"Celebrating Educators"

Play Video of Timothy Ritter
Play Video of Michael Fine
Play Video of Mary Walters
Play Video of Tim Bedley
Play Video of Tommy Stokes
Play Video of Amyleen Tuiza
Play Video of Nikki Thaxton
Play Video of Julie Roe Smith
Play Video of Donnette Tanner Wheat

Educators of the Year

Timothy Ritter - Certificated Administrator of the Year

Superintendent, Temecula Valley Unifed School District

Photo of Timothy Ritter

Timothy Ritter has been Superintendent of the Temecula Valley Unified School District since 2010. He has worked in education for 29 years, starting as a high school biology teacher and football/softball coach at Etiwanda and Rancho Cucamonga high schools. He was Principal of Chaparral and Great Oak High School in Temecula and Assistant Superintendent of Education Support Services. He is a member of the Association of California School Administrators, the Temecula City Quality of Life Committee, Temecula City Higher Education Committee, Boys and Girls Club Youth of the Year Committee, and many other professional and community organizations. A former student wrote, "I and every Great Oak graduate owe a great deal to Mr. Ritter. He created an environment that fostered our growth through synergy that will prepare us for any of the tumultuous twists and turns that life throws in our path." (Play Video)

Michael Fine - Classified Administrator of the Year

Deputy Superintendent, Business and Governmental Relations, Riverside Unified School District

Photo of Michael Fine

Michael Fine has been Deputy Superintendent, Business and Governmental Relations, for the Riverside Unified School District since 2002. His 20 years in education includes Director of Fiscal Services, Chief Financial Officer, and Assistant Superintendent, Business Services, for Newport-Mesa Unified School District. He is a member of the Advocacy Action Team for the California Association of School Business Officials, Association of Californian School Administrators, and the American Society for Public Administration. He is a member of the United Way of the Inland Valley, Citizens for Riverside Community College Yes on Measure C Campaign, and Past President, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, Alumni Association. Nominators said, "Mr. Fine is one of the state's preeminent chief business officials and school practioners. His honed skills, expertise, vision and dedication are employed each day for the benefit of students in his district." (Play Video)

Mary Walters - Principal of the Year

Principal, Murrieta Mesa High School, Murrieta Valley Unified School District

Photo of Mary Walters

Mary Walters has been Principal at Murrieta Mesa High School in the Murrieta Valley Unified School District for four years. Her 26 years in education include teaching math at Perris High School, serving as Vice Principal at Murrieta Valley High School and then opening Murrieta Mesa as its first Principal. She has been Chair of the Murrieta Valley Scholarship Foundation, member of the Association of Californian School Administrators, and member of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Nominators said "she is an ever-present example of engaging with students, staff and community to build opportunities both big and small. She is loved and adored on the campus and acts as the true 'Mama Ram' to her 2,400 kids." (Play Video)

Tim Bedley - Teacher of the Year

Wildomar Elementary School, Lake Elsinore Unified School District

Photo of Tim Bedley

Tim Bedley is a fourth- and fifth-grade GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) teacher at Wildomar Elementary School in the Lake Elsinore Unified School District. He has been a teacher for 24 years, 12 in his current position. He began teaching in 1988 at R.H. Dana Elementary School, and has taught at Menifee Valley Middle School and Pauba Valley Elementary School in addition to Withrow Elementary School. He has a bachelor's degree from Biola University, and a master's in Educational Technology from Azusa Pacific University. He is the founder of Mr. Tim's Lounge, an internet based professional learning community, the Christian Educators Association, and the Center for Learner Centered Education. Nominators said "Tim Bedley is a remarkable man and an outstanding innovative educator . . . his strong background and graduate degree in educational technology have permitted Mr. Bedley to implement many cutting edge classroom strategies, best practices, and push the limits in terms of student engagement and motivation." (Play Video)

Tommy Stokes - Teacher of the Year

Moreno Valley High School, Moreno Valley Unified School District

Photo of Tommy Stokes

Tommy Stokes is a ninth- and 12th-grade A.V.I.D. (Advancement Via Individual Determination) teacher at Moreno Valley High School in the Moreno Valley Unified School District. He has been a teacher for 14 years, all at Moreno Valley High School. He has a bachelor's degree from Cal State San Bernardino, and a master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Chapman University. He is a member of the Moreno Valley Educators Association, a tutor for the AVID program, a college readiness system designed to help students graduate from high school and be successful in college, and in 2011, was given a Model of Excellence Award from the Riverside County Office of Education for the AVID program at Moreno Valley High School. Nominators said he "is a wonderful positive role model for students. He believes in the potential of all students to go to college." A former AVID student wrote, "Mr. Stokes instilled in me a fondness for school, one that will never die. He has inspired me so much that that I have decided to become a teacher, as to follow in his footsteps." (Play Video)

