Ray Huard … Vista elementary school teacher Jenny Anderson had this advice for her colleagues – “Put your heart with the kids and everything will follow.”
“The passion for the kids is going to take you everywhere,” said Anderson, who teaches at Casita Center for Technology, Science and Math.
Anderson was among six Vista Unified School District teachers and others given Golden Apple Awards by the Board of Education for exemplary work over the past school year.
“I’m just really blessed that I’m in a position to do what I love,” Anderson said.
Photos by Laura Olden
Also receiving Golden Apple awards were Vista Visions Academy teacher Nicole Bechtold; Bobier Elementary School Assistant Principal Nicole Hendricks; Robin Hooper, a special education teacher at Hannalei Elementary School; Vista High School Athletic Director Pat Moramarco, and Mark Taylor, who oversees school maintenance and building operations as plant lead at Vista High School.
School Superintendent Devin Vodicka said the six were “some of the best and brightest and hardest working employees in the district.”
Anderson, who is an International Baccalaureate and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) specialist at Casita, was praised by her colleague for being “inspired by the future and what could be.”
“This altruistic teacher inspires educators throughout the state of California, in Vista Unified, and especially at Casita Center,” Board of Education Trustee Elizabeth Jaka said in reading comments Anderson’s coworkers made in nominating her for the award.
“Her classroom is a DREAMS (Design, Research, Engineering, Art, Mathematics and Science) lab where design, research, engineering, arts, math and science are integrated in a flexible learning environment created to foster collaboration and creativity,” Jaka read. “Every kindergartener through fifth grader enters this lab to become ‘stemologists’ who persevere and critically think through (computer) coding, which teaches them to pay attention to detail, learn from mistakes, troubleshoot, be creative, and think logically.”
Hooper said she was shocked to be chosen for a Golden Apple.
“I just do my job,” Hooper said
That’s not the way those who nominated Hooper see it.
“This educator is a breath of fresh air,” they wrote. “She is always willing to help any person in need and finds a way to make all her students feel like it is the best day ever while making everyone she works with feel valued.”
A teacher in Vista since 2005, Hooper “is a great listener, team player, and educator who responds with positive, creative and productive strategies and feedback.”
Reading from the nomination that Hooper’s coworkers wrote, Board of Education Trustee Jim Gibbons said Hooper “is trusted by her colleagues, as they often seek her out for advice about students with special needs.”
“She works with three to four aides per year in a small setting instructing students with individual needs and her organization, knowledge and leadership make the flow of the day seamless.”
Bechtold said she was “humbled” to receive a Golden Apple.
“To be recognized for something you treasure and truly enjoy is exceptional,” Bechtold said. “To work with an administrator like (Vista Visions Principal) Erin English has really allowed me to blossom.”
Bechtold is part of a district team which is developing a program of personalized learning that tailors lessons to the strengths and needs of each student individually.
According to the nomination submitted by her colleagues, Bechtold “is the epitome of respect and collaboration.”
“She is unwavering in her belief that all children should be challenged and should be provided an education that inspires critical thinking, collaboration, and communication,” Board of Education President Rich Anderson said in reading Bechtold’s nomination.
Bechtold is “a gentle, kind presence” at Vista Visions and “has added a level of rigor and responsibility to our students learning that is impressive,” Anderson read.
Hendricks, who is in her second year as Bobier’s assistant principal and has worked in the district for nine years, said, “I’m going to stay in Vista. There’s nowhere else I’d rather work.”
Like Bechtold, Hendricks said she was humbled to be chosen for a Golden Apple.
“I really feel like I’m accepting it on behalf of all Vista administrators,” Hendricks said. “We just work with a really amazing team, both at the (school) site and the district.”
According to her colleagues, Hendricks stands out as “an empowering leader who knows when to step forward and guide our team, and when to step back to follow and support others’ ideas.”
Reading from Hendricks’ nomination, Board of Education Trustee Carol Herrera said Hendricks “is compassionate, fair and equitable with children and with all members of the school community.”
Hendricks was praised for greeting every student and family at the front gate of the school daily, “building trust with families and instilling a sense of security and community.”
“Many of us have had the opportunity to work with Nicole Hendricks over the years and have seen her amazing character in her decision making,” her coworkers wrote. “She is a visionary who constantly works to refine our current systems. She has an amazing ability to balance many projects. She also knows how to have fun with students.”
Vista High School’s Moramarco was so stunned to win a Golden Apple that he said “I really am at a loss for words,” after Board of Education Angela Chunka gave him the award.
Reading from what his colleagues said about Moramarco, Chunka said that Moramarco “is constantly fundraising” to support school programs.
“Oftentimes, he will spend his own money in order to ensure his students have what they need,” Chunka said.
Calling Moramarco “a living example” of what Vista High School and the district stands for, Chunka said Moramarco is not only respected at the high school, but “he is also seen as the wise sage of North County and other sites (schools) will look to him for solutions.”
“He is a great teacher/athletic director and coach, but an even better man,” Chunka said. “We are lucky to have people like him in our district. The most impressive piece is he never wants credit, nor the limelight.”
Vista High School plant manager Taylor was praised by his colleagues for hi deep loyalty to the school.
A 1982 Vista High School graduate and former drum major, “He constantly does what is asked and will go above and beyond in order to ensure the students and staff have a clean campus,” his colleagues wrote.
“He is constantly looking for ways to upgrade the facilities at VHS as well as maintain what we have,” they wrote. “He puts in a number of hours in order to ensure the activities go off without a hitch regardless of the situation. For a school that never sleeps, he is the person that keeps it up and running.”