Final 2020 Riverside County Educator of the Year Named in Surprise Visit to Arlanza Elementary School in Alvord USD

Michelle Pierce and Dr. Judy D. White

Arlanza Elementary Principal Michelle Pierce and Riverside County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Judy D. White after the surprise announcement of Mrs. Pierce being selected the 2020 Riverside County Principal of the Year.

RIVERSIDE – As a student who survived many childhood challenges herself, school once served as an “escape” from dysfunction and trauma for Michelle Pierce. Now, as principal of Arlanza Elementary School in the Alvord Unified School District, Mrs. Pierce can advocate for all students—including those students facing many of the same barriers she faced as a child. Her drive to meet the needs of students and families served by her school led to a visit from Riverside County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Judy D. White, who surprised her with the news that she has been named the 2020 Riverside County Principal of the Year.

“You are a true equity warrior and a leader who doesn’t just lead every day, you are also doing legacy work,” said Riverside County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Judy D. White at the surprise visit held in the school library with an audience that included dozens of Arlanza Elementary School and Alvord Unified School District staff and board members. “There are more than 500 principals in Riverside County, and you are #1 this year!”

Mrs. Pierce has served as the school principal at Arlanza Elementary School for 4 years. She previously served as a teacher, instructional coach, and assistant principal in her 21 years in education.

Beyond serving as the principal, Mrs. Pierce also serves as an instructional coach to lead the schoolwide focus on literacy development that she describes as “the gatekeeper to student achievement.” Her leadership was instrumental in developing the Reading and Writing Workshop—one of many initiatives that is significantly improving student performance on state assessments and better preparing students for middle school.

Mrs. Pierce’s efforts at developing community partnerships has led to students receiving new shoes, school supplies, and the meeting of other basic needs for students and families. Colleagues describe her efforts as key to “transforming Arlanza Elementary School into a school that is beating the odds.”

Relationship building is so important at our school. We can’t do it without each other—both at work and at home,” said Michelle Pierce. “It takes teamwork, understanding, and support and this award is a representative of that. What we are doing to change the story of Arlanza takes all of us.”

The surprise visit was the final announcement of the 2020 Riverside County Educators of the Year. 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.

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 Year

Darren K. Daniel
Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources
Murrieta Valley Unified School District

Riverside County Principal of the Year

Michelle Pierce
Principal, Arlanza Elementary School
Alvord Unified School District

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.