Left to Right: Peter Jain, South Bay School; Sophia Pelafigue, Pacific Union School; Robin Gray-Stewart, Eureka City Schools; Ligia Ray, Alice Birney Elementary School; Kimberly Dedini, McKinleyville Middle School; Aimee McGinty, Grant Elementary School; Maureen Kiritsy, Arcata High School; Geri Van Emmerik, McKinleyville High School; Joan Crandell, Zane Middle School; Dorian Koczera, Six Rivers Charter High School; Tony Kimura, Blue Lake Elementary School; Dr. Chris Hartley, Humboldt County Superintendent of Schools. Not Pictured: Lynda Yeoman, Sunny Brae Middle School.
Nine Humboldt County teachers were selected to receive Excellence in Teaching Awards. These outstanding teachers were honored at a reception and awards ceremony at the Sequoia Conference Center in Eureka where more than 200 colleagues, friends and family members were in attendance, supporting the honorees.
The Humboldt County Office of Education (HCOE) sponsors this celebration annually to celebrate California’s Day of the Teacher by recognizing outstanding teachers who were nominated by colleagues, students, parents or school administrators. Students were on hand to support the celebration with Fortuna High School Culinary Arts program creating appetizers for the event, while Arcata High School Culinary students helping to serve them. Eureka High School’s quartet welcomed the participants with their musical ensemble.
This year Tony Kimura, Geri Van Emmerik, and Lynda Yeoman were honored with the Jean Olson Career Achievement Award, recognizing an exceptional veteran or retired teacher for their lifelong contributions to public education, children and the community. The award was first established in 1995, and in 1998 it was dedicated to the memory of long-time County Board of Education member and President, Jean Olson, who passed away in that year.
Tony Kimura is in his 33rd year teaching at Blue Lake Union Elementary. He is teaching 6th – 8th grade Math and Science. In 2009, Tony was awarded a Wells Fargo Stagecoach Legacy Award. DeAnn Waldwogel, Superintendent-Principal of Blue Lake School remarks, “Mr. Kimura has affected not just generations of students, but has made a difference in an endless number of families through his devotion to teaching. He has left a legacy here at Blue Lake of commitment, leadership, and dedication for education ourselves and our students to improve the future.”
Geri Van Emmerik is in her 28th year at McKinleyville High School as a Counselor & Administrator. Northern Humboldt High School District Superintendent, Roger Macdonald notes, “The consummate professional, Geri has high expectations for students and staff. She does not expect anything of others she would not do herself. But her standards are high – thank goodness for our campus and community…The clarity with which she approaches EVERY situation is unflappable. Geri does not get distracted by extraneous information, zeroing in on what matters every time.
Lynda Yeoman is in her 36th year with a career spanning K-4 classrooms and principal of K-8 schools. Lynda is currently the principal of Sunny Brae Middle School in Arcata. Lynda was nominated by the Arcata School District and Debbie Biondini, retired school secretary writes, “I sat outside her office door and heard many conversations with students, parents, and staff members over the years. She always listened and interacted with them with respect. Her door was always open to everyone, she sincerely cared about each and every student. I never knew Lynda to give up on any student, no matter how challenging.”
This year’s Excellence in Teaching Award recipients are Joan Crandell, 6th-7th Grade Science Teacher Zane Middle School; Kimberly Dedini, 8th Grade Science/Technology/P.E. Teacher McKinleyville Middle School; Peter Jain, K-8 Music Teacher at South Bay School District; Maureen Kiritsy, Special Day Teacher Arcata High School; Dorian Koczera, Mathematics and Health Teacher 6 Rivers Charter High School; Aimee McGinty. First Grade Teacher Grant Elementary; Sophia Pelafigue, Reading Intervention Teacher Pacific Union School; and Ligia Ray, SEI Kindergarten Alice Birney Elementary School. Robin Gray-Stewart, Reading Intervention Teacher and Instructional Coach Washington Elementary School was given an Encore Award. Robin was previously selected as an Excellence in Teaching Awardee in 2005.
The Excellence in Teaching Awards program has been in place since 1986. It recognizes classroom teachers’ from Transitional Kindergarten through 12th grade who have a minimum of five years teaching experience and have been identified as exemplary by their coworkers, parents or students.
“All of these individuals are exemplary educators who have gained the respect and admiration of their peers and truly reflect the values of dedication, enthusiasm, and professionalism” stated Dr. Chris Hartley, Superintendent of Humboldt County Schools. “The recipients are teacher leaders, mentors, and experts, all of whom are highly effective in diverse teaching strategies, student motivation, and innovation.”
All of the teachers nominated humbly acknowledged how grateful they were for this honor and the importance of having the support of their families and colleagues. There was a consistent recognition that there are so many excellent educators throughout Humboldt County and how proud they were to be in such great company.
The 2018-19 Humboldt County Teacher of the Year will be selected from among the Excellence in Teaching Award recipients.