Primary tabs

Teacher of the Year

Teacher of the Year Application Button

Congratulations to the 2023 Stanislaus County Teachers of the Year

  • High School Category -Michael Schilperoort, Thomas Downey, Modesto City Schools
  • 7-8th Grade Category - Terry Daniels, Waterford Junior High, Waterford Unified School District
  • 4-6th Grade Category - Sarah Flora, Walnut Elementary Education Center, Turlock Unified School District
  • TK-3rd Grade Category - Jennifer Benitez, Mary Ann Sanders Elementary, Sylvan Union School District

Click on the videos below to learn more about the 12 teacher finalists.

Video clips of the 2023 Teacher of the Year Finalists
TK-3rd grade Category 4-6th grade Category







7-8th Grade Category





High School Category







Announcing the 2023 Stanislaus County Teachers of the Year  

The Modesto Rotary Club and the Stanislaus County Office of Education (SCOE) announced the selection of four local educators as 2023 Stanislaus County Teachers of the Year on May 2 at the DoubleTree Hotel. In addition, a Jane Johnston Civility Award was presented to one of the 12 finalists for exemplifying the principles of civility. "SCOE received 62 nominations from public and private school principals throughout the county," said Jason Maggard, SCOE Chief of Staff. "A selection committee, composed of local Rotarians and educators, narrowed the nominations through a paper screening process and then visited the classrooms of 24 semi-finalists before narrowing it down to the 12 finalists. We are thrilled that we finally recognized our Teacher of the Year Finalists."
The 2022-23 Teachers of the Year are Jennifer Benitez from Mary Ann Sander Elementary School in the Sylvan Union School District – TK-3rd division; Sarah Flora from Walnut Elementary Education Center in the Turlock Unified School District – 4-6th division; Terry Daniels from Waterford Junior High School in the Waterford Unified School District – junior high division; and Michael Schilperoort from Downey High School in the Modesto City Schools District – high school division.
The four selected as Teachers of the Year each received a $1,000 cash award from the Modesto Rotary Club Foundation.
The Jane Johnston Civility Award was presented to Bret Shaeffer from Hughes Elementary School in the Empire Union School District. Shaeffer received a $1,000 cash award from the Education Foundation of Stanislaus County for exemplifying one of the 12 traits of civility. The Civility Award is in honor of Jane Johnston, former SCOE Assistant Superintendent and Education Foundation member.
Sponsors of the Stanislaus County Teacher of the Year program include the Modesto Rotary Club Foundation, Stanislaus County Office of Education, and Mocse Credit Union, with additional awards provided by the Association of Stanislaus County School Boards.

The 2023 Teachers of the Year Finalists included:

Elementary (TK-3rd Grade) Level, School, District

  • Lauren Brown, Magnolia Elementary, Oakdale Jt. Unified
  • Kristina Hart, Hidahl Elementary, Ceres Unified

Elementary (4-6th Grade) Level, School, District

  • Bret Shaeffer, Hughes Elementary, Empire Union
  • Jeff Warn, Cardozo Middle, Riverbank Unified

Junior High Level, School, District                                       

  • Pollyanne Hicks, Ross Middle, Hughson Unified
  • Rachel Torres, Oakdale Jr. High, Oakdale Jt. Unified

High School Level, School, District

  • Brad Cornwell, Enochs High, Modesto City
  • Kelly Hayes, Whitmore Charter High, Ceres Unified

2023_TOY Finalists 12Webbanner.png


Stanislaus County Teacher of the Year Program Overview


The Teachers of the Year program is designed to pay special tribute to outstanding TK-12 teachers in Stanislaus County, recognize that teachers face many challenges daily in their classrooms and the community, and promote public recognition and respect for the teaching profession. This program celebrates the exceptional work of positive role models who:

  • Inspire all students to reach their highest academic potential and work to maximize their social and emotional development;
  • Consistently support high expectations for learning and responsible behavior at school and within the community;
  • Approach teaching with creativity, enthusiasm, and a genuine appreciation for the individual differences among all students; and,
  • Cultivate a life-long interest in learning among all students.

The program is implemented with the involvement of local public and private schools within Stanislaus County. The Modesto Rotary Club and the Stanislaus County Office of Education administer it.

