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Middle School Animatronics Teacher 2025 Riverside County Teacher of the Year

By Stella Pierce
Community Writer
05/29/2024 at 11:26 AM

Over the years, surprise visits naming the Riverside County Teachers of the Year have taken place in auditoriums, gyms, libraries, and classrooms of all shapes and sizes where subjects from math and English to science and automatic technology are taught. On Thursday, May 23, Riverside County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Edwin Gomez, stepped into a middle school classroom at Harvest Hill STEAM Academy in Menifee Union School District to name animatronics teacher Misty McBee, as the final 2025 Riverside County Teacher of the Year, and the first animatronics teacher in the county to receive that honor.

“Ms. McBee’s innovative spirit is exemplified in her development of a middle school animatronics program,” said Dr. Edwin Gomez, during the surprise visit. “This program which started with just a set of state standards and laptops, was crafted to provide students with hands-on, project-based learning experiences that prepare our students for the future.”

“I just love what I do and working with all of my students,” Misty said immediately following the surprise visit. “Everyone here just makes this job so fun and actually very easy sometimes. So to me, all of this just feels like a normal day.”

About Misty McBee

Misty McBee describes her current position as a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) educator as a dream come true. When Harvest Hill STEAM Academy needed a teacher to create a course to activate the district’s investment in a new Garner Holt Animatronics Lab, Misty created the curriculum, enlisted volunteers for supplies, and recruited students into what has become one of the most popular electives on the middle school campus.

Misty’s classroom is defined by facilitated learning, real-life problem-solving, adaptability, and other vital skills transferable to any 21st century career pursuit. She regularly integrates exhibitions of learning that simultaneously foster a spirit of collaboration and creativity, while enhancing school culture and showcasing student achievement and recognition. She encourages community involvement through pet adoption, and leads the Saturday STEAM Academy at the school—an optional learning activity that has become popular with students.

Her colleagues describe her as “a teacher leader who not only teaches and leads with passion, but also inspires the curiosity and desire to learn for her students.” Her principal describes how visits to her classroom often go unnoticed due to the focus of deeply engaged students.

Misty’s education includes a master’s degree in education from National University, and a bachelor’s degree in science from Northern Arizona University. She also earned authorizations and certificates in computer concepts and applications, along with cross-cultural language and academic development.

2025 Riverside County Teachers of the Year

Amy Torres
Indio High School
Desert Sands USD

Amanda Zonker
History/Social Science, English/Language Arts
Riverside STEM Academy
Riverside USD

Bob Mauger
Automotive Technology
Corona High School
Corona-Norco USD

Misty McBee
Harvest Hill STEAM Academy
Menifee Union School District


All four teachers of the year will represent Riverside County in the 2025 California Teacher of the Year competition. Recent Riverside County teachers selected as California Teachers of the Year include:

  • 2022 – Nichi Aviña, Cielo Vista Charter School, Palm Springs USD
  • 2021 – Keisa Brown, University Heights Middle School, Riverside USD, and Allison Cyr, Lyndon B. Johnson Elementary School, Desert Sands USD
  • 2020 – Brenda Chavez-Barreras, Good Hope Elementary School, Perris ESD
  • 2019 – Dr. Angel Mejico, El Cerrito Middle School, Corona-Norco USD
  • 2018 – Dr. Brian McDaniel, Painted Hills Middle School, Palm Springs USD
  • 2017 – Shaun Bunn, Ethan A. Chase Middle School, Romoland School District 
  • 2016 – Michelle Cherland, Carrillo Ranch Elementary School, Desert Sands USD
  • 2014 – Jessica Pack, James Workman Middle School, Palm Springs USD

The Riverside County Teachers of the Year are selected from nearly 20,000 educators in the county. The rigorous application process requires candidates to spend time reflecting on, and carefully defining, their teaching philosophy. The county teachers of the year are selected based on nominations by teachers, principals, and school district administrators throughout the county. Applications are then submitted to the Riverside County Office of Education, where a selection committee reviews the applications of each district candidate and selects semi-finalists. The selection committee then conducts interviews and site visits to select the final four candidates before the county superintendent announces the Riverside County Teachers of the Year.