The Santa Barbara County Education Office has announced the selection of three distinguished mentors and three distinguished new educators who will be honored at the ninth annual “A Salute to Teachers” gala.
Set for November, the event will be hosted by SBCEO and founding co-sponsor, Cox Communications.
In addition to the distinguished mentors and new teachers, the event will honor the Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year, Joanna Hendrix, and the Santa Barbara Bowl Performing Arts Teacher of the Year, Jennifer Peterson.
Each year, school administrators, colleagues and others are invited to nominate outstanding, experienced and new teachers.
Final winners are chosen by a committee made up of educators, administrators, business and community partners, and a previous county teacher of the year.
“At SBCEO, we are committed to developing, supporting and honoring educators throughout their careers,” Dr. Susan Salcido, county superintendent of schools said in a news release.
“This year, we are celebrating six distinguished mentors and new educators who bring wisdom and energy to their school communities, and talents and expertise to our students. This recognition amplifies the importance of investing in the next generation of teachers. It takes incredible new educators and mentor teachers to make that happen. We congratulate and thank them for their achievement and dedication.”
The distinguished mentors are:
— Cara Leach of Foothill Elementary School, Goleta Union School District.
Ms. Leach is a fourth-grade teacher who is highly valued by her school community and throughout the entire district. Her colleagues in the Goleta Union School District said they are inspired by her willingness to share and collaborate for the betterment of students. She is seen as a resource to fellow teachers, known for graciously sharing materials with anyone who asks, even hand-delivering her own supplies to their homes.
Ms. Leach takes the time to help all colleagues: from beginning teachers, to paraeducators, student teachers, and grade-level teammates. She is a veteran teacher who embraces new curriculum, tools, and strategies to improve the learning environment for her students.
One colleague noted, “Within my first few weeks of teaching I told Cara that I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. She laughed and said, ‘I still feel that way after 25-plus years of teaching! You just need to do what you can in the moment.’ This feedback continues to be deep and meaningful to me.”
— Christina “Tina” Roessler of Peabody Charter School, Santa Barbara Unified School District. Ms. Roessler is described as an “expert teacher.” She teaches first grade and is known for the precise set of skills she has developed during her career. The county education office said her strategies for working with students from different backgrounds and experiences have resulted in a robust record of successful student outcomes, in both academics and social-emotional well being.
“Tina inspires me to continually improve myself as an educator and as a citizen of the world,” one colleague said. “She brings a lot of value to our team and to our school as a bilingual person who has experience living and studying outside of the U.S. She puts her experience into practice by creating an environment that is welcoming to students and their families.”
Her colleagues also said she inspires great confidence in those whom she mentors and demonstrates how vulnerabilities can be turned into strengths.
—Alyssa Spanier of Solvang School, Solvang School District.
Ms. Spanier has been described as a “dynamic teacher and natural leader” at Solvang School, where she teaches English Language Arts. Under her mentorship, new teachers benefit directly from Alyssa’s commitment to excellence and her drive to succeed, according to the county education office.
In the face of the pandemic, Ms. Spanier became a Google-certified teacher and trained the staff on how to use Google Classroom for remote instruction.
Ms. Spanier also volunteers to help the student government and oversee the graduation rehearsal every year. Her leadership with the language arts team has resulted in increased rigor and success in the literacy curriculum, according to the county education office.
“Alyssa is always checking in on me, reminding me of deadlines and providing very thorough feedback on my assignments,” a colleague said.
The Distinguished New Educators are:
— Crystal Guzman, El Camino Junior High School, Santa Maria-Bonita School District.
Ms. Guzman demonstrates skill and positivity in her role teaching English Language Arts and leadership at El Camino Junior High. The county education office noted she has reignited school spirit on campus and was the winner of the Nicholson Hero Award for her tireless determination to improve El Camino.
Ms. Guzman is said to be a “master” of teaching essay writing, and the education office said she implements skillful tools in the classroom with the grace of a veteran teacher.
“(Crystal) never fails to ask how she can improve,” one colleague said. “She asks questions about the many skills teachers must master: content, pedagogy and school climate. She handles new concepts beautifully and with curiosity.”
— Elsy Mora, La Colina Junior High School, Santa Barbara Unified School District.
Ms. Mora is a math teacher at La Colina Junior High who has fully immersed herself in the school within her first year of teaching.
The county education office explained that she fosters meaningful connections with students and is a hard working, dedicated colleague. She was elected to represent the math department in monthly site meetings and makes decisions on behalf of the math team.
Ms. Mora also tutors students after school.
Ms. Mora’s colleague is a fully credentialed, bilingual Latinx math teacher who also has a degree in Chicano studies. She focuses on creating learning opportunities for all students, especially those who are struggling or underrepresented in higher level math classes.
She is known for thinking about the students who really need extra support.
Her colleagues shared one instance when Ms. Mora chatted with a group of girls about their quinceañeras. Ms. Mora told them details about her own “quince,” including the food, dances, dress and her emotions around the event. The next day she brought photos.
Her colleague recalled, “The girls said they never had a teacher who had had a quinceañera, and I could see how validated they were — sharing in something so important with Ms. Mora.”
— Kendall Stevens, La Cumbre Junior High School, Santa Barbara Unified School District.
Ms. Stevens is a second-year teacher at La Cumbre Junior High, teaching eighth grade Social Studies. According to the county education office, she has quickly defined herself as an innovative, enthusiastic and motivated educator.
In addition to her classes, Ms. Stevens stepped up to advise the leadership club and has organized more opportunities for student connection on campus, including costume contents, games and dances.
Ms. Stevens asks for student feedback through Google forms, exit tickets and individual conversations.
“She is always refining her lessons and plans to meet the needs of her students. Kendall also helps students see the importance of personal reflection in their own growth and educational journey,” said her colleague.