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Manteca High art teacher earns honor
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Jiana Riella Boudreaux went to work as an art teacher at Manteca High School on Friday morning thinking that it would just be another typical end of the week.

But by lunch, she was an award-winning educator – bestowed a surprise “Hero of the Month” award by Homes for Heroes affiliate specialist Frank Orr and community outreach coordinator Jennifer Hart for her ongoing contribution to the youth of the community, and for fostering an environment where students can thrive.

Nominated by a former student and Boudreaux’s lifelong friend Kristen Frisk, Boudreaux was stunned as her old friend, Orr, Hart, former student Rhiannon Genilla and Principal Frank Gonzalez walked into her classroom for an impromptu presentation – spending most of the five minutes that she was being talked about trying to choke back tears and holding her hand over her mouth while pausing intermittently to explain to her students, who were watching, what was happening.

“Mrs. Boudreaux, in her short but impactful teaching career, has brought to life in her Arts classroom, an environment of free thinking and honest expression rooted in kindness, empathy, integrity and a responsibility to the world around them, in which students can thrive” Frisk said in her nomination. “She inspires an openness through her teaching that undoubtedly spreads far beyond the walls of her classroom.  The artistic imprint she and her students so gracefully leave around campus and in our community are creating joyous impact in the hearts of all who have the privilege of encountering them.”

Boudreaux was presented with both a plaque and a gift certificate for El Jardin.

Genilla, who graduated last year, was on hand Friday morning for the surprise delivery and was all smiles as the person she said was the most inspirational teacher in her four years at Manteca High School showed her surprise at being honored for her dedication.

Referring to her as “more than just an art teacher,” Genilla pointed out that it was Boudreaux who suggested that she play a part in creating a 12-foot mural to coincide with the first ever Manteca Unified Unity Breakfast last year, and that knowing that something she created with forever be a part of a school that gave so much to her is still something she has a hard time wrapping her head around.”

“Creating a mural that will stand 12-feet tall on my old high school campus was just something that I dreamed about, to forever leave my physical handprint on my old campus, and without Mrs. Boudreaux I would have just stayed a dream,” Genilla said. “For the pride in my mural, for the bond I created with my teacher, and for the love I found in art I owe all to the dedication to positivity and happiness that is what Mrs. Boudreaux embodies.

“I am forever grateful the Lord crossed our paths.”

Homes for Heroes is a program that was started after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 as a way to honor local heroes for their sacrifices and their dedication to the communities that they serve. The organization is a nationwide community of affiliate real estate and lending specialists who provide easy ways for firefighters, law enforcement, military (active, reserves and veterans), healthcare workers, EMS and teachers to save significant money when they buy, sell or refinance a home with Homes for Heroes.

The Hero of the Month award is an extension of the Homes for Heroes created by Frank Orr of Compass Real Estate – who serves as a Homes for Heroes affiliate specialist – and Community Outreach Coordinator Jennifer Hart.

And Orr had an extra special link to Friday’s award presentation.

“It’s a small world that we live in,” Orr said. “Rhiannon, who received the Riella Family Scholarship last year, nominated Jiana for Hero of the Month – I received the Riella Family Scholarship 24 years ago and never imagined I would be here today presenting an award to the member of the Riella family.

“It’s exciting how everything always comes back full circle – people like this is what makes the world go round.”

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.