Skip to Main Content

Sacramento Area’s Top Two Teachers Announced: County Teachers of the Year 1997

Two Sacramento Educators to Represent County in State Teachers of the Year Competition


At the annual awards dinner held September 26 at the Sacramento Hilton Hotel, the following were announced as Teachers of the Year 1997 for Sacramento County: Marilyn Ferris-Steed, Martin Luther King, Jr., K-8 School (Sacramento City Unified School District) and Ralphene Lee, Trajan Elementary School (San Juan Unified School District).

Ferris-Steed and Lee were among 14 teachers recognized last night as Teacher of the Year for their respective school districts. Among those present at the dinner were the honorees' superintendents and principals. Each Teacher of the Year was introduced by a current or former student.

Sacramento County Teacher of the Year Marilyn Ferris-Steed, a first-grade teacher with 25 years of experience, is known for the "success seminars" she offers in before-school hours to students needing additional help with reading. She has worked at MLK School for eight years teaching grades one and two. Child of a father disabled by glaucoma and a mother who waitressed to support the family, Ferris-Steed entered the teaching profession through the Teacher Corps program, earning a grant that enabled her to receive a B.A. in English from the University of the Pacific. She earned her M.A. in English and teaching credential from Calif. State University, Sacramento, in 1971. She has served as a science mentor for her district's teachers and has recently been selected as a beginning teacher support provider. "To teach a child, you must reach the child," says Ferris-Steed, citing her "rule of ten," a concept suggesting that "to change behavior, it may take ten positive interactions. I always want to be one of those ten." She believes that "teachers have to be willing to do anything it takes to get their students to reach their academic potential." Ferris-Steed was a recipient of the Rudy Castillo Memorial Award in 1993 for her volunteer activities in Elk Grove, where she resides.

Sacramento County Teacher of the Year Ralphene Lee has taught for 35 years, including 12 years as a third-grade instructor at Trajan Elementary School. She recently put together a model program to improve the academic standing of seven of her most seriously at-risk students. This "Dream Team" showed significant improvement by the end of the school year. She received her B.A. from Iowa State University and has a reading specialist certificate from Calif. State University, Sacramento. Lee has been a mentor teacher in San Juan Unified School District and was one of three persons selected to receive the 1995 Outstanding Contributions to Literacy Award at the California Reading Association Conference. "I believe my responsibility as a teacher is to help parents, as well as students," she says, each year offering workshops for parents of her students and routinely calling parents to share their student's success. She also has developed 19 in-service workshops which have been presented more than 250 times to national, state, and local audiences of teachers, administrators, and parents. "I grew up knowing I would be a teacher," says Lee, who lives in Carmichael. "After 35 years in this profession, I can still say I look forward to teaching every day!"

All 16 Sacramento County school districts and the County Office of Education are invited each year to participate in the Teachers of the Year program. Because of their size, three districts — Elk Grove, Sacramento City, and San Juan Unified — are eligible to submit two entries. Each district's Teacher of the Year completes an application, including an extensive biography and answers to questions ranging from personal philosophy of teaching to an understanding of current educational issues. A community selection committee comprised of education professionals, including previous Teachers of the Year, meets to interview each district Teacher of the Year and select the two finalists.

Winners of the statewide competition, conducted in November by the California Department of Education, will then vie for the national title of Teacher of the Year.

Sacramento school district's Teachers of the Year are honored individually by their district throughout the year and by the Sacramento Kings at a special halftime presentation, set for January 12, 1997 (Kings vs. Charlotte Hornets) at ARCO Arena. Tickets for the Kings vs. Hornets game are available to all teachers and schools at a discounted price; interested persons may contact Roger Moore of the Kings at (916) 928-3656 for an order form.

The Sacramento County Teachers of the Year program is presented by the Sacramento County Office of Education in conjunction with the Sacramento County School Boards Association. Sponsors are the Sacramento Kings and 3-D International.