School Hero: Leobardo Perales Jr. from Gault Elementary

Gault ES Principal Antoniette Brusca noticed that Leobardo Perales was a School Hero right away by the very special way he connects with students. She noticed his patience, respect and professionalism, and his deep understanding of student behaviors and the motivation behind them.“He has become the expert at helping students resolve conflict as well as helping them stay focused on academics.”

Leobardo started working as a Special Education trainee in August, when he realized he loved working with elementary age children in Ms. Alonso’s class serving students who have diverse special needs in the special day class for grades 3-5. So he applied to become a Special Education Assistant, after completing the required number of hours. 

Leobardo also serves as a Crisis Team member, ensuring the school is always prepared in an emergency. “I really enjoyed working with others like when we put together the safety plan. It’s important to do this when you live in California where we have lots of earthquakes,” he said.

Students also appreciate his help resolving conflicts. “Communication is everything’, says Leobardo. “I ask students to hear both sides, to understand what actually happened. I let students know that it’s important to express themselves and to understand where everyone is coming from.”  

Leobardo’s ultimate goal is to become a physical education teacher for secondary students. Today he provides physical education training to students with deficits in gross motor skills, helping them to gain strength and independence in balance, coordination, agility, along with positive sportsmanship. 

His love for physical education started when he watched his sisters train for the LA Marathon, when they were part of Students Run LA. He joined SRLA and was active, running his first marathon when he was in 7th grade and running five by the time he was a senior in High School.  He wants to be able to bring this experience to the kids. “It’s a huge goal, being able to run 26 miles! It teaches them about goal setting and it brings a lot of joy. Plus, you  meet a lot of people, many who are running for a cause.” 

Leobardo loves watching how sports helps students make progress. Lately he’s been working with a student with severe autism who came mid semester.  “She wanted to play basketball everyday, so we did, but I let her take it slow,” he says. “Now she likes to shoot from half court. The paraprofessional told me that they’ve seen a lot of improvement, she’s now very outgoing. Basketball is her thing!”

Without a doubt, Leobardo is a very special School Hero.