Riverside County Superintendent of Schools Makes First 2019 Teacher of the Year Surprise Announcement

Shunna Bradford, a special education teacher in Moreno Valley USD with 25 years of experience, is first of four teachers of the year to be recognized

Shunna Bradford poses with colleagues and administrators

(From L to R) Dr. Robert Verdi, MVUSD Chief Human Resources Officer, Nancy Allbee, Principal, Moreno Elementary School, Susan Smith, President, MVUSD Board of Education, Dr. Martinrex Kedziora, MVUSD Superintendent of Schools, Shunna Bradford, 2019 Riverside County Teacher of the Year, Dr. Judy D. White, Riverside County Superintendent of Schools, Jesus Holguin, Vice President, MVUSD Board of Education, Harold Acord, President, Moreno Valley Educators Association

MORENO VALLEY –  After having taught 600 general education and 300 special education students while working with 60 different instructional assistants during her 25-year career with the Moreno Valley Unified School District, Moreno Elementary special education teacher, Shunna Bradford, was surprised on Thursday, May 17, 2018, by Riverside County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Judy D. White with the news that she has been selected as the first of four 2019 Riverside County Teachers of the Year.

A dozen of Bradford’s students gathered together with district officials, co-workers and family members in a small classroom for the surprise. White said Bradford is known for not limiting her special education students to just acquiring functional skills, but has set high academic goals for them and is known for her motto — “Love is kind.”

“It is your motto, it’s what you live by,” White said. “And I know that this is true because when you walked in here, everyone was so excited. Your children, your husband, your board members – everyone was so happy for you.”

Bradford led her smiling students in reciting Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech to celebrate her award, and another poem, “I Love Myself.”

“I can do nothing without my students, without my special education staff, without my amazing administrator, without all the wonderful people working at Moreno Elementary,” Bradford said, choking back tears. “I am truly, truly, truly excited. We have vision, we are definitely going places.”

Beyond teaching 4th and 5th grade students with severe disabilities, Bradford is a living example of paying forward the support she received from dedicated educators as a young child.

“They instilled a sense of value, self-worth, and purpose, and I dreamed of someday being like them,” said Bradford in her application. “They truly believed that an African American girl growing up in gang-infested, South Central Los Angeles could rise above her under-privileged situation to make a difference in the world.”

In her application, Bradford shared that her greatest desire as a teacher is to make sure that her students feel good about themselves. She nurtures them towards self-reliance and/or responsible codependence so that they may someday leave their mark on society by becoming positive role models for others.

She has acted upon this belief personally by becoming a foster parent of two former students in her class who were once homeless. Eight years later, the eldest is now set to graduate from high school and will attend CSU San Marcos in the fall.

On campus, Bradford has established a social club called Skittles POP (Skittles-People of Patience). Its purpose is to close the socialization gap that exists between regular education and special education students. Students meet regularly and join forces for school-wide assemblies, skits, speeches, games, songs, crafts, and more. The club aims to develop friendships while presenting topics about acceptance, tolerance, differences, and bullying through a mixture of role playing and videos.

The final three 2019 Riverside County Teachers of the Year will be announced later this month. Once named, the four 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.