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Manteca Unified honors outstanding effortBy ROSE ALBANO RISSO City editor of the Manteca (Calif.)
Victoria Brunn, one of Manteca Unified School District’s Energy Education specialists, applauds those who helped the district achieve its award-winning energy-conservation efforts during recognition ceremonies Tuesday night. The other energy specialist is Kimberly Wright. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO
Five names will be added to the plaques of honor in the Manteca Unified School District’s personnel department. They are the Educators of the Year for 2010-11 who were nominated for the honor by parents, students, and in at least two cases, by fellow teachers.

Recognition plaques were presented to the honorees before the start of the Manteca Unified board meeting Tuesday night at the district office on West Louise Avenue. Those recognized in their respective grade levels were:

• Norma Molina, third-grade Lathrop Elementary School teacher, primary grades K-3;

• Susan Kelley, sixth-grade Brock Elliott School teacher, intermediate grades 4-6;

• Shayne Zurilgen, science teacher at August Knodt School, middle school 7-8;

• Sandra Suzuki, math teacher at Calla High School, high school 9-12,

• Marie Mitchell of Weston Ranch High School, for support staff/specialized subjects K-12.

As each teacher was called to receive their recognition plaques, MUSD Director of Certificated personnel Margaret Barnett read excerpts from letters of the people who made the nomination.

Molina was nominated by a parent at Lathrop School whose letter, in part, read: “This year, my daughter says she loves her teacher and wants to go to school. She shares every day at dinner the exciting things she has learned. Ms. Molina has created a positive environment where my daughter can be her best…. She treats each student with dignity and respect. (She) also works with students before school…. In short, she has donated hours of her time to the school and always makes herself available to others. She is the perfect candidate for Educator of the Year.”

A total of nine students were behind the nomination of Kelley at Brock Elliott. A portion of the letter written by one of the students reads: “I think Mrs. Kelley should be Educator of the Year because when you don’t get how to do your homework, she has after-school tutoring until 4:30 and if you have a question she helps you understand. I go to her tutoring at least twice a week to get help from her. And when I started to go to her tutoring all my grades went up. What is also cool is that I’m not even in her class and she still helps me. If you happen to leave a paper in her classroom, she will drive it to your house and make sure you have it to turn in the next day.”

The fellow teacher who made it possible for August Knodt’s Zurilgen to win the prestigious award gave a list of the reasons why the science teacher deserves the recognition. The letter reads in part: “Shayne is on the school site council. He is on the leadership committee. He is the co-chairman of our Math and Science night. He also is the creator behind some of the popular activities on Math and Science night. He is the coach of our Science Olympiad team. This year Shayne started a chess club for our Junior High…. I have no doubt that there is more that he is involved in that I do not know about or remember.”

Calla High’s Suzuki, the high school Educator of the Year, was described as “a warm-hearted, sweet, caring, and smart woman” by the two students and one parent who nominated her for the award.

“She lets you know that it’s okay to ask for help. That it’s nothing to be ashamed of. She recognizes that every student is smart and has potential, but more importantly, she helps the students realize it, too,” the nomination letter continued.

One nominating student also wrote, “When I saw on my schedule that I was assigned Advanced Algebra, I was not looking forward to it. I was actually nervous since it took me 7th grade, 8th grade, and 9th grade just to pass regular basic algebra. But after being in Ms. Suzuki’s Algebra 2 class, I really do enjoy it!”

Staff and colleagues of Mitchell at Weston Ranch High School and Neil Hafley School who nominated her for Educator of the Year for specialized subjects K-12, described the many ways she has helped them.

“She helped me in so many ways and for so long that I don’t know where to start,” reads the letter from a teacher at Neil Hafley. “I can’t believe how lucky I was to have her as my mentor teacher. Every day she was available for me, many times. She never, not once, said, ‘Let me call you back.’ She always took the time right then to help me.”

The nomination letter from a staff member at Weston Ranch pointed out that Mitchell has been at Weston Ranch barely five months, “but the impact she has made on the students and staff here is huge. Her door is always open to her students…. She is always there to lend a helpful hand to the students…; she is equally available to other staff members and is always there to listen and provide helpful advice.”

Other district staff recognized Tuesday evening were the Classified Employees of the Year, Director of Health Services Caroline Thibodeau who received double recognition as Northern Section School Nurse Administrator of the Year and Woman of Distinction Award recipient from the Soroptimist International of Manteca; and Manteca High math teacher Doug Obrigawitch for being the recipient of the prestigious Cortopassi Award.