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Teacher Of The Year Finalists Announced

The San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) has announced this year’s San Joaquin County Teacher of the Year finalists and an Escalon Unified School District educator – April Egusquiza – is among them.

According to the county Office of Ed, “These five finalists represent the best of the best in education and were selected from a pool of nominees from across the county.” The winner will be the San Joaquin County nominee for California Teacher of the Year and receive a $1,000 prize. Each finalist receives a prize of $400. Prizes are donated by Premier Community Credit Union.

The finalists, in alphabetical order, are:


Linda Davis, Shasta Elementary School (Manteca Unified School District)

“She is the stuff that Marvel Comics superheroes are made of, in the form of an exceedingly humble, dedicated and successful instructor who has taken students on an academic journey, many of whom thought was not possible until they met her,” Shasta Principal Audrey Parker said when nominating Davis. She also added that Davis, “has the uncanny ability to teach confidence and self-respect to students who naively presumed they were only going to learn about algebra in their year spent with her.”


April Egusquiza, Farmington Elementary School (Escalon Unified School District)

Egusquiza connects with students and families, and her own commitment to lifelong learning and self-improvement serves as a model to students, Farmington Principal George Megenney said when nominating Egusquiza. He also noted that she rose to the challenge when schools closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“April has stepped up to the challenges of shifting learning from within the classroom into a virtual space. Her focus continues to be maintaining equity, using pre-established relationships with parents to ensure that her students receive and make best use of learning materials and learning about the technological tools available to provide her with the means to continue positively impacting students.”


Rachel Hernandez, Special Education Programs (San Joaquin County Office of Education)

Hernandez has taught in the SJCOE Deaf and Hard of Hearing program for 18 years and currently teaches students at Sierra High School in the Manteca Unified School District.

“She works very closely with the general education teachers on her campus for mainstreaming and integrates students into the campus culture,” SJCOE Special Education Director Katy Eyer said when nominating Hernandez. Eyer noted the teacher had two students graduating high school this year who she had also taught as kindergartners. “Her students are more like family, and she is able to share in their accomplishments with them. Rachel pours her heart and soul into her students and their education.”


Laura La Rue, Bear Creek High School (Lodi Unified School District)

“What truly elevates Ms. La Rue as an exemplary teacher is her ability to meet the needs of all students,” wrote Bear Creek High Principal Hillary Harrell in her nomination for the English teacher. “Ms. La Rue monitors her students very closely throughout her instruction, and she adjusts it as necessary to meet their needs. Most teachers with her level of experience would not ask others for help, but Ms. La Rue continually asks for suggestions, especially for students who struggle.”


Laura Sudderth, Lincoln Elementary School (Manteca Unified School District)

Sudderth teaches third grade and has been at Lincoln Elementary School for 31 years.

“Mrs. Sudderth is ‘that teacher.’ The teacher we all aspire to be, the teacher we want our own kids to have, the teacher that makes our younger generation want to be teachers. Parents request her and visitors to her class rave about the exceptional learning environment that she provides,” wrote Lincoln Elementary Principal Randi Fowzer in her nomination. “Not only is (Sudderth’s classroom) warm and inviting to all, but you can immediately see and feel the connections that she is making with her students.”


The winner of the award is typically announced at the San Joaquin County Classified Employees and Teacher of the Year Awards Celebration Dinner. However, due to COVID-19, the June event was postponed until the fall, when the winner will be announced.

The county Classified School Employees of the Year winners were announced earlier this year and will also be recognized at the dinner. Each winner receives $400 from Premier Community Credit Union and is nominated to be California School Employee of the Year.

In 1972, California began recognizing outstanding teachers for their dedication and commitment. Since that time, three County Teachers of the Year, Paulette Bogetti (1992), Jeff Wright (2001), and Art Coleman (2003) went on to be selected as California Teacher of the Year. Each district, through their superintendent’s office, may submit up to three candidates for consideration for the County Teacher of the Year. For more information about California Teacher of the Year, go to For more information about California Classified School Employee of the Year, go to