Veteran Teacher Surprised as First 2018 Riverside County Teacher of the Year by Riverside County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Judy D. White

Martha Rodriguez, a dual immersion sixth grade teacher at Sunnyslope Elementary School in Jurupa Unified School District, will advance to 2018 California Teacher of the Year competition

Martha wipes tears from her eyes as Dr. White holds award and smiles

2018 Riverside County Teacher of the Year Martha Rodriguez of Sunnyslope Elementary School in Jurupa USD tears up as Dr. Judy D. White suprises her in her classroom Wednesday

RIVERSIDE – Growing up in a family of nine while living in a migrant farmworker camp in California’s Central Valley, Martha Rodriguez’s father urged her to pursue education as a way to a better life. She remembers her father telling her that one day she would become a teacher that everyone would respect. On Wednesday, May 23, 2017, her father’s prediction came true as Riverside County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Judy D. White, surprised Mrs. Rodriguez in the middle of her classroom with the news that she had been named the first 2018 Riverside County Teacher of the Year.

“Although my parents are no longer with us, I want to thank my dad: ‘Dad, your dream came true,’” Mrs. Rodriguez said immediately after the surprise. “I’d like to thank all my students who open my mind and my heart.”

A 27-year teaching veteran, Martha Rodriguez currently teaches a sixth grade dual language immersion class where lessons are taught in English and Spanish throughout the day. Mrs. Rodriguez is a strong believer in integrating parents into the educational experience by inviting them to volunteer and tutor. When parents are unable to attend conferences and parent-teacher meetings, she makes home visits.

“I don’t give my students the answer. I tell them that if I give them a fish, they will come back tomorrow for another one. They have to learn to fish for themselves,” Mrs. Rodriguez said in her application.

Teacher holds certificate and poses with administrators

2018 Riverside County Teacher of the Year Martha Rodriguez with Sunnyslope Elementary principal, Nicholas Blake, Jurupa USD Superintendent, Elliott Duchon, and Riverside County Superintendent of Schools, Judy D. White, Ed.D.

Mrs. Rodriguez earned her bachelor of arts degree in liberal studies from California State University, Stanislaus, in 1990. In 1998, she received a master’s degree in education from California State University, Sacramento. After starting her teaching career in the Sacramento area, Mrs. Rodriguez has taught in the Jurupa Unified School District since 2000.

The final three 2018 Riverside County Teachers of the Year will be announced later this week. Once named, the four teachers of the year will represent Riverside County at the state competition where at least one Riverside County teacher has been selected as a California Teacher of the Year in three of the last four years. Riverside County Teachers of the Year for 2017 were honored in February—including 2017 California State Teacher of the Year, Shaun Bunn, from Ethan A. Chase Middle School in the Romoland School District. In May of 2018, the newly-named teachers of the year will be honored at the Riverside County Office of Education’s annual Celebrating Educators luncheon.

The Riverside County Teachers of the Year are selected from nearly 20,000 educators in the county. The rigorous application process requires candidates to spend time reflecting on, and carefully defining, their teaching philosophy. The county teachers of the year are selected on the basis of nominations by teachers, principals, and school district administrators throughout the county. Applications are then submitted to the Riverside County Office of Education, where an outside selection committee reviews the applications on each district candidate and selects semi-finalists. The selection committee then conducts interviews and on-site classroom visitations to select the final four candidates before the county superintendent announces the Riverside County Teachers of the Year.