Empire’s Ricks named Carson educator of the year

Laura Ricks, TOSA/instructional coach at Empire Elementary School, reacts to being named Carson City School District’s Educator of the Year on April 23, 2024.

Laura Ricks, TOSA/instructional coach at Empire Elementary School, reacts to being named Carson City School District’s Educator of the Year on April 23, 2024.
Photo by Jessica Garcia.

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Laura Ricks, Empire Elementary School teacher on special assignment (TOSA) and instructional coach, models what it means to be a learner first for herself, then to her students and fellow teachers. It’s a means of helping others develop their strengths, she said.

“That was something I put forth to my students,” she told the Appeal. “When you go and do these kinds of things, you never stop learning. It’s lifelong so you can be better at what you’re doing.”

For Ricks’ zeal for self-improvement and other striking qualities applied to its overall mission, the Carson City School District named Ricks Educator of the Year on Tuesday.

Sandra Guzzetta, special education paraprofessional at Bordewich Bray Elementary School was selected as Education Support Professional of the Year and Chelise Crookshanks, Mark Twain Elementary School principal, was named Administrator of the Year.

Ricks and Guzzetta were selected from 25 site winners including 11 teachers and 14 ESP employees who were selected from peers and administrators from various sites and schools within the district. The Administrator of the Year was selected from nominations from 27 school administrators. Selection is based on a series of interview questions from a panel of judges. Upon conclusion of those interviews, the panel then decided upon one ESP employee of the year, one educator of the year and one administrator of the year.

Guzzetta, who was described as a generous educator, often purchases snacks, clothing and school materials out of her own pocket for her students, striving to “find the one thing that strikes a chord with them,” she said in her panel interview.

She told the Appeal she was “over the moon” to be chosen. Working as a special education teacher is very rewarding to watch her students transition into general education classrooms and advance in a year’s time.

“The progress is unreal,” she said. “It’s important not to take your job too seriously. We have a lot of fun. … And they always cheer us up because they’re really, really sweet.”

Crookshanks, new to Mark Twain this year, previously served as vice principal and the dean of students at Carson Middle School. Before that, she served at the high school level in Ely as an assistant principal, dean of students, instructional coach and science teacher at White Pine High School, so attempting the elementary level this year is new for her, she said.

“I’m honored to have received this award on behalf of all the administrators,” she told the Appeal. “Working in schools is a pleasure to be able to watch the kids grow, and being able to build the team of teachers to make that work and happen is a real calling. And I’m just grateful.”

Other staff members from the district’s sites and departments honored during the evening shared their gratitude for opportunities CCSD has provided. They acknowledged families and parents’ assistance for their students’ benefit.

Maria Navarette, an English language paraprofessional at Carson Middle School and her site’s ESP Employee of the Year, was selected for helping to foster communication between her students and families who are learning English.

Navarette, who expressed her appreciate in Spanish and English Tuesday, said she considered herself a “bridge” for families.

“We’re trying to help students be successful in class while they’re learning a second language, and it’s not easy for parents,” she said. “But working together, we can accomplish that and go beyond. As a staff, as an employee, and as a parent, each one brings skills and knowledge, and we can make every student successful inside the school and outside the school.”

Educators of the Year:

Heather Canfield, kindergarten teacher, Fritsch Elementary

Marla Churchill, TOSA/instructional coach, Mark Twain Elementary

Pamela Cowperthwaite, TOSA/curriculum & assessment coordinator, Student Support Services

Nicole Fagundes, world history, global issues teacher, Carson High School

Jacqueline Koch, eighth-grade English teacher, Carson Middle School

Miyoko (Mimi) Loflin, TOSA/instructional coach, Bordewich Bray Elementary

Laura Ricks, TOSA/instructional coach, Empire Elementary

Kristin Steinkraus, science teacher, Pioneer Academy

Andrew Tiscareno, sixth- and seventh-grade social studies teacher, Eagle Valley Middle School

Socorro Vega, first-grade teacher, Seeliger Elementary

Brittni Winkler, fifth-grade teacher, Fremont Elementary

Educational Support Professionals of the Year:

Socorro Ampudia, custodian, Fritsch Elementary

Patricia Bean, distance education assistant, Pioneer Academy

Denali Bell, library media technician, Mark Twain Elementary

Jessica Graham, cook/baker, Seeliger Elementary

Sandra Guzzetta, special education paraprofessional, Bordewich Bray Elementary

Ratree Hamilton, special education paraprofessional, Fremont Elementary

Jacqueline Kleinfieldt, information technology support technician, Administration

Susan Maher, pre-kindergarten paraprofessional, Empire Elementary

Maria Navarette, English language paraprofessional, Carson Middle School

Jamie Page, administrative assistant, Eagle Valley Middle School

Enrique (Henry) Ramos Talamantes, groundskeeper, operations

Jenna Redus, administrative assistant, Student Support Services

Heather Stagliano, administrative assistant, Transportation

John Wilson, custodian, Carson High School


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