Ceres Unified School District Deputy Superintendent of Personnel Services Denise Wickham has been named 2019 Educator of the Year by the Portuguese Education Foundation of Central California.
Wickham was recognized by PEFCC President Eduina Azevedo during a Nov. 15 dinner ceremony at Our Lady of Assumption Church Hall in Turlock.
“It’s quite a humbling honor,” she said. “It was definitely a surprise. I had no idea (Stanislaus State professor Elmano Costa) nominated me for that.”
Wickham has worked for CUSD since 2005-06.
“Serving the students of Ceres Unified School District is a privilege,” she said.
Wickham’s filled the Deputy Superintendent position for eight years.
She oversees all personnel.
“Students were surveyed and selected Portuguese as a language they would like to see offered along with Spanish,” Wickham said. “I am extremely appreciative of my fellow Portuguese colleagues, with connections to other Portuguese educators in order to assist me in staffing our program. How proud I am that the language and culture of our Portuguese roots can continue through students in Ceres.”
The daughter of Frank and Carolyn Furtado, Wickham was born in Manteca.
Frank emigrated from Terceira, Azores when he was 16 years old. He arrived with his father and began milking cows in Tracy.
In 1966, he started dating Wickham’s Caucasian mother after seeing her while cruising Yosemite Avenue in Manteca.
“I feel I was raised very “Portuguese” even though I am only half,” she said. “My father spoke only Portuguese to my brother and I at home and my mom took Portuguese classes at the Adult School to assist with their communication.”
“We were always surrounded by Portuguese people,” she added. “After milking cows, my dad loved to play “Sueca”, and drink vermelho vinho. I have fond memories of going with my dad to bullfights in Crowslanding, Gustine, and Escalon. My mom would cook food for days before the event-Linguica, tortas, e papas do arroz for us to share with people at the bullfights. Everybody knew our bronze Ford van when we drove in.”
Wickham last visited the Azores 15 years ago.
“I was able to take my daughter Jenny, so my avó got to meet her great grandchild three different times,” she said. After my grandma passed away, I haven’t been able to go back. My Madrinha and Padrinho still live in the village of Pedregal and I know that someday I will return to visit my favorite place.”
“I am very proud of my Portuguese heritage,” Wickham added. “I was taught the value of work, the power of social networks, the traditions of Fado, the experience of different foods, and the appreciation of peoples’ heritage.”