Merced County Excellence in Education

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Merced County Excellence in Education

The Merced County Excellence in Education Awards program began in 2006 as a partnership between EECU and the Merced County Office of Education. This program gives us the unique opportunity to showcase some of Merced County's top educators with an event many teachers refer to as the highlight of their career. A sculpture entitled "Commencement" was created by the late artist Clement Renzi and was commissioned by EECU. The piece was the final work by famed Valley sculptor Renzi, who passed away in 2009, and has a permanent home in front of the MCOE. Renzi's other works can be seen throughout the Central Valley.

Winners from school districts in Merced County are selected as finalists, and one receives the "County Winner" award. The honorees each receive a framed photo of them with their superintendent. The County Winner receives a sculpture created by Renzi and a framed photo of them with their superintendent. Nominees, family members, and special guests are invited to attend the evening reception and awards ceremony, sponsored by EECU. The ceremony honors educators in a variety of fields, ranging from special education and alternative education to preschool, elementary and high school.

2023 Merced County Excellence in Education Program

2023 Award Winners

Administrator of the Year

Maria Duran-Barajas

Maria Duran-Barajas
Special Education Department
Merced County Office of Education

Employee of the Year

Yolanda Tualla

Yolanda Tualla
Cafeteria Lead
Gustine High School
Gustine Unified School District

Teacher of the Year

Yer Lawson

Yer Lawson
Science Teacher
Merced High School
Merced Union High School District
Teacher with students


Two women reviewing document


Man reading laptop


Students with cap and gowns