County Teachers of Year Selected, To Be Honored in October

By SBCSS

SAN BERNARDINO – Four San Bernardino County teachers of the year have been announced, and the County Board of Education will honor them in October.

The four teachers will be honored during a ceremony on Oct. 3 at the County Schools’ Brier building located at 760 E. Brier Drive in San Bernardino. Each of this year’s recipients also will be honored by SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union, which is a sponsor of the County Teachers of the Year program.

In addition, this year’s Teachers for Tomorrow participants from the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools’ Student Services also will be recognized.

This year’s County Teachers of the Year are:

  • Kenneth Hall, kindergarten teacher at Chapman Heights Elementary School in the Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District;
  • Alexis King, English teacher at Ruben Ayala High School in the Chino Valley Unified School District;
  • Heather Lewis, teacher of specialized academic instruction for the Academy of Careers and Exploration and Riverview Middle School in the Helendale School District;
  • Jennifer Nicastro, an English teacher at the Los Osos High School in the Chaffey Joint Union High School District.

“Each year, it is gratifying to honor and recognize the terrific teachers who excel throughout our county,” County Superintendent Ted Alejandre said. “It is inspiring to see the remarkable work they do for their schools, districts and communities on behalf of our students.”

The four teachers were nominated by their individual districts and reviewed by a county panel that made the final selections. This year’s award recipients will compete in the California Teacher of the Year event, which will announce its recipients in the fall.

Following is a biography of each of this year’s County Teacher of the Year recipients:

Hall has 19 years of teaching experience, all of which he has done in Yucaipa-Calimesa. “It is a pleasure to describe the extraordinary impact Ken Hall has on our school community of students, parents and fellow teachers,” wrote Chapman Heights Principal Andy Anderson in the nomination for Hall. He describes himself as the lead learner in his classroom. “I would expect to be held accountable for continuing to learn just like the other learners in my class. As teachers, it is our responsibility to keep up with research and best practices,” he wrote about his teaching philosophy.

As an English teacher at Ayala, King has spent six of her seven years as a teacher in her current position in Chino Valley. Her principal at Ayala, Diana Yarboi, said King’s leadership style and knowledge-base are impressive. “(Our) high school has benefited from her experience, stewardship and dedication,” Yarboi wrote in the nomination of King. As a teacher, King said she continues to grow and develop in her role as an educator. “I am very proud of the collaborative accomplishments within my classroom and the opportunities for students to experience the world,” she wrote in her nomination.

With 18 years of teaching experience, Lewis has filled a variety of roles in Helendale since coming to the district in 2013. She serves in specialized academic instruction in high school grades after previously working in positions from transitional kindergarten to a school administrator. “Heather Lewis is truly a one-of-a-kind teacher and a one-of-a-kind person,” Helendale Superintendent Ross Swearingen wrote in her nomination. She takes great pride in her profession. “The best teachers are life-long learners, and we have to keep learning because in order to be better, we have to know better,” Lewis wrote about the teaching profession.

Nicastro has spent most of her 17-year career in teaching in the Chaffey district, as she begins her fourth year at Los Osos High in Rancho Cucamonga. Chaffey Superintendent Mathew Holton said Nicastro has proven to be one of the district’s best teachers. “Her extensive knowledge of the curriculum is second-to-none, while her passion and enthusiasm for the subject enhances student engagement,” he wrote in her nomination. Nicastro takes pride in challenging her students to work hard. “As a student, you will know you are loved beyond measure, but that love is a tough love that has high expectations,” she wrote in her nomination.