By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Ceres teachers honored as finalists for 'Teacher of the Year'
• Hidahl's Kristina Hart and Whitmore Charter's Kelly Hayes
Kristina Hart teacher
Gathered with “Teacher of the Year” finalist Kristina Hart (second from right), are (left to right): CUSD Instructional Coach Jennie Silveira, Hidahl Elementary Principal Melissa Adams and CUSD Superintendent Dr. Denise Wickham. - photo by Photo courtesy of Ceres Unified School District

Two Ceres Unified School District teachers and one employed by the Hughson Unified School District were honored as finalists as 2023 Stanislaus County Teachers of the Year at a May 2 luncheon held at Modesto’s Doubletree Hotel.

Kristina Hart, a teacher at Hidahl Elementary School in Ceres, was one of three finalists in the elementary (K-3) grade level category.

Kelly Hayes, a teacher at Whitmore Charter High School, was a finalist in the high school category.

In addition, Pollyanne Hicks who teaches at Ross Middle School in Hughson, was a finalist in the junior high grade category.

The county’s 2023 “Teachers of the Year” are:

• Jennifer Benitez from Mary Ann Sander Elementary School in the Sylvan Union School District – TK-3rd division;

• Sarah Flora from Walnut Elementary Education Center in the Turlock Unified School District – 4-6th division;

• Terry Daniels from Waterford Junior High School in the Waterford Unified School District – junior high division;

• Michael Schilperoort from Downey High School in the Modesto City Schools District – high school division.

The four 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.

All four go on to represent Stanislaus County in the state Teacher of the Year Program.  One state winner then proceeds to the national level.

“This year, SCOE received 62 nominations from public and private school principals representing 13 districts 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.”

The Jane Johnston Civility Award was presented to Bret Shaeffer from Hughes Elementary School in the Empire Union School District.  Shaeffer received a $1,000 cash award from the Education Foundation of Stanislaus County for exemplifying one of the 12 traits of civility. The Civility Award is in honor of Jane Johnston, former SCOE Assistant Superintendent and Education Foundation member. 

This is the 24th year that Modesto Rotary and SCOE have joined efforts to honor teachers in Stanislaus County. 

“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, with additional awards provided by the Association of Stanislaus County School Boards.

Teacher Kelly Hayes
Posing with Teacher of the Year finalist Kelly Hayes (second from left) are: (left to right), Whitmore Charter Principal Steve Merchant, Whitmore Charter Office Manager Cheri Searl, Whitmore Charter Assistant Principal Marianne Goularte and CUSD Superintendent Dr. Denise Wickham. - photo by Photo courtesy of Ceres Unified School District