Three More 2020 Riverside County Educators of the Year Named at Surprise Visits to Moreno Valley and Val Verde Unified School Districts

MORENO VALLEY and PERRIS – Whether the announcement is held in a high school gymnasium filled with students and staff or the office of the district superintendent surrounded by loved ones and colleagues – the shock, surprise, and joy of being named a Riverside County Educator of the Year is the same. Three outstanding educators, two from Moreno Valley Unified School District, and one from Val Verde Unified School District, went through a range of emptions upon receiving a surprise visit from Riverside County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Judy D. White.

Michelle Gomez – 2020 Riverside County School Counselor of the Year

Dr. White congratulates Michelle Gomez

Riverside County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Judy D. White with the Counselor of the Year Michelle Gomez.

Michelle Gomez has been an educator for 20 years and served as a school counselor for 13 years at Canyon Springs High School in the Moreno Valley Unified School District.

“Oh my goodness! Are you serious?” were the first words Michelle Gomez said as she walked into the school’s gymnasium that was full of cheering students and colleagues.

After receiving her award, she addressed the students directly and said, “This wouldn’t be possible without you.”

The award Mrs. Gomez received was the 2020 Riverside County School Counselor of the Year. The surprise at Canyon Springs High School was the third of seven surprise announcements set to take place at the work locations of the 2020 Riverside County Educators of the Year.

“Thank you for making it a point to participate extensively in student experiences like field trips, ASB events, sporting activities, games, and educational celebrations,” said Riverside County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Judy D. White to Michelle Gomez after presenting the award

Mrs. Gomez started her career as an elementary school custodian while attending community college. She decided to become a school counselor when she witnessed first-hand, the positive impact educators could have on students, and knew she wanted to have that type of impact herself.

Mrs. Gomez is a pillar in her community who has been an Anti-Bullying Club advisor since 2011, an elderly caretaker since 2003, and a community mentor since 2018. Mrs. Gomez’s efforts extend beyond her campus as her leadership, support, and assistance has led to expanded counseling services across the district. Her students view her as an individual “determined and motivated to provide her students with the tools they need to be successful.”

Dr. Amna Ahmad – 2020 Riverside County Site Support Employee of the Year

Dr. Amna Ahmad with Dr. White

Dr. Amna Ahmad receives her surprise Site Support Administrator of the Year honor from Dr. Judy D. White.

Moreno Valley Unified School District professional development specialist, Dr. Amna Ahmad, was in the audience at Canyon Springs High School for the surprise announcement for Michelle Gomez. Little did she know, that the surprise would continue with Dr. Ahmad being named as the 2020 Riverside County Site Support Employee of the Year—an award given to educators who support students and staff in roles that are not typically part of other recognition categories such as librarians, nurses, and more.

Dr. Ahmad’s experience as a teacher and parent has driven her to introduce and expand exposure to the concepts of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) for all Moreno Valley Unified School District (MVUSD) students and educators. Her role as a professional development specialist has led to the development of the district’s STEAM Expo, STEAM-based field trips, STEAM learning labs, a STEAM Unity Expo for students with disabilities, and a STEAM Certificate for educators offered through the UC Riverside Extension.

“You are so loved and so appreciated,” said Riverside County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Judy D. White, when presenting the award to Dr. Ahmad. “You maximize the potential in all of the staff and students.”

Colleagues describe Dr. Ahmad as “a stellar educator, coach, and instructional leader who dedicates her professional career to bringing enriched and rigorous programs and opportunities to students of diverse academic, ethnic, and economic backgrounds.”

“I want to thank my family. My children are the motivation for what I do,” Dr. Ahmad said. “And, to our district leadership team—thank you for all your support.”

Diana Ruppe – 2020 Riverside County Confidential Employee of the Year

Dr. White with Diana Ruppe and Michael McCormick

Dr. White poses with the Confidential Employee of the Year Diana Ruppe and Val Verde USD Superintendent Michael McCormick.

Orchestrating a surprise in the district office without the knowledge and coordinating efforts of the superintendent’s executive assistant is no small feat. Riverside County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Judy D. White, and a bevy of well-wishers surprised Val Verde Unified School District’s Diana Ruppe with the news that she has been selected as the 2020 Riverside County Confidential Employee of the Year.

For the last four years, Ms. Ruppe has served as the executive assistant to the superintendent and the board of education at the Val Verde Unified School District. Beyond her day-to-day duties, she has been instrumental in the development of the first school district-based police force in the county while participating in student-focused activities like the Special Olympics and Shop With A Cop.

“I’ve been in education for 30 years. It is a passion of mine,” Ms. Ruppe said, as her proud parents watched from the other side of the room. “I have such an amazing team. I love working at Val Verde.”

Ms. Ruppe is described by colleagues as exhibiting “impeccable professionalism, a strong work ethic, and a willingness to complete all tasks at hand—including mentoring and advising her colleagues.”

The full list of categories and honorees for the 2020 Riverside County Educators of the Year is as follows:

Riverside County Classified Employee of the Year

Erika Ruiz
Campus Security/Athletic Director
North Mountain Middle School
San Jacinto Unified School District

Riverside County School Counselor of the Year

Michelle Gomez
School Counselor
Canyon Springs High School
Moreno Valley Unified School District

Riverside County Site Support Employee of the Year

Dr. Amna Ahmad
Professional Development Specialist
Moreno Valley Unified School District

Riverside County Confidential Employee of the Year

Diana Ruppe
Executive Assistant to the Superintendent
Val Verde Unified School District

Riverside County Classified Administrator of the Year

Brian Sousa
Administrator, Student Data and Achievement
Riverside County Office of Education

Riverside County Certificated Administrator of the YearTBD week of February 24

Riverside County Principal of the YearTBD week of February 24

The Riverside County Educators of the Year are selected from the more than 36,000 educational employees in the county. The rigorous application process starts with nominations by teachers, classified employees, and school district administrators throughout the county. Applications are then submitted to the Riverside County Office of Education, where an outside selection committee selects the honorees before the county superintendent announces the honorees.

Along with the 2020 Riverside County Teachers of the Year, the Educators of the Year will be honored at the Riverside County Celebrating Educators Luncheon at the Riverside Convention Center on Tuesday, May 5, 2020.

Clarification: The 2020 Teachers of the Year were named in mid-2019 to align with the 2020 California State Teacher of the Year competition. The 2021 Riverside County Teachers of the Year will be announced in May/June of 2020.