Two teachers employed by the Ceres Unified School District are among the four selected for the 2020-21 “Teachers of the Year” in Stanislaus County
Bob Elms of La Rosa Elementary School was named “Teacher of the Year” in the TK-3 division. Elizabeth Holtan of Cesar Chavez Junior High was named the Stanislaus County “Teacher of the Year” in the junior high division.
The other two are not Ceres teachers. They are Carlos Perez from Empire Elementary School in the 4th-6th grade division; and Ismael Mercado from Riverbank High School in the high school division.
The teachers were honored at a hybrid Rotary luncheon on May 4 held at the Modesto Centre Plaza, the Petersen Event Center, and via Zoom. The four Teachers of the Year each received a $1,000 cash award from the Modesto Rotary Club Foundation. Mocse Credit Union also sponsored the event and provided funding for the awards, decorations and lunch for the student entertainers.
Finalists included: Elms, Cindy Bellinger of Cloverland Elementary School in Oakdale and Ronald Putnam of Crowell Elementary in Turlock, for the TK-3rd grade level; Perez, Mary White of Fair Oaks Elementary School in Oakdale, and Jill Kelley of Agnes Baptist Elementary School in the Stanislaus Union district, all for the 4th-6th grade level; Holtan, Christie Stokman Wagner of Mae Hensley Jr. High in Ceres, Janet Hernandez of Creekside Middle School in Patterson, all in the junior high teacher level; and Mercado, Renee Melo of Central Valley High in Ceres, and Matthew Soderlund of Gregori High in Modesto, all in the high school teacher level.
In addition, a Jane Johnston Civility Award was presented to Jill Kelley of Agnes Baptist Elementary School for exemplifying the principles of civility. The award is in honor of former SCOE Assistant Superintendent Jane Johnston, who helped launch the countywide Choose Civility Initiative in 2010 and passed away unexpectedly in 2012.
“Last year, before COVID took us all by surprise, SCOE received 74 nominations from public and private school principals representing 13 districts and 74 schools throughout the county,” said Jason Maggard, SCOE Chief of Staff. “A selection committee, composed of local Rotarians and educators, narrowed the nominations through a paper screening process and then visited the classrooms of 24 semi-finalists before narrowing it down to the 12 finalists. We are thrilled that we were finally able to recognize our ‘Teacher of the Year’ finalists.”
All four Teachers of the Year will go on to represent Stanislaus County in the State Teacher of the Year Program. One state winner then proceeds to the national level.
This is the 22nd year that Modesto Rotary and SCOE have joined efforts to honor teachers in Stanislaus County. The program not only honors local teachers and celebrates excellence in education, but also provides an opportunity for teachers to receive state and national recognition.
“It’s an honor to partner with Rotary to recognize these outstanding teachers – each who helps inspire and shape the lives of students in our county each and every day,” said County Superintendent of Schools Scott Kuykendall.
Sponsors of the Stanislaus County Teacher of the Year program include the Modesto Rotary Club Foundation, Stanislaus County Office of Education and Mocse Credit Union.