1040 Whitley Ave., Corcoran CA 93212   |   Phone: (559) 992-3115

With over 30 new teacher hires this year, there are new faces on each school site. The Journal is spotlighting the new hires, this week featuring teachers from the high school to John Muir. May we introduce you to:


By Donnetta Murray


Melissa Juarez grew up in Visalia. She attended California State University – Fresno where she earned a bachelor of arts degree in liberal studies and masters in education and counseling. Prior to working at CUSD, she worked in behavioral intervention. 

She has three dogs at home and enjoys photography, as well as arts and crafts. She likes spending time at the gym and a variety of outdoor adventures, including golf, hiking and riding a bike. She appreciates time spent with her family and friends. She also enjoys venturing out of the area for day or weekend trips or week-long vacations.


At CUSD, she is the counselor for the elementary schools and Kings Lake. She is looking forward to supporting students in their journey of learning and is excited to work with the various ages of students in Corcoran. Her philosophy as a school counselor is to create a safe environment and promote growth in the students she encounters. She also hopes to assist in self-awareness to support individuals in areas of developmental needs.

Cynthia Leech feels she was lucky to have grown up in the Midwest and the South. She proudly attended California Lutheran University, graduating with majors in psychology and marketing. She was in healthcare for many years as a registered dental hygienist and eventually earned a certification in other health care areas. She interned for a semester in Simi Valley, then subbed for three years in Tulare and Fresno counties prior to coming to CUSD.


Cynthia has a daughter who is a second year pediatrics resident in Southern California. Her son just graduated from college and also is in SoCal. Her only pets at this time are “dust bunnies.” She enjoys kayaking, bike riding, and healthy veggie cooking, but for now it is all about the credential. She likes learning new educational strategies, catching up on her sleep and visiting with her kids and friends in SoCal.


Cynthia is a special ed teacher at CHS, where she specializes in English, life science and earth science. She says there is so much to look forward to at CHS. The students have been really fun, fellow teachers accomplished and the opportunity to learn the latest technology is a dream come true for her. She feels


very student should be entitled to EARN a good, free and appropriate education.


A native of Lemoore, Holly Mendes attended St. Mary’s College of California, where she garnered a bachelor of arts in liberal and civic studies, as well as a master of arts in teaching. She taught for two years at a private school before joining CUSD this year.


Living at home with her is her dog, Daphne. She enjoys baking, playing with her nephew and traveling. 


She is enjoying her new position as a fifth grade self-contained class teacher at Mark Twain. She is looking forward to learning from those around her and using the wonderful technology. Her teaching philosophy – education is how we give back to others — through education we can truly understand ourselves in relation to the world and the people that surround us. Students “Enter to Learn, Leave to Serve.”

Michelle Merrigan was born and raised in New York, but moved to Florida during her middle school years. She attended Florida Atlantic University where she received her bachelor of arts in elementary education. She taught kindergarten in Florida prior to moving to California.


Michelle and her husband have three dogs and a giant African spur tortoise, who are currently living with her family in Florida. Hobbies include Crossfit, art and reading. She loves traveling to new places.


This year she is a fourth grade teacher at Mark Twain. She is looking forward to working with the wonderful staff and children. She believes that when you have a goal, encouragement, and motivation, you can accomplish your dreams. She thinks teachers need to provide their children with the opportunity to succeed to their greatest potential. 

Kaytlyn Naylon called Lemoore home prior to moving to Colorado where she earned her bachelors degree in animal science with an emphasis in meat science and safety and equine science at Colorado State University. She also gained a BS in agricultural education. She is currently working on her masters in educational leadership and administration at Fresno State University. She taught two years each at high schools in Durango and Bush, Colorado, before returning to Lemoore High School for one year as a teacher. She was also an FFA advisor at all those schools.


Kaytlyn has a Corgi named Hank the Tank. Hobbies include horseback riding, hiking, reading, shopping, traveling and raising livestock. When away from work, she enjoys seeing new places, trying new food, and spending time with her friends and family. 


She is the new head of the CHS agriculture department and lead FFA advisor. She also teaches ag science and mechanics and is the ag Science pathway lead teacher. She looks forward to working with the community to improve and grow the ag department, while supporting a fantastic group of students and staff. She chose to become an Ag education teacher and FFA advisor because it is the profession that best combines her two passions: working with students and the agriculture industry. She hopes that the time in her classroom will encourage a new generation of leaders within the agriculture industry.

Abel Santos grew up in Reedley. He received a B.A. in psychology from California State University – Chico and a multiple subject teaching credential from National University. He also earned a master of arts in education from California State University – Fresno. He worked as a substitute teacher for Fresno County Office of Education and was a kids’ jiujitsu instructor at Dethrone MMA Fresno. This is his first fulltime teaching job.


Eating and spending time with his parents, brother and friends are the top things he enjoys doing. He also likes playing guitar and training jiujitsu.


At Kings Lake Education Center, he will be teaching the middle school students in Mission Community Day School. He looks forward to growing as an educator and helping students reach their academic and personal goals. His educational philosophy is to help students succeed in an educational setting so they can become outstanding citizens in our community.


A lifelong resident of Coalinga – other than his four years at Berkeley – Jonathan Sorrick is proud to say he has been a part of his community for 37 years. He attended West Hills Community College, U.C. Berkeley and Chapman University, earning a degree in political science, with minors in sociology and history along the way. He taught for 11 years at Coalinga Middle School, where he served as department head for English, ELD, and mathematics. He taught all core subjects focusing on the English language learner population. During the 2013-14 school year, he worked with the seventh grade rigorous curriculum design team to build the Common Core math units. Additionally, he served on the CMNS site leadership team for the last year. He was also the advisor for the National Junior Honor Society and yearbook. During the time he lived in the Bay Area and for a time when he came home to Coalinga, he worked as a consultant, focusing primarily on management and IT.


He has been married to his wife, Amparito (Amy) since 2010. They have a dog named Frankie that his wife rescued from the SPCA. There is a friendly argument going between he and his wife on Frankie’s breeding. He says she is a cross between a beagle and a pug, whereas his wife insists she’s a cross between a beagle and a German shepherd. Regardless of her origin, they love her dearly. Their other dog is a male named Atticus, who is a Maltese Poodle cross, AKA Maltepoo. He enjoys bringing various trophies from the yard to his mistress, including birds, mice, gophers and occasionally one of her socks! Jonathan enjoys golfing and going to the Central Coast to visit the wineries. 


At John Muir, he is teaching seventh grade math. He is very excited to be working with a district that is so heavily invested in technology to foster student achievement. He is looking forward to working with colleagues who work relentlessly to see John Muir become a premier school in the  county and state as part of a “destination district.”


His philosophy is, “Do the right thing, regardless of cost.”


The right thing changes from kid to kid. He tries to be what they need when they need it the most. Sometimes that means he is a coach, an imitation Marine Corps DI, a facilitator, a mediator, or just a listening ear.



The rest of the story will be printed in next week’s edition.



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