Amyleen Tuiza - Teacher of the Year

Special Education, Riverside County Office of Education

Photo of Amyleen Tuiza

Amyleen Tuiza is a Special Education teacher for the Riverside County Office of Education serving students with moderate to severe autism at Phillip Stokoe Elementary School in the Alvord Unified School District. She has been a teacher for 14 years, 10 in her current position. She has a bachelor's degree from the Emilio Aguinaldo College in the Philippines, and a credential as an Education Specialist from National University. She has previously worked as an Intensive Behavioral Intervention In-Home Supervisor, a teacher in the Oakland Unified School District, and a Special Education teacher in the Philippines. She supports the Reach Autism Project. She is involved in many community projects, including collecting and donating supplies for less fortunate students in the Philippines. Nominators said her "behavioral background gives her enormous skill with assessment and data. She is known for her professionalism, humility, warmth and humanity. Her determination, skill, humility and compassion are an inspiration." (Play Video)

Neician (Nikki) Thaxton - Confidential Employee of the Year

Administrative Assistant, San Jacinto Unified School District

Photo of Nikki Thaxton

Nikki Thaxton has been and Administrative Assistant at the San Jacinto Unified School District Office since 2009. Her 13 years in education include Matriculation Assistant at RCC, Administrative Assistant at Vocational School and UHS Keystone Schools, the Blood Bank Training Department and Riverside County Office of Education (RCOE). She has been a Board Member for the Perris Valley Recovery Program, a member of the Youth Advisory Council, and Riverside County Association of Educational Office Professionals. She has been involved in the San Jacinto canned food drive, was a Riverside Community College Tutor, and Young Champions of America Youth Coach. Nominators said "she is professional, smart, dependable and, most of all, she is committed to the success of every student." (Play Video)

Julie Roe Smith - Classified Employee of the Year

Instructional Assistant, Orange Grove High School, Corona-Norco Unified School District

Photo of Julie Roe Smith

Julie Roe Smith has been an Instructional Assistant at Orange Grove High School in the Corona-Norco Unified School District for seven years. She has been a substitute instructional assistant and summer school instructional assistant. She previously was a flight attendant for Delta Airlines and a Disneyland character. She is a member of Girl Scouts, the Brea Pistol and Rifle Junior Club, and the Booster Club for Corona High Cross Country Team. She has also served as PTA room mother. She runs marathons for a variety of community fundraisers, sings in a church choir and was a personal trainer at the Lee Pollard school for CNUSD employees. Her nominators wrote: "Ms. Smith, or Smithers as the kids call her, is not only committed to the special needs students of Orange Grove, but to all students and staff. Her vibrant personality and genuine caring nature allows our student to feel safe, important, and engaged while they attend the continuation school."(Play Video)

Donnette Tanner Wheat - Site Support Employee of the Year

Speech and Language Pathologist, McKinley Elementary School, Corona-Norco Unified School District

Photo of Donnette Tanner Wheat

Donnette Tanner Wheat has been a Speech and Language Pathologist at McKinley Elementary School in the Corona-Norco Unified School District for the past nine years. Her 22 years in education include being a Speech Language Pathologist for the Rowland Unified School District and the Julian Charter School in San Diego. She was also a Music Instructor for Julian Charter School. She is a member of the American Speech Hearing Association and the California Speech Hearing Association, and Committee Member for the Region 10 Coordinating Council for Speech and Language Pathologists. She is a volunteer for Mormon Helping Hands, the Boy Scouts of America Eagle Service Projects and Centennial Girls Basketball Boosters, and is a PTA Historian and leader of the Breast Cancer Support group for the Foundation of Family and Community Health. Nominators said "Donnette Wheat is an exceptional speech and language pathologist. Her service to our students, parents, teachers, administrators, and staff has been valuable beyond words. She always focuses on the positive things the child can accomplish while giving parents concrete suggestions on how they can support their child's language development." (Play Video)

Nicolas Ferguson, Ed.D. - 2013 District Superintendent Service Award

Superintendent, Alvord Unified School District

Photo of Nicolas Ferguson

Nicolas Ferguson has been the superintendent of the Alvord Unified School District since 2011. He has worked in education for 45 years, starting as a classified employee, elementary and secondary school teacher, secondary counselor and administrator, business manager, assistant superintendent, and deputy superintendent.

Dr. Ferguson consulted with several school districts in the areas of school business, human resources and the superintendency until joining the Riverside County Office of Education as the Associate Superintendent of Personnel Services in 2007. in 2009, Dr. Ferguson served as a fiscal advisor for the Riverside County Office of Education and interim superintendent in the Moreno Valley USD.

Dr. Ferguson received his Associate's degree from Riverside Community College, Bachelors' degree in Business Administration from Cal Poly, Pomona, Master's degree in Education Leadership from University of Southern California (USC), and his Doctorate degree with a dual major in School Business Management and Personnel Services from USC.

Dr. Ferguson is the Chair of the Moreno Valley Chamber of Commerce's Legislative Action Committee and a member of ACCESS to the Future, a business community and school partnership for Career Technical Education. He also is an Adjunct Professor at California State University, San Bernardino.

The Celebrating Educators Luncheon is sponsored by the Riverside County Office of Education, Altura Credit Union, and Life Touch Prestige Portraits in recognition of the county’s outstanding educators.