Tulare County’s top educators, staff of ‘24 make the grade

Some school books positioned on a desk in front of a classroom chalkboard, where various mathematical equations can be seen.(Cherries on AdobeStock.)

Tulare County Office of Education celebrates outstanding teachers, staff in the 30th Annual Excellence in Education Awards

TULARE COUNTY – The Tulare County Office of Education has given high marks to honor its finest educators and school staff for 2024, showcasing their A+ efforts in the 30th Annual Excellence in Education Awards program.

On the 30th Annual Tulare County Excellence in Education Awards program held on April 19, Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Tim Hire announced the three winners of the program. The winners were Alexa Barba-Tepper for the Administrator/Manager of the Year, Kristy Caesar for 2024 Teacher of the Year and Lisa Kruger for 2024 School Employee of the Year.

“The winners, finalists and nominees are all phenomenal educators, creatively addressing the needs of their students and the communities they serve,” Hire stated in a press release.

Barba-Tepper was recognized as Administrator/Manager of the Year for her leadership at Redwood High School in the Visalia Unified School District. Barba-Tepper’s contributions to the school community were highlighted, from her role as assistant principal to her involvement in counseling services and special education initiatives.

According to the release, Barba-Tepper has served the students of Redwood High School since 2007, first as a school counselor and – since 2011 – as the assistant principal of  Student Services. Under her leadership, she has built a comprehensive counseling department with systems to increase student A-G course achievement and college and career readiness.

She also oversees the special education department and assists with student government activities and  the Link Crew Program. In many instances, she has connected marginalized students to a club or activity, increasing their engagement on campus.

Caesar is a transitional kindergarten learning facilitator at Lincoln Elementary School in the Lindsay Unified School District. She was recognized as the Teacher of the Year for her teaching methods and commitment to her students’ education, with her colleagues acknowledging her passion for learning.

Caesar’s nominators called her, “a model of boundless energy and passion for teaching,  leading and learning.” Caesar has worked for Lindsay Unified since 2012, previously serving the district as a literacy coach, a reading specialist, an after school literacy learning facilitator for the Migrant Education program and a kindergarten learning facilitator.

Kruger earned her recognition as the School Employee of the Year for her excellence in her role as administrative assistant at Linwood Elementary School within the Visalia Unified School District. He was recognized for dedication to supporting both staff and students, coupled with her extensive involvement in various school programs and initiatives.

Kruger has served Linwood Elementary School as an employee for 18 years – even longer as a parent volunteer. As the school’s administrative assistant, she is the “first to step up when any staff member or student needs support,” Linwood Elementary School Principal Mike Yates stated in the release.

Kruger organizes school assemblies for students and their parents, intramural sports programs at lunchtime and Linwood’s “Giving Tree” donations program for families in need.  As an artist, Kruger volunteered 21 years ago to teach art and art history in the school’s new after school program. That program continues today and includes an annual Art Show to showcase student artwork.

Throughout the selection process, a committee of Tulare County business and education leaders reviewed 30 nominations from across the county, ultimately identifying the individuals who displayed excellence in education.

The Excellence in Education program, a collaboration between the Tulare County Office of Education and Educational Employees Credit Union (EECU), aims to honor and celebrate the outstanding achievements of educators and school employees who make a significant impact in Tulare County schools, according to the release.

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