San Joaquin County Teacher of the Year Announced

Ripon Elementary School teacher moves forward as California Teacher of the Year nominee

The San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) is excited to announce that Texas Keo has been named the 2021 San Joaquin County Teacher of the Year. 

As San Joaquin County Teacher of the Year, Keo receives $1,000 from Premier Community Credit Union, a longtime supporter of educators in San Joaquin County. Keo's nomination will now be submitted to the state for consideration as California Teacher of the Year.

Keo has 14 years of teaching experience and teaches students in grades TK-3 as a response to intervention teacher at Ripon Elementary School in the Ripon Unified School District. She was nominated by Dana Phelps, school principal.

In the nomination, Phelps describes how Texas is not only a great teacher, but someone who overcame great obstacles to become a valued member of the Ripon Elementary community and an asset to students and families.

"Texas is an extremely hard-worker who has persevered through many challenges in her life. Her obstacles were not roadblocks, but lessons she used as tools to mold herself into the driven and caring woman she is," Phelps wrote. "She knows what it is like to be an English-language learner, and the many challenges her students face from her own first-hand experiences. Texas always puts her students first, while conveying patience and empathy due to her own life experiences."

Keo experienced a difficult childhood and was the first member of her family to graduate from college. One of eight sisters, Keo officially adopted her four younger sisters and put them all through college, too.

When asked what she believed were the qualities of a good teacher, she said one was perseverance -- especially over the past year.  "There will always be challenges as a teacher, and we need to learn how to be flexible and to problem-solve together. The stronger we are united, the better it will be for our children. And that's what it's about, our kids. Our children need to learn. They need to succeed."

The winner of the award is typically announced at the annual San Joaquin County Classified Employees and Teacher of the Year Awards Celebration Dinner. However, due to COVID-19, the celebration event was held virtually. The annual awards honor the best of the best in the education profession and celebrate the talented, caring, and committed educators and school personnel who make a difference in the lives of their students and in the community.

Each Teacher of the Year finalist also received $400 from Premier Community Credit Union:

Amanda Bailey, Second Grade

Bohn Elementary School, Tracy Unified School District

Renae Potts, Sixth Grade

Jefferson Elementary School, Jefferson Elementary School District

Hans Schmitz, High School

Sierra High School, Manteca Unified School District

Devon Vallon, Third Grade

Bethany Elementary School, Lammersville Unified School District

The county Classified School Employees of the Year winners were announced earlier this year. Each winner received $400 from Premier Community Credit Union and is nominated to be California School Employee of the Year. They are:


Darla Harmon, Data Analyst
District Office, Ripon Unified School District

Harold Moore, Head Custodian
Van Buren Elementary School, Stockton Unified School District


Joan Gonzalez, Cook Manager
John R. Williams Elementary School, Lincoln Unified School District


*Pamela Wampler, LVN (Licensed Vocational Nurse)
McFall School, San Joaquin County Office of Education


Ashley Fisher, Library Technician
McKinley Elementary School, Tracy Unified School District


Mike Kuhnlenz, Campus Monitor
East Union High School, Manteca Unified School District 

Manuel Faria, Mechanic Specialist
Transportation Shop, Tracy Unified School District


Nick Watson, Information Technology Coordinator
District Office, Jefferson Elementary School District

*Wampler was named the California Classified Employee of the Year in the Health and Student Services category.

Posted: 6/3/2021