The Santa Cruz County Office of Education (Santa Cruz COE) is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2023 Santa Cruz County Educator of the Year Awards, honors awarded to staff from across the county who exemplify educational excellence and embody the values of our school community.
Honorees will receive a plaque recognizing their service to Santa Cruz County and their names will be engraved in the Educators of the Year perpetual plaque hanging in the foyer of the Santa Cruz COE.
Santa Cruz County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Faris Sabbah will honor this year’s award recipients during the County Board of Education meeting at 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 18, at the COE, 400 Encinal St., in Santa Cruz.
The 2022-23 honorees are as follows:
- Teacher of the Year: Maria Ferreira, Special Education Teacher, Post Senior Class, Santa Cruz County Office of Education
- Classified Employee of the Year: Paige Lynd, Administrative Assistant, Happy Valley School, Happy Valley Elementary School District
- Counselor of the Year: Jose G. Morelos, Academic Counselor, Pajaro Middle School, Pajaro Valley Unified School District
- Administrator of the Year: Craig Broadhurst, Principal, Santa Cruz Gardens Elementary School, Soquel Union Elementary School District; and Melissa Nix, Assistant Principal, Shoreline Middle School, Live Oak School District
- Community Partner of the Year: NAMI Santa Cruz County
A selection committee reviewed nominations using the California Standards for the Teaching Profession, the California Professional Standards for Educational Leaders, and the following criteria:
- Ability to create a passion for learning
- High expectations for all students
- Strong communication and collaborative skills
- Strong sense of values, integrity, and professional ethics
- Knowledge of subject and curriculum content
- Commitment to the community they serve
Typically a single individual organization is selected for each award category. However, this year the selection process resulted in a tie for the Administrator of the Year Award, leading to two recipients sharing the honor of 2023 Santa Cruz County Administrator of the Year.
2023 Educator of the Year Award Recipients
2023 Teacher of the Year
Recipient: Maria Ferreira, Special Education Teacher, Post Senior Class, Santa Cruz County Office of Education
Maria has been teaching special education for 18 years, from Early Intervention to adults ages 18-22. She joined the COE in 2017 and currently teaches a Post Senior Class. An immigrant from Paraguay who moved to the U.S. as a young adult, Maria learned English while attending Fresno City College and eventually transferred to Fresno State University where she earned her teaching credential. She developed a passion for special education after her first son was diagnosed with autism at age 2. Soon after, her second son was also diagnosed with autism and she decided to make special education her career while also spending countless hours doing and coordinating therapy for her boys. Her two sons with autism are now young adults and although they have many needs, they are both thriving young adults.
Maria has dedicated her teaching career to supporting students with special needs to have full access to the community and learn crucial safety and life skills while having a positive experience.
2023 Classified Employee of the Year
Recipient: Paige Lynd, Administrative Assistant, Happy Valley School, Happy Valley Elementary School District
Paige has served as an Administrative Assistant at Happy Valley for over 15 years and prior to that was a parent volunteer for over 5 years as both of her children attended the school. Being a small, one school, school district, the role of Administrative Assistant can be summed up as everyone and everything. Her background in bookkeeping and as a registered nurse helped prepare her to take on the many roles required in the position at a small, one-school district. Some days that can consist of payroll, HR, accounts payable, attendance, and state and federal reporting, while other days it’s everything from maintenance, snakes in classrooms, and flooding buildings to bandaids and first aid to students. “The students are definitely the best part of my job,” she says. “No day is the same, and I never get bored!”
2023 Counselor of the Year
Recipient: Jose G. Morelos, Academic Counselor, Pajaro Middle School, Pajaro Valley Unified School District
Jose G. Morelos is an academic counselor at Pajaro Middle School. He was raised in the Community of Watsonville and is the youngest of seven children to a widowed mother, who worked day in and day out to be the sole provider to her children. At a young age, he learned the importance of working hard and having the resiliency to overcome many obstacles while learning the values and struggles of a first-generation immigrant family. Like any young man of his generation, Jose had to make difficult choices to stay engaged in school. The Cabrillo Advancement Scholarship Program was an eye opener to his full potential which led him to discover his passions which paved a path to higher education.
After graduating from San Jose State University with a BA in Sociology and Mexican American Studies, he returned to his community to work as an assistant Social Worker. After a few years of working in the medical field, Jose returned to his true passion, teaching, and he went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Counseling Education and PPS credential. Jose has worked as a counselor for 15 years, 11 of those at Pajaro Middle School. He also serves his community of Pajaro as an advocate, leader, and mentor for families, colleagues, and students, working to inspire and guide future first-generation professionals.
2023 Administrator of the Year
Recipients: Craig Broadhurst, Principal, Santa Cruz Gardens Elementary School, Soquel Union Elementary School District; and Melissa Nix, Assistant Principal, Live Oak Elementary School, Live Oak School District
Craig Broadhurst is an accomplished educational professional with over three decades of experience. He currently serves as Principal of Santa Cruz Gardens Elementary School, before which he taught upper elementary and two years of middle school physical education from 1988 to 2007 – including a two-year position at the Vienna International School in Austria. Craig then embarked on a sixteen-year administrative career, starting as an assistant principal in Pajaro Valley Unified School District and later serving as the principal of Main Street Elementary and New Brighton Middle School. During his time at New Brighton Middle School, Craig successfully implemented the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) elective program to enhance college and career readiness for students. Alongside his dedication to education, Craig enjoys an active lifestyle through sports and hobbies such as soccer, cycling, music, woodworking, and spending quality time with his daughter Milan and partner Nancy.
Melissa Nix is in her third year as the Assistant Principal at Shoreline Middle School, where she has proudly worked for 18 years as a math teacher, instructional coach, and administrator. She is recognized by colleagues for demonstrating the highest level of commitment to serving each student, staff member, and parent through an equity lens. Melissa is married with two amazing children, ages 12 and 9, and has been part of the Santa Cruz community for almost 30 years.
2023 Community Partner of the Year
Recipient: NAMI Santa Cruz County
NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Santa Cruz County deeply values inclusion, empowerment, and equity, striving for well-being for all through education, support, and advocacy for those with mental health conditions, their loved ones, and the surrounding community. Its programs include evidence-based support groups and classes for students, their caregivers, and school staff, as well as Help Lines for those looking for one-on-one support in connecting to local resources. NAMI programs are offered in both English and Spanish, are always free of cost to participants, and require only self-identification to join. NAMI aims to help transform isolation into community, stigma about mental illness into compassion and understanding, and a lack of resources into abundant and high-quality care. Find out more at namiscc.org.