by teachers from the California State Summer School for Math and Science (COSMOS) at UC Davis. The COSMOS teachers donated 36 scopes to Nordhoff to supplement the $2,500 OEF grant Abilene, and Science teacher Natalie Hay, received to fund the purchase of 50 scopes for Nordhoff students use.

Abilene is a true Ojai native, born just a few blocks away from Libbey Park. As a child, she attended Meiners Oaks Elementary and Matilija Junior High Schools. Now a senior at Nordhoff, Abilene maintains a 4.3 GPA and has a passion for math and science which she credits her teachers for developing in her.

During the Summer of 2017, Abilene attended the rigorous "California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science" (COSMOS) at UC Davis where she studied Astrophysics. Her experience that summer inspired her so deeply, she desired to find a way to fund the purchase of Galieoscope Kits for her fellow Nordhoff students to use back in Ojai. That Fall, Abilene worked with Natalie Hay, Nordhoff High School Science Teacher and Department Chair to submit a grant to OEF to fund the kits. Abilene's desire to "Pay it Forward" for other students resulted in OEF awarding Abilene and Natalie a $2,500 grant to fund the purchase of 50 Galileoscope Kits. Later in the school year, Abilene’s COSMOS teachers heard about the OEF grant, and donated an additional 36 kits to Nordhoff for student use! Now in her Senior Year at Nordhoff, Abilene will work with Natalie Hay to design and implement curricula that will use the scopes to explore the world of Astronomy at Nordhoff.

In addition to her studies, Abilene is also the Assistant Coach for Youth Volleyball, runs Track, is Co-President of the Interact club, and has also worked on campus as a Peer Tutor. Abilene is fond of dancing, playing the piano, and is an avid reader. She credits much of her academic success to an early love of reading encouraged by her parents and her teachers.

“Growing up through the Ojai Unified School District has been such a gift. I have had amazing teachers, made lifetime friendships, had unique and engaging educational opportunities, and been shaped into the young woman I am today. The Ojai Education Foundation works tirelessly to ensure the best experience for all students in the Valley, and I am so grateful to be a part of this community.” - Abilene Runyan, 2018 OEF Student Education Hero of the Year


Asli Ruf
2018 Education Hero - Volunteer of the Year

Asli Ruf (center), leading her Art Class at Topa Topa Elementary School. Asli volunteers her time teaching art, and serving in key leadership roles in several PTOs across the district to fundraise and improve the quality of the educational experience for students, teachers and families in the Ojai Valley.

Asli Ruf (center), leading her Art Class at Topa Topa Elementary School. Asli volunteers her time teaching art, and serving in key leadership roles in several PTOs across the district to fundraise and improve the quality of the educational experience for students, teachers and families in the Ojai Valley.

Asli was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey.  Both of her parents were professors. Her parents and her brother, Burak, still live in Istanbul.  Asli graduated from Lycee Francais in Istanbul and spent a year attending art school in Paris before coming to Los Angeles to attend Otis College of Art and Design from which she graduated with a B.A. in graphic design.  Asli became a US citizen in 2005 and holds dear the American ideal of a free quality public education for ALL. For the past twelve years, Asli has been a full-time volunteer in Ojai Unified School District.  Asli has served as President and officer for the Topa Topa Elementary School PTA, the Matilija PTO and Nordhoff Parent Association.  Given her art background, Asli is passionately committed to arts education in our schools and spends a lot of her volunteer time engaged in and supporting arts in our schools.  Asli and her husband Kevin have three children, all of whom attend Ojai public schools.

“I value that Ojai is a place where relationships, education, music and the arts are emphasized and I could see myself thriving here! Teaching is what I’ve known I wanted to do / saw myself working toward for years now. I love to learn and work with people of all ages and backgrounds.” - Asli Ruf, 2018 OEF Volunteer Hero of the Year