2020-21 Stanislaus County Teachers of the Year Announced

The Modesto Rotary Club and the Stanislaus County Office of Education (SCOE) announced the selection of four local educators as 2020-21 Stanislaus County Teachers of the Year at a Hybrid Rotary luncheon on May 4 held at the Modesto Centre Plaza, the Petersen Event Center, and via Zoom.  In addition, a Jane Johnston Civility Award was presented to one of the 12 finalists for exemplifying the principles of civility.  “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.”
The 2020-21 Teachers of the Year are Bob Elms from La Rosa Elementary School in the Ceres Unified School District – TK-3 division; Carlos Perez from Empire Elementary School in the Empire Union Elementary School District – 4-6 division; Elizabeth Holtan from Cesar Chavez Junior High in the Ceres Unified School District – junior high division; and Ismael Mercado from Riverbank High School in the Riverbank Unified School District – high school division.
The four selected as 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.         

The 2020-21 Teachers of the Year Finalists included:

Elementary (TK-3) Level      School                                    District

Cindy Bellinger                        Cloverland Elementary            Oakdale Joint Unified

Bob Elms                                 La Rosa Elementary                Ceres Unified

Ronald Putnam                       Crowell Elementary                 Turlock Unified

Elementary (4-6) Level            School                                            District

Jill Kelley                                Agnes Baptist Elementary       Stanislaus Union

Carlos Perez                           Empire Elementary                   Empire Union

Mary White                             Fair Oaks Elementary             Oakdale Joint Unified

Junior High Level                        School                                              District

Janet Hernandez                      Creekside Middle                    Patterson Joint Unified

Elizabeth Holtan                      Cesar Chavez Jr. High            Ceres Unified

Christie Stokman Wagner       Mae Hensley Jr. High              Ceres Unified

High School Level                       School                                         District             

Renee Melo                              Central Valley High                 Ceres Unified

Ismael Mercado                       Riverbank High                       Riverbank Unified

Matthew Soderlund                 Joseph Gregori High               Modesto City Schools       

The Jane Johnston Civility Award was presented to Jill Kelley from Agnes Baptist Elementary School in the Stanislaus Union School District.  The Civility Award is in honor of former SCOE Assistant Superintendent Jane Johnston, who helped launch the county-wide Choose Civility Initiative in 2010 and passed away unexpectedly in April 2012.  Johnston was a member of the Modesto Rotary Club, co-chaired the Teacher of the Year Program, and was active with the Education Foundation of Stanislaus County.  The Education Foundation once again honored her memory with this award.   
This is the 22nd year that Modesto Rotary and SCOE have joined efforts to honor teachers in Stanislaus County.  The program honors local teachers, celebrates excellence in education, and provides an opportunity for teachers to receive state and national recognition. All four Teachers of the Year will represent Stanislaus County in the State Teacher of the Year Program.  One state winner then proceeds to the national level.
“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.

Date Published: 
Wednesday, May 5, 2021