Julie Rivard is passionate about art and thinks it embodies a creative thinking process. This passion for all things artistic and teaching others has led to Rivard being named the 2011 Merced County Teacher of the Year.
The 46-year-old Merced High School art teacher was honored Thursday night at an awards reception at the Merced County Fairgrounds. The event celebrates educators throughout the county and honors representatives of the 20 participating school districts.
"There's something really unique about art," Rivard said. "Every student can come up with their own solution to a problem I give them. All of their solutions are right, not like math where there is only one answer to a problem. I see the value of that creative thinking process."
Rivard was an art director and graphic designer for 14 years with OnTarget Marketing in Merced. After having her children, she said her desire to do something else worthwhile led her to return to California State University, Stanislaus, and receive a multiple subjects teaching credential.
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She doesn't believe she could have been a teacher right out of college because she was too shy. She received her bachelor's degree in art in 1987 from California State University, Long Beach.
Rivard has been at Merced High for nine years. She taught art for three years at Hoover Middle School until electives were eliminated. She taught English and social studies for two years at Hoover before getting a chance to go to the high school.
"Art helped me become who I am," Rivard said, "and it's underestimated how much it helps solve problems."
"At the elementary and middle school level, art is much more expendable since the focus is on math and English. Art falls lower on the list," she said.
Rivard said her students are leaps and bounds ahead of her when she was a high school student. She is proud of giving students real-life skills they can use in design, animation, illustration or video fields.
"The Teacher of the Year is a big honor," Rivard said. "I'm humbled by it. I feel there are a lot of great teachers out there who don't get recognized."
Rivard has a remarkable skill set and is highly motivated. She has served the school well as an outstanding art teacher and has demonstrated instructional leadership in the realm of art curriculum and content standards, Merced High Principal John Olson said.
Tammie Calzadillas, executive director of educational services for the Merced Union High School District, said Rivard is a dedicated and passionate professional who epitomizes what a Teacher of the Year should be.
"Several weeks ago I conducted a walk-through in Julie's classroom and witnessed the highest quality of instruction I have seen thus far in my tenure in the district. She is a positive educator who can always be counted on to go above and beyond in any situation," Calzadillas said.
While she does some acrylic painting and pastels, Rivard specializes in computer graphics. She said the arts field is growing tremendously.
Rivard attended Our Lady of Mercy School and graduated in 1983 from Merced High School. She teaches advanced art and two computer graphics classes and is an adviser for the journalism club.
Other teachers honored this year are Thomas Quiambao, Delhi Unified School District; Heather Vargas, Gustine Unified School District; Jonathan Fincher, Los Banos Unified High School District; Mocia Avila, Merced City School District preschool; Steven Cripe, special education with the Merced County Office of Education; Karen Patterson, Weaver Union School District; and Austin Worden, Winton School District.
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or email@example.com.