Riverside County Superintendent of Schools Makes Final Two 2020 Teacher of the Year Surprise Announcements

Veteran teachers who build connections beyond the curriculum to reach the students, families, and communities of Perris and Beaumont named as final 2020 Riverside County Teachers of the Year

Dr. Judy D. White surprised Kindergarten teacher Brenda Barreras and 2020 Riverside County Teacher of the Year in her classroom at Palm Elementary School.

PERRIS & BEAUMONT – Brenda Barreras, a Kindergarten teacher from Palms Elementary School in Perris Elementary School District, and Tracy Waters, a 4th grade teacher from Starlight Elementary in Beaumont Unified School District, were surprised by Riverside County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Judy D. White on Friday, May 31, 2019, with the news that they both had been selected as 2020 Riverside County Teachers of the Year.

Dr. White was joined by colleagues, cameras, and family members who burst into classrooms to the rousing cheers from excited students. With a combined teaching experience of 45 years, both Ms. Barreras and Ms. Waters will now compete at the state level with a chance to become a 2020 California Teacher of the Year.

Brenda Barreras first came to the United States as a 16-year old English language learner. That life experience has uniquely prepared her to pour herself into the lives of students entering her Kindergarten classroom with similar backgrounds for the last 22 years. Ms. Barreras has grown the parent program for students of English language learners at Palms Elementary from one parent to a committed group of 25 parents invested in all aspects of the school while building a foundation of connection between students, families, and the school

“Ms. Barreras has used her own personal experience to inspire students to succeed. As she has demonstrated, public education is the cornerstone of our democracy and changes the lives of our students for the better,” said Dr. Judy D. White, Riverside County Superintendent of Schools.

“It is an honor to represent teachers from my Palms Elementary, Perris Elementary School District, and Riverside County,” stated Ms. Barreras. “I see incredible teaching and students learning every day in our schools.”

Dr. Judy D. White made the surprise announcement to 4th grade teacher Tracy Waters during the Starlight Elementary Field Day event.

The second surprise took place at the end of the school day during the Starlight Elementary Field Day event. On the field, as in her classroom, Ms. Waters consistently challenges her 4th graders who represent a wide array of students with learning disabilities, from group homes, and English language learners to believe they have worth, and that their education has a purpose. Ms. Waters’ teaching is rooted in the recognition of students’ unique gifts and individual strengths that drives her focus each day. Through her campus leadership, students practice “service above self” by purchasing supplies for students in Africa, supporting local elder care facilities, and more.

“Ms. Waters represents a true servant leader by contributing to her school and community selflessly. Her community service work and the projects she involves her students is a powerful example for young people to follow,” said Dr. White.

“I am in complete shock, but humbled and honored to be named Riverside County Teacher of the Year,” commented Ms. Waters. “I feel very fortunate to shape the lives and children and do what I do every day.”

Earlier in the week, two teachers in Desert Sands Unified School District were named as the first two 2020 Riverside County Teachers of the Year. Jodi Fecera, a family and consumer sciences teacher at Palm Desert Charter Middle School, and Tom Buck, a digital media career and technical education teacher at Indio High School, were surprised by Riverside County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Judy D. White, on Wednesday, May 29.

All four teachers of the year will represent Riverside County in the 2020 California Teacher of the Year competition where at least one Riverside County teacher has been selected as a California Teacher of the Year in five of the last six years:

  • 2019 – Dr. Angel Mejico, El Cerrito Middle School, Corona-Norco USD
  • 2018 – Dr. Brian McDaniel, Painted Hills Middle School, Palm Springs USD
  • 2017 – Shaun Bunn, Ethan A. Chase Middle School, Romoland School District
  • 2016 – Michelle Cherland, Carrillo Ranch Elementary School, Desert Sands USD
  • 2014 – Jessica Pack, James Workman Middle School, Palm Springs USD

In May of 2020, 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.