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Greg Magni took a deep breath and looked around the Monterey Conference Center's 490-seat Steinbeck Auditorium on Saturday, Jan. 17 after being named the California League of High Schools 2009 Educator of the Year.

"I would never in my wildest dreams thought something like this would ever happen," said Magni, an English teacher and varsity baseball coach at Central Valley High School. "I was fortunate enough to be chosen. I really think it could have been a number of people from this site alone."

Greg, 30, was recognized in front of his family, colleagues and superiors.

Elated when the announcement was made were wife Elaine, parents Roxanne and Bill Kovacich, and sisters Kim and Amy.

Also joining in the celebration were Ceres Unified School District Supt. Walt Hanline, Director of Curriculum and Instruction Fred Van Vleck, Central Valley High School Principal Roberto Serrato, Associate Principal Kristi Britton, Assistant Principal Laura Fong, Learning Director Kim Souza, Activities Director Carrie Stepp, CVHS Athletic Director Michelle Parrish, and Ceres Adult Education Principal Laran Gambs.

"I had by far the most support in the room," Magni said. "They were definitely pulling for me."

Said Hanline: "We're proud of him and what he does. He's a quality person to have kids associate with."

The top teacher gave a two-minute acceptance speech.

"It took me about five seconds to understand what happened," he said. "I was overwhelmed I was selected. It's a huge honor."

Magni started as a substitute with CUSD eight years ago. He's been a full-time classroom teacher for the past five years, his first year at Ceres High. He moved over to Central Valley High for the 2005-06 school year.

"I have learned so much from working around such great people," Magni said. "I still feel like I represent both schools (Central Valley and Ceres High). I don't forget where I came from. Ceres High hired me first."

Magni won Region VI and school site awards on his way to claiming the state's top prize. Greg was just happy to be recognized by his peers.

"That in itself was a huge honor," he said.

Ceres Unified has had a number of employees recognized for high performance in recent years.

Magni follows in the footsteps of Hanline (2007 Association of California School Administrators Superintendent of the Year) and Mary Jones (ACSA 2008 Curriculum and Instruction Administrator of the Year).

"The awards the staff of this district are receiving are coming from everywhere," Hanline said. "This is a very special district."