Educators Helping Students Succeed
Riverside County Employees of the Year
Riverside County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Judy D. White surprised two Murrieta Valley Unified School District schools to surprise two district educators with the news that they had been named the county’s top school counselor and site support employee of the year.
At Tovashal Elementary School district administrators site staff members visited a classroom to see Jodi Spoon-Sadlon receive the news. “Of all the counselors in Riverside County," White told Spoon-Sadlon, "you have been selected to represent us, even at the state level,” White told Spoon-Sadlon. “People started crying when we were walking down the hall because they said you deserve it. We appreciate you because you care so much about each and every student.” See a video of Jodi here.
Murrieta Valley Unified School District Superintendent, Pat Kelley, told Spoon-Sadlon, "You represent counselors from more than 500 schools in the county. You do so much, you are a spark for others,” When I walk into a room with you, I always feel that we need to put on our ‘A-game’, and do our very best.”
Spoon-Sadlon said she met other counselors who were being considered for the county award a few weeks ago and was impressed by their commitment to education and she is honored to represent them. “I am touched and in awe to be selected as 2018 Riverside County Counselor of the Year,” said Spoon-Sadlon “It is a privilege and an honor to represent the profession of counseling and the importance of social-emotional learning in our schools. I have the best job I can think of because I work for students’ success.”
Next White made her way to E. Hale Curran Elementary School where she waited in a classroom to surprise Sue Hall, who was selected as the 2018 Riverside County Site Support Employee of the Year. See a video of Sue here.
“Your colleagues love you—they appreciate the support you give to teachers that you have been doing so for so many years,” White told Hall, remarking on Hall’s 35 years in education. “They say you support from the heart.”
Kelley and Hall were hired by the Murrieta district at the same time in 1991. When they met, Kelley said, “I knew I had met someone who was special and important, because she had a mission in her heart to help students and fellow teachers,” Kelley said. “That is an amazing gift that you have permeated throughout this entire district.”
Hall said she has always felt that her job was to support teachers in the district so that they could provide the best education possible for students. “I have made education my life, my mission, and my calling,” she said. “My role has always been in support…I really like the idea of support, so this is a great award.”
Spoon-Sadlon serves as an elementary counselor for Tovashal Elementary School and Lisa J. Mails Elementary School. Beyond her exceptional one-on-one communication skills with students, colleagues praised Spoon-Sadlon for her school-wide impact that includes classroom presentations on social-emotional learning, anti-bullying, and empathy.
Spoon-Sadlon has served as an elementary school counselor for seven years in the Murrieta Valley Unified School District, and as an educator for 18 years. The data-based evidence of her impact led to the district expanding from two elementary counselors to the equivalent of seven-and-a-half counselors today. She has led the implementation of programs like The Great Kindness Challenge, a Gardening Group, Student Attendance Review Team, and the Student Valet Program that positively impact individual students and overall school climate. Her focus on improving school attendance led to a reduction in chronically absent students from 8.9% to 4.7% in the last two academic years.
“It was an educator who encouraged me to be myself and to not shy away from challenges. It was an educator who sat with me when I was discouraged or sad or lost. It is because of that educator, my life changed,” Spoon-Sadlon said. “I am fortunate because my job is to connect and support students in being their best self, whether it is going to college, making better choices, or merely believing in their ability.”
Hall’s 35 years in education, 21 with the district, have included roles as an induction coordinator, academic coach, and teaching mentor. In her current position, she has helped develop a teacher induction program for special education teachers—described as “therapy” for special education teachers.” She creates literacy and math intervention trainings and provides support for new teachers. In addition, she has coordinated ten trips to Lusaka, Zambia as part of Project TEACH (Together Educating Africa’s Children) where she leads a group of volunteer educators to help train teachers at an orphanage school.
“When a new teacher doubts their career choice, I am there to encourage them. When a veteran teacher grows weary and wants reinvigoration, I support them in developing new skills and seeking new roles. If a teacher lacks expertise in a given area, I provide the help they need or put them in touch with someone who can,” Hall said. “It is a satisfactory moment for me when I hear a teacher in training speak out of a ‘growth’ mindset and say: ‘I haven’t learned this…yet!’”
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 2018 Riverside County Teachers of the Year, the Educators of the Year were honored at the Riverside County Celebrating Educators Luncheon at the Riverside Convention Center in May. The 2018 Teachers of the Year were named in mid-2017 to align with the 2018 California State Teacher of the Year competition.
Rotary of Murrieta's Vocational Service Award
The Rotary Club of Murrieta honored Joel Levin, who teaches information communication technology at Murrieta Valley High School, for his work with the school’s Virtual Enterprise program which has won state and national honors. The Vocational Service Awards recognize service above self, integrity, good will and more.
Levin started the Virtual Enterprise program in 2008 and that first year the team won best marketing plan, best presentation, best commercial and company catalog.
In 2014 they had their first run against the 20 top teams in the nation at Virtual Enterprise International’s Youth Business Summit in New York City where the MVHS team placed second in the state and fourth in the nation for the Business Plan competition.
Virtual Enterprise students learn first-hand how to set up a simulated business and run the day-to-day operations. They decide on a new product or service each year and interview for the top jobs. Each student in the class has a job title and vice presidents oversee their work in human resources, public relations and marketing, sales and accounting. In the virtual world, students can test their limits and learn from mistakes before they cost them in the real world.
As the Virtual Enterprise program grew in popularity and success, Levin opted to have two teams to give more students the opportunity to be involved. Each year if you ask him which team is best, he will tell you that is like asking a parent to choose which child they like best – impossible.After months of building their virtual businesses and competing in state competitions, the school sent teams “SoleMates” and “Clear Coast Eyewear” to compete in the National Championships in New York City. “SoleMates” took second place in the competition, a first for the school. “Clear Coast Eyewear” finished in the top 16 teams in the country, competing against 550 teams from across the country. The teams gave a 10-minute sales pitch and answer hypothetical questions about every aspect of their virtual business. Just like the television show Shark Tank, students field five minutes of random questions including "why should I invest in your company?""It is highly unusual for a school to make it to New York three years in a row, much less having two teams competing at this level; it is truly amazing," said Teri Jones, Regional Director of Virtual Enterprise International. After their second place finish this year, Levin said the Juniors in the program are determined to take first place next year.Levin, who has taught at the school for 21 years, has found his niche, inspiring business leaders of tomorrow. “The Rotary Club is honored to recognize these upstanding citizens who through their work are making huge contributions to our community,” Rotary Club President Vickie Ashmore said. “These individuals exemplify the standards of Rotary, including ‘Service Above Self’ and the Four Way Test which stresses integrity and fairness while building good will and better friendships.”
The honorees were nominated by their respective agencies for their distinguished vocational and community service.