Foothill Elementary Third Grade Teacher Named Second 2019 Riverside County Teacher of the Year

Julie Trujillo was surprised in her classroom by Riverside County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Judy D. White

group of colleagues and students with Julie Trujillo holding Riverside County Teacher of the Year Julie Trujillo banner

Students and colleagues share the excitement of Foothill Elementary School Teacher Julie Trujillo being named a 2019 Riverside County Teacher of the Year.

RIVERSIDE – Julie Trujillo describes her third grade classroom at Foothill Elementary School in the Alvord Unified School District as “my little slice of heaven.” On Friday, May 25, a cadre of boisterous supporters, led by Riverside County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Judy D. White, burst into her educational paradise with the news that she has been selected as the second 2019 Riverside County Teacher of the Year.

Dr. White noted that Trujillo has been teaching for more than 20 years, and is known for making special connections with her students.

“We are so happy that Julie Trujillo is a Riverside County Teacher of the Year,” Dr. White said as Trujillo dabbed away tears. “People say you see the potential in each student. Your students say that you love each of them the same. And, your colleagues say that they would want to be a student in your class, and that is probably the biggest compliment for a teacher.”

Trujillo reached for more tissues as a group of Foothill students serenaded her with a special version of “The Rainbow Connection” made popular by The Muppets.

Trujillo shared that it’s her students that are the reason she loves her job.

“I have been doing this a long time—more than twice as long as some of you boys and girls have been alive,” she said. “I couldn’t think of a better place to be than Foothill. I just love coming here every day. I just love teaching you, having fun, and being part of your lives.”

As for the surprise visit, Trujillo noted, “I thought I was coming over here to decorate the library.”

She greeted new Alvord Unified School Superintendent Dr. Allan J. Mucerino in the crowd and joked, “Wow. The first time I am meeting you and I’m crying. Welcome!”

In her application, Trujillo describes how many of her students lack the basic needs of life—nutrition, rest, affection, and safety—and that she believes that her students should see the classroom as a safety zone where learning is crucial to their success.

“It is important that they understand when they step foot into my classroom they can leave all of those concerns at the door and enter safely into another realm where their hopes and dreams can become reality through education,” Trujillo said.

In her 20-year career in education, Trujillo has taught multiple grade levels in both public and private elementary and middle schools. She also served as an elementary school principal and as an adjunct professor, supervisor, and mentor to student teachers from local universities.

At Foothill Elementary, she is best known for building relationships with students, parents, colleagues, and throughout the community. Every year in December, she arranges for each student to receive a gift delivered from Santa. Additionally, donations of baskets with fruit, toiletries, clothing, and gift cards are distributed to students—a donation that is often valued immensely as 95% of Foothill Elementary students come from socio-economically disadvantaged homes.

In the classroom, Mrs. Trujillo is known to incorporate tools like yoga, dance moves, and breathing exercises to help students maintain focus and engagement on the lessons for the day. Around campus, she plans “Foothill Family First Friday” events for staff to connect through bowling, painting, or even Bunco nights.

Earlier in May, Moreno Valley USD special education teacher, Shunna Bradford, was named as the first 2019 Riverside County Teacher of the Year. The final two 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.