12th annual Crystal Apple winners honored

Riverside County Commissioner Chuck Washington stands beside Crystal Apple recipients Reuben Villar GOHS, Amie Charney CHS, and Derek Heid TVHS and Tracy Ham, Stake President of the Temecula congregations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Courtesy photo
Riverside County Commissioner Chuck Washington stands beside Crystal Apple recipients Reuben Villar GOHS, Amie Charney CHS, and Derek Heid TVHS and Tracy Ham, Stake President of the Temecula congregations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Courtesy photoCry

Brenda Tullis

Special to the Valley News

Nearly 400 people gathered at a local church Sunday, May 1, to recognize and applaud local teachers for their dedication and hard work and honored four recipients of a coveted student- bestowed award.

At the 12th annual Crystal Apple Awards ceremony, 280 students from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from the Chaparrral, Temecula Valley and Great Oak high schools honored 127 exemplary teachers they had individually nominated to receive a Crystal Apple award. The nominations are then scrutinized by a 12-member committee comprising members of the LDS public affairs committee and other officials and by a tally of votes, the recipients are chosen.

County and city officials including, Riverside Counter Supervisor Chuck Washington, Temecula City Councilman Michael McCracken, Mayor Pro Tem of Temecula Maryann Edwards, Temecula Valley Unified School District Superintendent Tim Ritter, TVUSD school board President Allen Pulsipher and school board member Julie Farnbach as well as CHS High School Principal Gil Compton, TVHS Principal Allen Williams and GOHS Assistant Principal Judy Stapleton were in attendance at the event.

Crystal Apple winners were CHS literature and writing teacher Amie Charnie, GOHS mathematics teacher Reuben Villar, TVHS English and drama teacher Derek Heid and TVHS coach and economics teacher Rico Thompson, not present. Finalists for the Crystal Apple awards included CHS’s Chris Klair and Mark Koscielak, GOHS’s Jennifer Mosley and Steve Maxey as well as TVHS’s Chris Hamill and Steve Rapaport.

TVHS Senior, Colby Anderson, nominated winner Derek Heid.

“Mr. Heid helped me feel proud of who I am,” he said. “He helped me open up and become a more outgoing person and he has helped me get through some really tough trials through my life,” he said. “Through it all, he is my friend and he is someone I want standing by me.”

Heid, graduating from California State University at San Marcos, has been teaching English, drama, stagecraft and Shakespeare for seven years. He says that Colby Anderson is one of the most dedicated and enthusiastic students that he had this year.

“He is always ready to support others and make them feel welcome and necessary,” Heid said.

Heid says he teaches to give back.

“I am of the mind that, when you have a gift or an experience that puts you in a position to enrich others, it is your duty to do so,” he said.

For Heid winning the Crystal Apple award is very gratifying and also is a huge responsibility.

“I feel compelled more than ever to ensure that I am doing everything in my power to inspire my students to make choices regarding their education that are productive and good,” he said.

Great Oak High School junior, Rachel Sorge nominated Reuben Villar for the Crystal Apple award. She explained that Villar gave her a solid basis in Algebra II that helped her succeed in her other math classes, namely precalc and calculus.

“His classroom was always a positive environment where you could express yourself freely and not be judged,” she said. “He genuinely cared about us and made us feel important.”

Father of four and husband of Rebecca, Villar attended United States Naval Academy.

Teaching mathematics for 25 years, Villar estimates that he has taught around 5,000 students, Villar said he teaches to motivate students to reach their academic potential.

“It is incredibly satisfying when a student realizes that he or she can master a difficult concept or finally decides that they like math,” Villar said.

Villar said that it brings him great joy when he knows one of his students finally understands.

“I also enjoy preparing my students for what lies ahead by challenging them, guiding them, and encouraging them to persevere.”

Speaking of his nominator, he said, “Rachel Sorge was at the top of her class throughout the year as were her siblings, Jessica and James, who are former students of mine. Besides being strong students, the Sorge children happen to be among the nicest, most respectful students that I have ever had the pleasure of teaching.”

Villar said it was a great honor to receive the Crystal Apple award.

“It means more since it is coming from those that I have dedicated my life career to serve, my students,” he said. “I am so grateful to the LDS Church and the students who nominated me for this honor.”

Chaparral High School Junior, Riley Hardy, nominated the Chaparral High School Crystal Apple winner Amie Charney. She said that Amie Charney was an amazing friend, council, teacher and is like a second mom to her.

“She welcomed me and made me feel like I’m a part of this school, a true Puma,” she said. “She taught me valuable lessons that I will take on my way into the adult world.”

Wife of Lt. Col. Michael Charney and mother of two, Charney said she teaches because it is what she has been called to do.

“I feel like I am here for a purpose beyond just classroom content. So many students are hurting today,” she said. “They come from broken families, they face unrelenting peer pressure, they have so much stress in their lives and it is a privileged to not just teach them but to show them that at least one adult in their life cares about them, as a person.

“The Crystal Apple award is extremely special because it is awarded by your students,” Charney said. “Most awards teachers win come from colleagues nominating you, so being recognized by the students you teach every day means so much more. Also it’s such a wonderful night of community, a time to celebrate our students and colleagues’ accomplishments.”

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