WATSONVILLE — When Radcliff Elementary School Principal Ulli Kummerow walked into her office Wednesday morning, she found hundreds of Post-it notes covering her walls, computer and phone, all of them containing messages of praise from students.
The surprise for School Principals’ Day was one of two the lifelong educator received this week.
She was also named as one of four Educators of the Year by the Santa Cruz County Office of Education, a fact she learned when County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Faris Sabbah came to the school.
“It was a complete surprise,” she said. “This is a big county, and there are lots of amazing educators.”
Kummerow receives the honor – and the Principals’ Day Post-its – as she prepares to wrap up her final year before retirement.
That will end a 13-year tenure at the school, and a career in education that was sparked in elementary school.
“I wanted to be a teacher since fourth grade,” she said.
Kummerow began working in elementary education as a high school student, and studied to become a teacher in college.
She then worked as a long-term substitute teacher at a school in San Ysidro, along the California-Mexico border.
She then moved north to teach fourth and fifth grade at the now closed Salsipuedes Elementary School. She spent the summer before that working in a grape field, the better to understand the struggles of the families that live and work in the Pajaro Valley.
“It gave me an amazing respect for field workers,” she said.
The office of Ulli Kummerow was plastered with thoughtful notes Wednesday from students and staff. — Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian
After a year Kummerow moved to Guatemala, where she taught second-grade math and science. She returned to teach at MacQuiddy Elementary, then served as a mentor for the New Teacher Project.
She has also worked as assistant principal at H.A. Hyde and Amesti elementary schools, and with the New Teacher Center.
She took the position at Radcliff when the school was just two years old and full of new teachers, a move that was a perfect fit for her experience.
“It’s been one of the most rewarding careers I’ve had as a teacher and a principal,” she said. “It’s been a privilege and a pleasure to serve this community.”
Kummerow was named Educator of the Year for the administrator category. Sheryl Andersen of Shoreline Middle School won the award for classified employee, and Ethan Ducker of Santa Cruz Gardens was named Teacher of the Year. Amanda Reilly of Harbor High School is Counselor of the Year.
The winners were chosen from 40 nominees. They will be honored May 16 at 4 p.m. during the County Board of Education meeting at the Santa Cruz County Office of Education at 400 Encinal Street in Santa Cruz.
Their names will be engraved in the Educators of the Year perpetual plaque hanging in the foyer of the County Office of Education.
Editor's note: This article will publish in the May 3 edition of the Register-Pajaronian.