Six teachers to receive Crystal Apple Awards

Exeter, Visalia teachers will be presented with awards tonight, April 11


VISALIA – Six local teachers will be honored with the Crystal Apple Award at 6:30 p.m. tonight, April 11 at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is the 12th year the Crystal Apple award has been presented to teachers from Visalia and Exeter high schools Nearly 100 students from early-morning religious education classes, called seminary, wrote letters thanking teachers for their efforts in the classroom. A student panel selected one teacher from each school to be honored.

The six teachers being honored are: Heidi Carmen, Exeter Union High School; Donovan McJunkin, El Diamante High School; Jean K. Newman, Redwood High School; Todd Herfurth, Mt.Whitney High School; Kari Benegar, Golden West High School; and Scott Duerksen, Visalia Technical Early College High School. School and community leaders will be in attendance.

Heidi Carmen earned her bachelor’s degree in history, her social science credential, and her master’s in administration and educational leadership at Fresno State. She currently teaches world history (also Honors), U.S. history (also AP), government (also AP), economics, and history in film at Exeter Union High School. Heidi and her husband, Brad, have been married for 25 years and have two children: Mackenzie, age 20, and Jacob, age 16. She enjoys the mountains, travel, reading, and visiting her daughter in Washington, DC. Student Ashley Howell writes, “Thank you so much for helping us to prepare for college and our AP exams. That has truly helped me in all my tests and made me more confident in my college prep experiences.”

Donovan McJunkin, a graduate of Chico State, is currently teaching economics and AP European history at El Diamante High School. He has previously taught in the Porterville Unified School District and at Exeter and Burroughs high schools. Donovan has also taught civics, U.S. history, and geography. His wife, Christine, is a principal at Kennedy Elementary in Lindsay, and they have been married for 23 years. They have three children: daughter Katy, age 22; son Trey, age 19; and son Colin, age 14. Donovan enjoys traveling with his family, fishing, and is an avid fan of Angels baseball. Student Miranda Esquivel writes, “I have not only learned about the past, but I have learned about the present. I’ve learned lessons that make me feel like a person who can make some kind of change.”

Jean K. Newman earned her bachelor’s degree in Music Education at Fresno State and her master’s of education from Columbia International University. She also studied in France at Université de Paris Sorbonne, Les Cèdres l’ecole De Langue française, and Université de Grenoble. She currently teaches French at Redwood High School. Previously Jean was a choral accompanist for Exeter Unified and Mt. Whitney High School, and she is also a private piano teacher. She has been married to her husband, Jim, since 1990 and they have four children: twins Joseph and Michael and daughters Debra and Rachel. Jean’s interests include walking (not jogging!), painting and other crafts, the mountains, and she has just started learning karate. Student Garrett Chalifoux writes, “The time I had in your class had a big influence on my worldview. I only have you to thank for my interest in foreign language and culture.”

Todd Herfurth received his bachelor’s degree in history at Fresno State and his teaching credential at National University. He currently teaches U.S. history, AP U.S. history, and AVID at Mt. Whitney High School, where he has been teaching for 12 years. His family includes his wife, Linda; his son, Scott; and his son, Michael, along with fiancée Jessica and her son, Ethan. Todd enjoys playing the concertina in an Irish folk band and playing games with his family. Student Jaydon Garcia writes, “Being in your class made me realize that if I want to be successful, I have to put forth a lot of effort. Thank you for being a great teacher!”

Kari Benegar attended Fresno State where she majored in English. She loves teaching English at Golden West High School and has been teaching for 22 years. She is married with two daughters. In her spare time she is a taxi driver for her daughters and also loves to read. Student Ashlie Dixon writes, “You are kind, generous, engaging, and an overall great teacher and person. You put in so many hours trying to make sure that every single one of your kids passes.”

Scott Duerksen attended several universities, including BYU, Cal Poly, and UCLA and is currently teaching agriculture at Visalia Technical Early College High School. He has also taught at El Diamante and Golden West. Other subjects he has previously taught include biology, chemistry, vet science, and anatomy. He has a daughter, a son, and four grandchildren with one more on the way. Scott spends his free time remodeling his house and playing guitar. Student Angel Celaya writes, “During the semester you taught me, you helped me comprehend animal science from a career aspect. It allowed me to have some direction in my career choice and gain perspective on life.”

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