Nomination Process

Principals are encouraged to nominate one teacher at their school who fits the eligibility criteria below to be considered for the County Teacher of the Year Awards. Each school may only have one nominee per year. Teachers previously nominated but not selected as the Teacher of the Year may be nominated again. Nominees must:

  • Be teachers of grades TK-12 in public or private schools located within Stanislaus County;
  • Be the teacher of record for designated students and not fully released from the classroom;
  • Be fully credentialed through the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing;
  • Have taught a minimum of 8 years (perhaps across districts), inclusive of the year of nomination;
  • If County Teacher of the Year is chosen, be willing to serve on the screening team and attend the luncheon for the following year. Substitutes will be paid at the district's expense. SCOE Administration will pay for luncheon ticket; and,
  • Be willing to participate at the state and national levels of competition if selected.

Requirements for Application

The application and narratives must be completed online at The teacher or principal will start the process by clicking the New Teacher Application button and completing the application page. The teacher and principal can edit the application page but only view the other's narrative. The teacher's submission will not exceed 1000 words, and the principal's submission will not exceed 500 words. The superintendent and designee(s) can view the submissions. The superintendent and designee(s) will also receive an email notifying them that a district teacher has begun the process. All documents must be completed and approved by the superintendent or designee on January 20, 2023, by 5:00 p.m. Please note: no paper, faxed, or emailed versions will be accepted.
  • The principal and teacher must approve videotaping in the teacher's classroom.
  • In addition to allowing time for videotaping in the school and classroom, the principal must be prepared to provide release time for the honoree to attend the Modesto Rotary luncheon on May 2, 2023.

Selection Process

A selection committee (composed of Educators, Rotarians, and previous Teacher of the Year winners) reviews applications and visits classrooms. It ultimately selects three finalists for each grade level group:  TK-3, 4-6, junior high, and high school. The committee does not have a single type of teacher in mind; selected teachers may have very different teaching styles and methods. But committee members will search for those teachers who best engage their students and whose students are learning from the lesson observed.

The Five-Step Selection Process

              STEP 1:  Electronic applications are due January 20, 2023, by 5:00 p.m. The Selection Committee will review all applications and select six teachers to visit in each category:  TK-3, 4-6, 7-8, and 9-12. (The principal's narrative will count for 1/3 of the total score, and the teacher's narrative will count for 2/3 of the total score.)

STEP 2:  Twenty-four teachers will be observed from February 27 to March 10. Committee members will visit the site, review the applications again and select three finalists from each category. One teacher in each class will receive the County Teacher from those three.

Year Award, but this will not be announced until the luncheon.

STEP 3:  The twelve selected teachers will be videotaped in their classrooms during the last two weeks of March. A special video will be created and presented during the Modesto Rotary Club luncheon on May _, 2024.

STEP 4:  During the May 2nd luncheon, eight teachers will receive a Teacher of the Year Finalist Award, and the four winners will receive their County Teacher of the Year award and a $1,000 check. Each Teacher of the Year finalist and a guest, the principal, and the superintendent will receive complimentary tickets to the luncheon from the Modesto Rotary Club. Additional tickets may be purchased based on availability. Payments for extra tickets must be paid by the deadline of April 17, 2023.

STEP 5: In June, the four winners will be interviewed. Two teachers will be selected to represent Stanislaus County in the California Teacher of the Year program per state guidelines. These teachers will complete the state application by July 2023. The state competition's representatives are announced each year in September.

The Jane Johnston Civility Award

All twelve finalists will have the opportunity to be considered for the Jane Johnston Civility Award presented by the Education Foundation of Stanislaus County. The honoree will be announced at the luncheon and receive an award and a $1000 check. Information will be sent to the nominators once the finalists have been reported.


The four honorees in each category (TK-3, 4-6, 7-8, and 9-12) will each receive an award and a $1,000 check. The Jane Johnston Civility awardee will receive an award and a $1000 check.

Luncheon Reservations
All wishing to attend (including finalists, principals, and superintendents) the 2024 County Teacher of the Year Luncheon must RSVP by April __, 2024, by calling (209) 238-1706 or stortiz [ahtsym] stancoe [dhotsym] org.  Extra tickets are limited and are distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis. Payments for additional tickets must be received by the April 17, 2023 deadline.

Contact Us

Renee Mohrbacher

1100 H Street
Modesto, CA 95354

Key Contacts

Picture of Jason Maggard

Jason Maggard

Chief of Staff, Administrative Services

Renee Mohrbacher

Prevention Programs Manager
Picture of Judy Boring

Judy Boring

Public Information Officer, Communications Department