Two Desert Sands Unified School District educators were named Riverside County’s Teachers of the Year.
They’re two of four to be given this award from the county.
One of the winners is Tom Buck who teaches career and technical education at Indio High School.
“One of my student’s favorite things is that I do a lot of very cheesy jokes in the classroom and I’m not afraid to make a fool of myself in front of them,” said Buck. “All of the cheesy humor and all of the public failing is a good way to kind of building a family relationship.”
The other winner is Jodie Fecera, a family and consumer sciences teacher at Palm Desert Charter Middle School.
“It’s indescribable because I’m still friends with students that I taught my first year at Indio High School and they keep in contact and kids check in constantly,” said Fecera.
Both have been working hard this year to navigate the uncertain world of education, including closed classrooms and distant learning.
“Its really difficult coming up with lessons for a food class because you don’t know financially how the families are doing, and you don’t want to cause any other issues that they’re already facing,” said Fecera. “But I’ve had so many students and parents sending me pictures of students that are helping with meals.”
While teaching a fairly digital class, Buck said the transition was unexpected but fairly smooth.
“Some of them just have their phones and some don’t have anything, but we’re doing a little bit of everything. That could be an article for our website or a YouTube channel critique of the design or the marketing of it,” said Buck.
But teachers say their jobs are about much more than the subject matter.
“The students are great, they have a great sense of humor and you never know what to expect in a cooking class,” said Fecera.
Buck also points to his students as the reason behind his success.
“My favorite thing is that I can give a place to students who don’t really feel like they can belong anywhere. We all come together and have a place where we all belong, we just builD out own place and I think that that’s magical,” said Buck.
The two educators are now contenders for the 2020 California Teacher of the Year award.
That title has gone to Riverside County educators for the last four years.