When Liberty High School teacher Jeff Simpfenderfer was named Lodi Unified School District’s 2019 Teacher of the Year in May, he knew he would be in the running for the countywide competition.
He was still surprised on Thursday when he learned that the San Joaquin County Office of Education chose him as their 2019 Teacher of the Year as well.
“It’s definitely an honor — and humbling — to be chosen as the winner of that competition,” Simpfenderfer said.
Along with the award, Simpfenderfer received $1,000 from Premier Community Credit Union, a co-sponsor of the celebration dinner where he was honored.
Simpfenderfer’s teaching career began 21 years ago. He currently teaches English, horticulture and family living at Liberty High, a Lodi Unified continuation school.
Known as “Mr. S” to his students, Simpfenderfer was nominated by Liberty High Principal Tammy Dillon, who, in her letter, praised his abilities to meet his students’ emotional and academic needs by providing a supportive classroom and finding relatable literature.
“His intellect, humor, heart, understanding of curriculum, and ability to do anything with technology all combine into making him an incredible educator,” Dillon wrote.
Now that school has let out for the summer, the Liberty High teacher plans to spend as much time outdoors with his family as possible.
“I’m hoping to do some camping and fishing and things like that with my kids,” Simpfenderfer said. “Day trips to zoos and parks.”
Outdoor activities with his three children — ages 3, 5 and 8 — have become much more manageable than when they were younger, he said.
“We can go for walks and I’m not carrying them the whole way,” he said.
Although he enjoys being able to spend more time with his children as they get older, Simpfenderfer does still find himself surprised at how quickly they are growing up.
“It’s amazing to me that my 8-year-old is 8,” he said. “They really do grow up fast.”
Most of Simpfenderfer’s summer plans are relatively low-cost, he said, as he will be taking a trip to Disneyland with his family in October.
He also plans to spend some time preparing for the California Teacher of the Year ceremony later this summer, for which he is in the running.
“I’m kind of looking forward to seeing what that will bring,” Simpfenderfer said. “And I’m proud to represent Liberty and Lodi Unified at the state level.”