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Three Turlock educators up for Teacher of the Year
Angela Freeman, third grade teacher at Medeiros Elementary, reads to her class. - photo by JONATHAN MCCORKELL / The Journal

Three local educators from three different Turlock schools were named finalists for the 2012 Stanislaus County Teacher of the Year award.

Angela Freeman, a third grade teacher at Medeiros Elementary, was selected for the K-3 category. Dutcher Middle School seventh grade teacher Angela De Tomasi was selected for the middle school category; and Ruben Modesto, the band director at Pitman High School was selected for the high school category.

The Stanislaus County Office of Education and the Modesto Rotary sponsor the annual awards program. This year there was a record number 83 nominees, representing 20 school districts, according to SCOE, and Turlock Unified had the most finalists.

A selection committee composed of local Rotarians and educators narrowed the nominations through a paper screening process and then visited the classrooms of 12 finalists. One winner from each category will be selected on May 8 at a Rotary luncheon in Modesto. The four winners will receive a $1,000 cash award.

The Teacher of the Year program not only honors local teachers and celebrates excellence in education, but also provides an opportunity for teachers to receive state and national recognition. Two of the four teachers of the year will be selected, through an interview process, to represent Stanislaus County in the State Teacher of the Year program. One state winner then proceeds to the national level.

“Someone once said, ‘Good teachers are to education what education is to all other professions — the indispensable element, the sunlight and oxygen, the foundation on which everything else is built,’” said county superintendent Tom Changnon. “It is truly an honor to partner with Rotary to recognize these outstanding teachers — each who has helped shape the lives of young students in our county.”

Freeman is in her seventh year of teaching at Medeiros. Previously, she taught in Ripon and at Crowell Elementary in Turlock.

“I just love how each day starts over as a teacher and to see the growth in a student from day one to 180, not just academically but as people,” she said.

Freeman was nominated by Medeiros Principal Jennifer Yacob, who said Freeman always puts her students’ needs first and she is a proactive teacher who explores different activities to reach her students.

Modesto was nominated by Pitman High School Principal Rod Hollars. Modesto has championed the largest fundraising effort in Pitman High School history, raising more than $100,000 to send dozens of Pitman Marching Pride band students to Washington, D.C. this summer to participate in the Independence Day Parade on the Fourth of July.

“Ruben is a rock star here on campus. He has a rock-solid connection with the kids — the best I’ve ever seen in all my years. He has made the band a focus on campus. At football games half the people come just to see the band at halftime. He has made it cool to be in the band,” said Hollars.

Modesto has been known to provide spirit during school rallies by performing stunning break dancing routines, which can include spinning on his head.

De Tomasi is in her 15th year of teaching and she has taught for the last five years at Dutcher Middle School. She teaches pre-algebra and life science.

“Angela epitomizes the phrase ‘going above and beyond’ on a daily basis. She is usually the first person here in the morning and one of the last to leave. She continually seeks to improve her effectiveness as a teacher by attending conferences pertaining to math or science,” said DMS Principal Scott Lucas.