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June 12, 2007

Masons tab Cusick for honors 

Stephanie Cusick
Stephanie Cusick
Stephanie Cusick, a first grade teacher at El Verano Elementary school, has been named the Sonoma Valley Teacher of the Year by the Masons of Temple Lodge #14 of Free and Accepted Masons. Cusick was honored at a ceremony on June 1, during which the Masons lauded her skill and dedication at teaching children to read and write. A number of her colleagues from El Verano joined in, citing her patience and dedication as inspiration for many new teachers.

Cusick is a graduate of Sonoma State university, where she received her teaching credential in 1989. She went to work as a substitute in the Sonoma Valley Unified School District, which hired her full-time in 1991. She has spent her entire tenure teaching first grade at El Verano.

She spoke eloquently of the light in the eyes of her students as they come to grasp the ability to read, opening for them the unlimited world of the written word. That light, she said, is what keeps her enthusiasm up after nearly two decades in the classroom.

Along with her husband, Glen, a construction manager, Cusick has lived in Sonoma for 29 years. The couple have two grown children: Dr. Seric Cusick, a faculty member at US Davis Medical School, and Leah Cusick of Boston, who followed her father's footsteps into construction management. The Cusicks also have two grandchildren.

Masonry is a strong supporter of public education, and seeks to honor all members of the teaching profession by its Teacher of the Year programs sponsored at both local and state levels. Temple Lodge is the oldest club or organization of any kind in Sonoma; it was chartered May 6, 1851 and just celebrated its 156th anniversary.

In addition to sponsorship of the local Teacher of the Year, Temple Lodge awards four scholarships to graduating Sonoma High seniors each year, and eight lodge members are mentors in the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance.

Cusick will also be honored by the Masons on their Teacher of the Year float in the Sonoma Old Fashioned Fourth of July parade next month.



June 2, 2006

Masons name Estudillo teacher of the year 

Doris Estudillo’s classroom at Flowery Elementary School is known as a place where “something is always happening,” whether it be a student project, teacher planning committee or parent meeting. This year, Sonoma’s Temple Lodge 14 F. & A.M. is honoring Estudillo, the 2006 Teacher of the Year.

Lodge will be honoring her at a reception today, June 2, at 5:30 p.m. at the Sonoma Masonic Center, 669 Broadway. All friends colleagues, current and former students and their parents are invited to attend.

Estudillo teaches fourth grade at Flowery and has taught full-time for the past 19 years. She has also taught at El Verano.
 After growing up in Marin and graduating from San Rafael High School, Estudillo earned her bachelor’s degree from University of California’s, Berkeley. She resides in Sonoma with her husband Charlie; the couple has two grown daughters. 

“When I was younger in high school, women did lots of different things, but not as many things as they do nowadays,” said Estudillo.
 She didn’t want to be a lawyer or a nurse, but teaching sounded great to her as she had volunteered in an after-school recreation program for kids as a high schooler. 

Estudillo’s favorite part of her job is helping her students to be successful and not to give up.
 “Getting kids to pass their district exit skills is really a goal. It’s tangible. We collect them, grade them, they look at them,” she said. Of course there’s a lot of fun in her job too. 

“Knowing their families is so much fun at Flowery. You go downtown and see kids you’ve had. You have cousins and siblings. That part’s awesome,” she said.

Estudillo has seen Flowery transition into a full two-way immersion magnet school, a transition that has often been difficult. She said that the program has great energy in the past two years now that all the teachers are completely on board and the district is supporting the program.

Estudillo has taught fifth grade for most of her career and especially loves all the exciting activities of that last year in elementary school – which the kids learn to play instruments, are in performances; go on field trips to Tomales Bay.
 She always makes sure all her kids work to raise money for the trip, whether through a carwash, pizza sales or a barbecue. “You do these kinds of extra things so they’re working to get the money to go on these trips – so that when they got this they felt like they had earned it,” she said. 

With all she does, Estadillo still wishes she could do more. “A problem in life is time, time to do everything you wish you could do,” she said.

Sonoma Index-Tribune
May 25, 2006

Masons to honor Eileen Hale

Prestwood Elementary School fourth- and fifth- grade teacher Eileen Hale was named the 2004-05 Teacher of the Year by the Free and Accepted Masons Temple Lodge 14.

"I was shocked and surprised - I feel every (hardworking teacher) should be nominated, but it's really nice that the masons do this and honor teachers in this way," Hale said.

Every year the masons honor a Valley teacher who they believe embodies the most admirable traits of the profession.

A public ceremony for Hale will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, June 3, at the Temple Lodge on 669 Broadway. All of Hale's family, friends, colleagues, current and former students and parents are invited to attend.

The limelight won't end there - during this fall's Vintage Festival Parade, Hale will be waving to spectators from the top of the Teacher of the Year float.

Hale has spent her entire 35-year career teaching at Prestwood, arriving as a student teacher for the 1970-71 school year. She now gets to teach the children of former students. Hale has taught all grades at Prestwood (except kindergarten and first) and currently teaches a fourth- fifth-split. She has been lauded by her colleagues as a teacher whose enthusiasm has never waned and who strives every year to provide a positive learning environment for her kids. She quietly watches out for those without advocates, often taking them under her wing and gently guiding them to counseling or other services, staff points out. She also brings the outside world into the classroom by organizing Prestwood's outdoor education program and by making newspapers available in her classroom on a daily basis. One classroom aide told the masons that Hale is never short of classroom volunteers because "everyone wants to be part of such a wonderful environment."

According to Hale, her 35 years at Prestwood have flown by simply because she loves what she is doing.

"The kids are so unique and special - you're constantly learning new things along with them. And with teaching you always get the opportunity to try new and different things." She loves getting visits from former students who have blossomed into successful adults and still remember things they learned in her class.

"Often you never really know what an impression you make until they come back and tell you," she said.

Though teaching has its fair share of challenges, Prestwood Elementary has been a nurturing community for her.

"I've gotten the opportunity to work with such a wonderful group - everyone here at school is so supportive. The parents are so supportive. It makes my job easy."

Hale and her husband, Larry, live in Petaluma.