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Palm Springs teacher named a 2022 Riverside County Teacher of the Year

A Palm Springs middle school teacher was surprised with an announcement that she has been named one of the first two 2022 Riverside County Teachers of the Year.

The Riverside County Teachers of the Year are selected from nearly 20,000 educators in the county.

Riverside County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Edwin Gomez paid a virtual surprise to the first two Teachers of the Year, which includes Nichi Avina of Cielo Vista Charter School in Palm Springs.

Ms. Avina is credited for spearheading the district-wide trauma informed training, creating a STEAM Lab, establishing an art mentoring program, received multiple EcoRise environmental grants, and re-developed the school garden.

Avina would hold virtual social-emotional check-ins during distance learning as well as real-time assessments with online quizzes, collaborative scientific models on a shared virtual whiteboard, and partner talks through FlipGrid.

Nichi Avina

“I see Nichi as more than a Teacher of the Year, she is a real-life superhero,” said former student, LoriBeth Uloa, who remembers Nichi’s support when she was struggling in middle school. “For the first time in my life, Nichi looked at me as the teachable student that I continue to be. I was unsure of who I could count on to listen to me without pre-judgment of my situation.”

Avina arrived in the United States from the Philippines when she was just 7years old and lived the experience of many first generation immigrant families. She graduated from college in 1998, but when her brother died tragically in 2001, she returned to school. She now has a bachelor's in biology and a Master's in education.

She has been a teacher for 15 years now.

Avila was not the only teacher surprised with the announcement.

Gomez also paid a virtual visit to Kathleen Magana, a 3rd grade teacher at Garretson Elementary School in Corona.

Kathleen Magana

Magana has been a teacher for 23 years and is credited for pioneering the elementary Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) Program at Garretson Elementary, and recently launched the myBuddy Mentorship Program to the school. The program bridges the path from elementary to high school for minority students as third grade students are paired up with high school student mentors for encouragement and advice.

Colleagues say Magana connects students to learning through fresh brownies to teach about equivalent fractions and a class compost project to help students experience first-hand science lessons.

“She represents a creative, tenacious passion for students and the teaching profession,” said Garretson Elementary School principal, Ana Luna. “She possesses a level of integrity that is one of the greatest contributions to our community. She is a vital part of Garretson.”

The Riverside County Teachers of the Year are selected from nearly 20,000 educators in the county. The rigorous application process requires candidates to spend time reflecting on, and carefully defining, their teaching philosophy. The county teachers of the year are selected on the basis of nominations by teachers, principals, and school district administrators throughout the county. Applications are then submitted to the Riverside County Office of Education, where a selection committee reviews the applications on each district candidate and selects semi-finalists. The selection committee then conducts interviews to select the final four candidates before the county superintendent announces the Riverside County Teachers of the Year.

Once named, all four teachers of the year will represent Riverside County in the 2022 California Teacher of the Year competition where at least one Riverside County teacher has been selected as a California Teacher of the Year in seven of the last eight years, including several teachers from the Coachella Valley:

  • 2021 – Keisa Brown, University Heights Middle School, Riverside USD and Allison Cyr, Lyndon B. Johnson Elementary School, Desert Sands Unified School District
  • 2020 – Brenda Chavez-Barreras, Good Hope Elementary School, Perris Elementary School District
  • 2019 – Dr. Angel Mejico, El Cerrito Middle School, Corona-Norco USD
  • 2018 – Dr. Brian McDaniel, Painted Hills Middle School, Palm Springs USD
  • 2017 – Shaun Bunn, Ethan A. Chase Middle School, Romoland School District
  • 2016 – Michelle Cherland, Carrillo Ranch Elementary School, Desert Sands USD
  • 2014 – Jessica Pack, James Workman Middle School, Palm Springs USD
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Jesus Reyes

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