On a night of recognition that typically is done in person, with lots of support and handshaking, the Teachers of the Year for each school site in the Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District were announced at the recent board meeting via video conference.

In most years, the Teacher of the Year is the first step in the process for District Teacher of the Year, County Teacher of the Year and State Teacher of the Year. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic that process has been suspended, announced Superintendent Cali Binks.

The local board still wanted to recognize teachers, though, at the May 19 board meeting. Binks and board president Patty Ingram had the honor of announcing their names and saying a few words about each one as provided by their school site.

The Teacher of the Year at each school site is:

Calimesa Elementary School - Kendee Solano, second grade. “Ms. Solano was nominated for her enthusiastic and engaging approach to instruction, her genuine care and dedication to her students and for her outstanding teacher leadership qualities.”

Chapman Heights Elementary School – Dawn Madrid, transitional kindergarten and intervention. “Dawn is being recognized for this distinction because of difference she makes while working with students, parents and teachers.”

Dunlap Elementary School – Lisa Aldulaimi, third grade. “Lisa is thoughtful and committed to her students and school. She recognizes each student’s learning needs and designs instruction to make connections with material.”

Ridgeview Elementary School – Susan Ramsay. “In teaching, Ms. Ramsay has supported numerous students, modeled lessons, facilitated professional collaborations, supported student teachers, functioned as a K-Kids advisor and held numerous positions in YCEA (Yucaipa-Calimesa Educators Association).”

Valley Elementary School – Faria Munmun, first-second grade combination. “Faria is the Valley Elementary School Teacher of the Year because for the past three years she has been working nonstop to ensure that Valley Elementary is successful in its Leader in Me transformation. She has been instrumental in improving the physical culture of the school.”

Wildwood Elementary School – Davina Correa. “Davina is the teacher that you hope your child gets, the teacher you want on your grade-level team and the teacher every principal is hoping to have on their campus.”

Competitive Edge Charter Academy – Jennifer Brasher, language and literature, yearbook. “I believe there may be five different Jennifer Brashers. There is the teacher, the counsel/intern who is in every IEP, SIT and 504 meeting, the yearbook coordinator, the collaborator and the mentor and friend who works behind the scenes to support teachers and other staff members, socially and emotionally.”

Mesa View Middle School – Debra McMurtrey, special education, life skills. “During distance learning, Deb made over 30 video calls to students and families on different topics. She is a self-starter, solution-based individual who gets things done without complaining.”

Park View Middle School – Brittany Bay, sixth grade. “A passion for teaching have enabled her to positively impact the lives of her students and her colleagues.”

Yucaipa High School – Trent Lacey, math. “This year, we would like to recognize Mr. Trent Lacey because of his innovative practice, dedication to reaching all students and providing authentic equity within his classroom.”

Oak View High School – Cathy Schmidt, English. “Her warm, daily classroom greetings, her special student birthday celebrations and decorating her room to bring to life a book the class is reading are some of the simple, yet powerful, things that Ms. Schmidt does to help Oak View students succeed in transforming their lives.”

Green Valley High School – Amy Eland, special education. “Amy is a calm, thoughtful and caring educator who treats all her students with respect and dignity.”

Yucaipa Adult School – Irma Sanders, English second language. “A strength Irma brings to this class is instilling in her students that they will all improve.”

Finally, Binks said the district office was flooded with emails about recognizing Mark Pierson, teacher on assignment in technology, for all of his help in setting up teachers, students and parents for distance learning because of classroom closures due to COVID-19.

“This is the people’s choice,” Binks said, laughing.

Binks then read a portion of an email she received on Pierson.

“As the district shifted into the unknown world of distance learning, preparing our teachers with the necessary tools of knowledge to embark on this journey became paramount. Mark Pierson took the lead in building a platform, using Google tools to make a difference for learning and resources accessible to teachers, students and parents.,” Binks said.

“Mark, we couldn’t have done this without you,” she said.

President Ingram then summed up the meeting.

“We honor all of you,” she said. “We are sad we could not do it in person, but we think the world of everyone who was recognized tonight.”

To watch the full video on the Teachers of Year announcement, visit yucaipaschools.com.

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