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Turlock educators named finalists for Teacher of the Year
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Despite these difficult times for school districts across the state — with budget cuts, pink slips and doing less with more — Stanislaus County still recognizes those teachers who continue to give their students all the tools  they need to succeed. There are four teachers from the Turlock Unified School District who were named as finalists in the 2010 Stanislaus County Teacher of the Year contest.
“There are so many wonderful teachers who are doing amazing things with children and I am pleased to be able to represent them,” said Bret Sutterley, 5th grade teacher at Walnut Elementary and one of the finalists. “This is especially true in light of our creative and talented young teachers, who are out there making the world better for their students, who now have pink slips. They are courageous.”
The four finalists for the Teacher of the Year are Sutterley; Kristen Leigh, who teaches at Dennis Earl Elementary; Denise Nulph, who teaches at Turlock Junior High; and Eric Julien, who teaches at Turlock High.
There are a total of 12 finalists for this year’s Teacher of the Year award, said Cynthia Fenech, Stanislaus County communications coordinator. There were a total of 84 nominations this year, which is the most the county has ever had in all 12 years they have been giving out this award.   
The last Teacher of the Year from Turlock was in 2008 when Kelsie Woody from Pitman High School took home the honors, Fenech said. In 2004, Denise Loomis from Dennis Earl Elementary also won the award.
Turlock had a finalist last year among the 75 total nominations county wide, with 14 of those being from Turlock, she said. Chris Alonzo from Wakefield Elementary was the finalist last year.
The teaching experience of the four Turlock teachers nominated ranges from three years to 34 years.
Leigh has been teaching for three years, all in sixth grade at Dennis Earl. She graduated from California State University, Fresno and discovered her love for teaching while she was majoring in business administration with a concentration in marketing.
Leigh said she really enjoyed her marketing classes but for a different reason than most. Leigh realized she really loved teaching when she was giving a lesson to her marketing class and developed different activities during her lesson.
“(Being named a finalist for Teacher of the Year) is validating that this is what I am suppose to be doing,” she said.
For Turlock Junior High teacher Nulph, her heart always belonged in teaching and she always knew it was her calling.
“It’s a part of me,” Nulph said. “I always knew I wanted to teach. If I am not teaching, I am missing it.”
She has been teaching for the past 18 years and has taught at Dutcher Middle, Dennis Earl Elementary and her present school at Turlock Junior High. She currently teaches seventh grade Language Arts.  
Sutterley has taken on three schools within the district throughout his 31 years of teaching and has been nominated twice for Teacher of the Year. He has taught at Julien Elementary, Dutcher Middle and now Walnut Elementary.
He realized teaching was his life career when he was attending San Francisco State University. He started teaching right out of college at the age of 21.
Sutterley said his favorite part of teaching is watching “the kids grow and learn.”
Julien has spent all of his 34 years of teaching at Turlock High, working with students from 9th grade to 12th grade. His focus is in the science department teaching chemistry, biology and Earth science.
When he first graduated from the University of California, San Diego, Julien wanted to go into research but had trouble finding anyone that was hiring so he went into teaching as his back up plan.
“I ended up really loving it,” Julien said.
Julien’s favorite part of teaching is working with the kids.
“It is great in the beginning when you meet new kids but it is sad in the end when they go away,” he said. “I don’t look forward to graduation and watching the kids leave because usually that is the last time I see them.”
The 2010 Stanislaus County Teacher of the Year winner will be announced on May 4 at the Modesto Rotary Luncheon at the Double Tree Hotel in Modesto.   
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.