Two Corona-Norco USD Teachers Surprised by Riverside County Superintendent of Schools

Dr. Angel Mejico from El Cerrito Middle School and Michael Hughes from Parkridge Elementary School were named as the final two 2019 Riverside County Teachers of the Year

CORONA – Riverside County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Judy D. White, paid surprise visits to the final two 2019 Riverside County Teachers of the Year on Wednesday, May 30, who both teach in the Corona-Norco Unified School District.

Group photo of Dr. White with school administrators and Angel Mejico

(From L to R): Shelly Yarbrough, Principal, El Cerrito Middle School, Mary Ybarra, Board Vice President, Corona-Norco Unified School District, Dr. Judy D. White, Riverside County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Angel Mejico, 2019 Riverside County Teacher of the Year, Dr. Michael Lin, Superintendent, Corona-Norco USD, Lisa Simon, Associate Superintendent, Corona-Norco USD.

“Half of the four county teachers of the year we are sending into the state competition are from the Corona-Norco Unified School District,” White told the cheering crowd at El Cerrito Middle School where she honored art teacher, Dr. Angel Mejico.

Mejico was taken aback by the crowd waiting to surprise her as she opened the door to the teacher’s lounge. So, she backed out of the room and pulled the door closed before Dr. White pulled her inside to present her award.

“A student said she teaches how the arts impact people,” White said. “She is selfless, humble, honest, helpful, driven, inspiring, and trustworthy.”

Mejico said the surprise was “surreal” and she felt “excited and nervous at the same time.”

“I want to thank you for believing in me,” she said to fellow teachers. “I wouldn’t be standing here if not for you. You taught me a lot about how to help these kids, and collaborating with you has brought me so much joy over the past years,” Mejico said. “You have made it fun. You have made El Cerrito an exciting place for me, and changed an introvert to someone who can stand up here and talk to this many people.”

Just an hour earlier, Dr. White walked into a classroom at nearby Parkridge Elementary School to honor kindergarten teacher Michael Hughes. Hughes was so surprised seeing his wife, parents, and co-workers, crowding into the room, and asked White, “Can I hug you?”

Dr. White and Michael Hughes

Dr. Judy D. White stands with Parkridge Elementary School kindergarten teacher Michael Hughes, “part superhero, mad scientist and genius” and 2019 County Teacher of the Year.

White said Hughes is described by students and staff as “part superhero, mad scientist and genius” and that “good teaching just oozes out of you.”

“He is a kid, just a big kid,” said Michael’s mother, Marie. “I am so proud of him. He loves children and he loves teaching.”

Hughes said he has learned that loving kids is more important than just teaching academics.

“You can love kids into learning,” he said. “I love being around them—their enthusiasm is infectious. I think the situation we have at Parkridge is just amazing.”

The four 2019 Riverside County Teachers of the Year are:

  • Shunna Bradford
    Special Education Teacher
    Moreno Elementary School
    Moreno Valley USD
  • Julie Trujillo
    Third Grade Teacher
    Foothill Elementary School
    Alvord USD
  • Angel Mejico
    Visual Arts, Art Academy
    El Cerrito Middle School
    Corona-Norco USD
  • Michael Hughes
    Transitional Kindergarten/Kindergarten Teacher
    Parkridge Elementary School
    Corona-Norco USD

All four 2019 Riverside County Teachers of the Year will represent Riverside County in the 2019 California Teacher of the Year competition where at least one Riverside County teacher has been selected as a California Teacher of the Year in four of the last five years:

  • 2018 – Dr. Brian McDaniel from Painted Hills Middle School in the Palm Springs Unified School District
  • 2017 – Shaun Bunn from Ethan A. Chase Middle School in the Romoland School District
  • 2016 – Michelle Cherland from Carrillo Ranch Elementary School in the Desert Sands Unified School District
  • 2014 – Jessica Pack from James Workman Middle School in the Palm Springs Unified School District

In May of 2019, 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.