Lemoore Elementary School District dominates Kings County Excellence in Education Awards

By Ed Martin, Editor
Christopher Morshead, Liberty Middle School teacher
Christopher Morshead, Liberty Middle School teacher

The Lemoore Elementary School District scored a “triple play” of sorts by placing three of its employees in the finals of the 2018 Kings County Excellence in Education Awards. The local district has an administrator, teacher, and employee in the prestigious event.

All the candidates have considerable experience in education. They include Liberty School Teacher Christopher Morshead, Cinnamon Elementary School Principal Loretta Black, and Employee of the Year Lionel Garza, a custodian.

The Excellence in Education Awards will be held Wednesday, April 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the Hanford Civic Center. Other local honorees include two finalists from Lemoore High School, employee finalist Melissa Dufur, the district’s registrar and Lemoore Middle College History Teacher Bryan Rice.

The finalists are selected by a Kings County Office of Education committee that includes teachers, professionals, and local business leaders. 

Lemoore Elementary Teacher of the Year finalist is Christopher Morshead, a district presence since 2006 and a music teacher at Liberty Middle School. He also serves as the Director of Instrumental Music and Choir for grades 4-8.

“I am impressed with his leadership, dedication, knowledge and innovative teaching strategies utilized to educate, inspire and make a difference for students,” said Lemoore Elementary School Superintendent Cheryl Hunt.

The 36-year-old music teacher has a bachelor’s degree in music education from Fresno State. He says the most enjoyable aspect of his job is getting to be with kids every day. “I love the subject area that I get to teache; music is my passion and to be able to extend that passion to the next generation is even that much more rewarding,” he said.

He credits a few of his teachers, including his Kindergarten mother. “They invested in me, as a person,” he said. “We get to be with these kids sometimes eight or more hours a day, five days a week. What a great opportunity to help them get excited about learning, teach them that failure is going to happen and how we respond to it shapes who we are.

 “I work with the most amazing group of men and women (colleagues, teachers, administrators, and other school staff),” he insisted. “These people believe wholeheartedly that all kids can learn, and they work tirelessly every day as a single-connected community to make sure these kids are educated, motivated, and loved.”

He is married to Katrina Morshead, an Engvall Elementary teacher. The two have been married for 15 years with three kids.

Administrator of the Year Loretta Black

Cinnamon Elementary School Principal Loretta Black
Cinnamon Elementary School Principal Loretta Black

Lemoore Elementary District finalist for Administrator of the Year is a longtime teacher and principal Loretta Black who has been with the district since 2005 serving as an elementary school teacher, learning coordinator, assistant principal and since 2012 Cinnamon Elementary School’s principal.

“Loretta embodies every quality that one would attribute to an outstanding instructional leader,” said Hunt. “She values building relationships and is committed to the belief in every child, every day which is permeated in all aspects of the culture at the Cinnamon Elementary School campus.”

The 44-year-old principal is a Lemoore High School graduate where just one of her claims to fame was as the yearbook editor during her senior year.

She earned her bachelor’s degree at Fresno State and masters at California State University Bakersfield. She has taught first and second grades at Meadow Lane School. She later took a job as the Engvall School assistant principal and then took on a new role as learning Cinnamon and Engvall learning coordinator before assuming the top post at Cinnamon Elementary.

The best part of her job? “That’s an easy one. It’s the kids,” she said. “They keep me on my toes and always surprise me.”

She always wanted to be a teacher since about the third grade and credits her third-grade teacher, Island School’s Mrs. Hall, for instilling in her the goal of teaching.

“I was surprised and excited to find out from Mrs. Hunt of my nomination for the Excellence in Education Award.  It is truly an honor to be nominated for LUESD, and it's extra special because we have finalists in each of the three categories," said Black.

“Her passion and courage have pushed our district to be focused on improving practices in order to provide every opportunity for our students to succeed,” said Hunt.

Black is married to husband Bill, and the two have a pair of kids, Lauren and Jacob.

Employee of the Year Lionel Garza

Lemoore Elementary Employee of the Year Lionel Garza
Lemoore Elementary Employee of the Year Lionel Garza

Garza has worked at the district as a member of the custodial and grounds team since 2005. “Lionel exemplifies an employee who has a commitment and desire to assist youth in meeting their full potential,” said Hunt.

His commitment goes far beyond the district. In addition to his confident demeanor with students, Garza is a mentor with the Boy Scouts and serves as a local baseball, soccer and basketball coach.

“His work ethic and dedication to serving others are apparent in all that he does. He models our district’s vision of excellence,” said Hunt.

Garza, 46, works as a site custodian and grounds person at the University Charter School at West Hills College, Lemoore. He’s worked at the Charter School for the past ten years.

“The most enjoyable aspect of my job is to work around and with kid’s and be a mentor and a positive role model,” he said proudly.

A lot of kids know Garza as a scoutmaster or coach. He’s been married 24 years to Maria Garza, and they have a 21-year-old daughter who recently graduated from Fresno State. She intends to become a teacher. He also has a 16-year-old son at Lemoore High School.

“When my boss, (Principal Chris Camarena) told me that I was nominated I was very excited and honored that I was able to represent Lemoore Elementary School and University Charter School. It is a blessing working and giving the opportunity to work with the School system," he said.


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