Surprise Visits Reveal Final 2017 Teachers of the Year for Riverside County

Teachers in Rancho Mirage and Menifee will join previously announced honorees from Lake Elsinore and Eastvale to represent Riverside County at 2017 California State Teacher of the Year competition

Ruby Rivera and Kenneth M. Young

Riverside County Superintendent of Schools, Kenneth M. Young, congratulates Ruby Rivera a 9th-12th grade English and social science teacher at Rancho Mirage High School in the Palm Springs Unified School District on being named the third of four 2017 Riverside County Teacher of the Year

RIVERSIDE – Four unsuspecting teachers were surprised by the news that they have been selected by Riverside County Superintendent of Schools, Kenneth M. Young, as 2017 Riverside County Teachers of the Year. At each of the four campuses, the unsuspecting honorees were taken by surprise with balloons, flowers, and hearty congratulations from students, conspiring colleagues, and family members.

The 2017 Riverside County Teachers of the Year are:

  • Ruby Rivera – 9th-12th grade English and social science teacher – Rancho Mirage High School, Palm Springs Unified School District
  • Shaun Bunn – 8th grade mathematics – Ethan A. Chase Middle School, Romoland School District

Both teachers join the previously-announced honorees from Wednesday, May 25, 2016:

  • Veronica Mondragon – 6th grade language arts/social studies/AVID teacher, Canyon Lake Middle School, Lake Elsinore Unified School District
  • Amanda Sandoval – U.S. history teacher – Eleanor Roosevelt High School, Corona-Norco Unified School District

The four teachers of the year will represent Riverside County at the state competition where all four 2016 Riverside County Teachers of the Year were honored earlier this year—including 2016 California State teacher of the year, Michelle Cherland, from Carrillo Ranch Elementary School in the Desert Sands Unified School District. In May of 2017, the newly-named teachers of the year will be honored at the Riverside County Office of Education’s annual Celebrating Educators luncheon.

Right after school started today at Rancho Mirage High School, Rivera was whisked into the performing arts building on the back of a golf cart by Principal Ken Wagner and greeted by her cheering students. Her fourth baby due in two days, she stepped gingerly from the golf cart and joked with the crowd that “Too bad (her baby) Aveline can’t be here today to enjoy this.” She and her husband Eduardo, have three other children — Fabian, Logan and Julianna.

Student Rudy Guillen was asked to speak and said that students rely on Rivera. “A lot of us at this school think of her as a mom on campus.”

Rivera said that she thoroughly enjoys her role, and told students in the crowd she loves them.  “I’m so proud to be a teacher. There is no other job I want. It’s exciting to come here and see the great things you are going to do every single day.”

Shaun Bunn with Kenneth Young and family members

Kenneth M. Young congratulates an emotional Shaun Bunn, 8th grade mathematics teacher at Ethan A. Chase Middle School in the Romoland School District, on being named a 2017 Riverside County Teacher of the Year.

Later in the morning, in Menifee, Shaun Bunn was conducting his annual “Bunnzees” award program in the multipurpose room at Ethan A. Chase Middle School when he was surprised by Principal Chris Hernandez, Romoland School District Superintendent, Dr. Julie Vitale, and Riverside County Superintendent of Schools, Kenneth Young.

“I did not expect this,” Bunn said over the screams and cheers from students. “I could not have done this without the love and support of everyone in this room. Students, I love what I do. You have changed me. I don’t teach you just math, I teach you about life, and how to be successful in life.”

Ruby Rivera – Palm Springs USD

Ruby Rivera has been teaching social science and English at Rancho Mirage High School in the Palm Springs Unified School District since the school first opened in 2013. In addition to her classroom duties, Ms. Rivera teaches advanced journalism and video production while serving as a dean of discipline. She is the founder and coordinator of the PLUS (Peer Leaders Uniting Students) Program that encourages students to create a positive school climate through mentorship, leadership, academic achievement, and more.

In her application, Ms. Rivera describes her classroom as “a personalized learning environment where students are stakeholders.” She is a graduate of the Palm Springs Unified School District and notes that she became an educator because of teachers who “believed in me, encouraged me, and made me feel successful in school.” Ms. Rivera previously taught at Cathedral City High School from 2006-2013 and is a resident of Indio. She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from UCLA, and a master’s degree in teaching from UC Irvine.

Shaun Bunn – Romoland School District

Mr. Bunn currently teaches 8th grade mathematics at Ethan A. Chase Middle School where he is also the math department chairperson, and an instructional coach. He believes that the best lesson kids learn from their teachers is “not always subject matter, but something much deeper, more profound, like caring.”

Denied an education as a child growing up in Cambodia, Mr. Bunn’s family survived the civil war in his country only by fleeing. He remembers dodging gunfire and landmines in the jungle while his family sought safety in refugee campus. These experiences, along with growing up in poverty as an English language learner, have led Mr. Bunn to lead with passion and compassion for students from all types of backgrounds.

An 11-year veteran of teaching, Mr. Bunn earned a bachelor’s degree from California State University, Long Beach, and a master’s degree from National University. Mr. Bunn is a resident of Menifee.

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 the four finalists. The selection committee then conducts on-site classroom visitations for each finalist before the county superintendent announces the Riverside County Teachers of the Year.