Photo courtesy: Heather Martinson

Front row: among the region’s ‘Excellent’ teachers are (from left) Nicole Palacio of Nicolet Middle School in Banning; Hope Gutierrez of Yucaipa High School; and Brandy Lee of Highland Academy in Beaumont.

As this school year is winding down, four area teachers were honored in Banning on April 28 at the annual Teachers of Excellence evening.

The event was hosted by the youth of the Yucaipa California Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Award recipients were nominated by Church youth in the teachers' classes.

Final honorees were chosen for the impact they have on the lives of their students.

This year's recipients were Mrs. Nicole Palacio of Nicolet Middle School, Coach Brian Cleary of Beaumont High School, Mrs. Hope Gutierrez of Yucaipa High School, and Mrs. Brandy Lee of Highland Academy.

Mrs. Palacio was nominated by Sila and Nani Patterson.

The girls said that Palacio supports students in their ideas, she teaches leading by example, and she connects with students to help them achieve.

Palacio said it is her honor to connect with and work with the young ladies and gentlemen at her school and looks forward to each day with them.

Coach Cleary was nominated by Hailey Jones.

Haley says Cleary always has a positive classroom.

He plays music and challenges the students. Coach Cleary enjoys teaching.

He loves the light bulb moments, the chaos and the mess that comes along with the project-based curriculum he uses.

Cleary says he tries really hard to always make his classroom an even better place. More than a job, Cleary feels teaching is his calling.

Caitlyn Brizzee and Ava Saylor nominated Gutierrez because she loves her students.

Gutierrez helps each student be their best.

She is energetic and passionate. She teaches for the love that she has for every life she comes across.

Like Caitlyn said, “Mrs. Gutierrez is like Mary Poppins: 'Practically perfect in every way.'”

Gutierrez has been teaching at Yucaipa High School and she says she continues to learn new things from her students every day.

“Praise God,” said Gutierrez, “The only reason I'm able to do anything I do is because of God.”

Lee was nominated by Kyle Neilson, Abigale Stevenson, Landon Westbrook, Chandler Westbrook, and Breven Murrill.

Lee was nominated because she's fun to be around and her students look forward to her classes. Lee tells stories, pulls pranks, shows empathy and compassion, encourages her students, and she helps the students find real-life applications of the things they learn in class.

“Relationships are the key,” said Lee, “I use my sense of humor to develop relationships with the students so they will listen to what I have to say.”

The ceremony ended with comments from Yucaipa Stake President Darryl Cartozian.

Parents, students, and local dignitaries in attendance were all fortunate to get to know this group of passionate and dedicated teachers.


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