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Our Teachers, Cultivating an Award-winning Writer

PUSD Proud

Our Teachers, Cultivating an Award-winning Writer
By Lydia Idem Finkley
Pasadena Educational Foundation Board Member and PUSD Parent

When I got the news that Imani won the NAACP ACT-SO National Bronze Award in Original Essay, I was beyond proud. And I really began to think of how my baby could win a national award in writing.

Imani definitely has the talent. She was identified gifted by kindergarten. She started at Field Elementary in the Pasadena Unified School District in 2nd grade, totally new to the District. I remember our whole family, all five of us, parking in front of the school and walking through those double doors.

Together, we wandered down to the A building through the back door. stealthily exploring the school – or so we thought. We watched as Mrs. Barr was putting the finishing touches on her classroom. She spotted us peering through the door and warmly welcomed us to Field. Next stop, Ms. Ria Apodaca’s office—our new and wonderful principal. Turns out Mrs. Barr was to be Imani’s 2nd grade teacher who helped ignite her passion to explore her creative writing skills. We love Mrs. Barr.

In 4th grade, Ms. Musick did even more writing than Mrs. Barr. They wrote science-fiction, biographies, and poetry. Imani said Ms. Musick is FUN. We love Ms. Musick.

At Wilson, her 7th & 8th grade teacher Mr. Taylor attested to Imani’s talent in math challenging her since the 7th grade with Algebra. We love Mr. Taylor.

PUSD’s move to Common Core standards during this time added a new dimension to Imani’s writing as now students write in nearly every subject, not just English. Then last year at Pasadena High School, an Honors English assignment inspired Imani’s winning essay on social media’s effects on society. With her ACT-SO mentor from PCC, Imani worked the essay out into a bronze medal winning essay.

The culmination of education in Pasadena public schools from elementary to middle to high school cultivated an award-winning writer. Now at 16, Imani plans to publish her first book in 2 years. I so love my firstborn masterpiece, Imani. She is fierce, elegant, and super smart.

I am proud of you Imani. And we are PUSD proud.


Imani Finkley will be presented her award at the NAACP Pasadena Branch 33rd Ruby McKnight Williams Awards Dinner on September 28. PUSD Board Memeber Michelle Bailey Richardson will also be honored.


Lydia Idem Finkley, is the parent of three and is on the Board of Directors of the Pasadena Educational Foundation. An active parent and community volunteer she has been named Volunteer of the Year by PUSD, has served as the District Advisory Council (DAC) Chair for PUSD,  on numerous school site and district level committees including the LCAP Work Group and Parent Advisory Council, and the Master Planning Team. She began volunteering at Field elementary school where she developed a GATE program, and went on to serve on the PTA, and School Site Council of not only Field, but Norma Coombs, and Wilson Middle School.  Lydia is a financial analyst and trader with a Master of Science degree in Management and a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science. She founded FM Capital Group in 2014 and resides temporarily in Northern California.