2021 Professor of Education of the Year Denise Wickham.
Professor of Education of the Year Denise Wickham develops leaders as an adjunct professor of education administration at CSU Stanislaus and within her district as the new superintendent of Ceres USD.
Wickham leads and teaches for equity and diversity
September 6, 2021
ACSA Administrators of the Year graphic.
Name: Denise Wickham Award: Professor of Education of the Year Title: Adjunct Professor of Education, California State University, Stanislaus; Superintendent, Ceres Unified School District ACSA highlights: Member since 1998; Received Ray Curry Award at ACSA Personnel Institute 2013; ACSA Region 7 Central Office Administrator of the Year, 2011; ACSA Region 7 Principal of the Year, 2003
Denise Wickham excels at her dual role as adjunct professor in the master’s and doctoral education administration programs at California State University, Stanislaus and, as of July 2021, superintendent of Ceres Unified School District. In her university classroom, Wickham leads discussions on equity and overcoming obstacles to learning in California’s Central Valley; at Ceres Unified, she models staff development to support professional and personal growth.
Wickham’s dedication to awareness of institutional racism led to her successful effort to diversify the teaching staff at Ceres Unified while she was deputy superintendent of human resources, said John Borba, chair of the department of advanced studies in education at CSU Stanislaus.
“Dr. Wickham’s beliefs and attitudes about diversity follow her into the classroom, which makes her such an outstanding adjunct professor at CSU Stanislaus,” Borba said.
What’s your favorite book or quote on leadership? Favorite Quote: “Hope is not a strategy.”
Favorite book right now is “Leading Gracefully” by Monique S. Tallon and “Dare to Lead” by Brené Brown.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? “Know your why.” Always make decisions that are in the best interest of the students, even if sometimes it isn’t in the best interest of the adults. We are here to serve kids, always.
What’s your best strategy for work/life balance? Get puppies (mine are named Laverne and Shirley). They love me and want me to go home to walk them and play ball. If it weren’t for them, I could stay at work all night.
What are some life hacks that you would recommend for a new administrator? Know that if you go off campus, something bad will happen. Hire tough, manage easy. Don’t manage your own calendar. Suck it up, buttercup. Wine down.
What would people be surprised to learn about you? That I grew up working on a dairy, I’m the daughter of an immigrant and I had aspirations to be a travel agent.
What made you want to become a school administrator? After beginning college shadowing the district attorney, I decided I wanted to work with people before they got into trouble, not afterward.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome to get where you are? Having a father who was very traditional and very strict, I didn’t have role models growing up who were professional women with careers. Thankfully, I’ve had many mentors who have coached and supported me along the way.
What are you most proud of accomplishing? After the loss of my husband in 2011, I’m proud that I could continue raising our amazing daughter and support her in finishing college and fulfilling her dream of being a police officer. She is what I am most proud of.
How has ACSA supported you in your career/current position? The ACSA “family” has been a part of my life for about 20 years. I’ve met successful and accomplished administrators throughout my career who have counseled and mentored me. I have always felt encouraged and supported by ACSA members to follow my dreams and to not pass up opportunities to learn and explore. I was asked to come to Ceres Unified 15 years ago because of an ACSA breakfast where I met the superintendent. That breakfast changed the trajectory of my career.
2021 Professor of Education of the Year Denise Wickham, second from left.
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