By Santa Barbara County Office of Education
The Santa Barbara County Office of Education (SBCEO) announced the selection of three Distinguished Mentors and three Distinguished New Educators who will be honored at the ninth annual Tribute to Teachers Gala in November hosted by SBCEO and founding co-sponsor, Cox Communications, with the support of other generous sponsors.
Each year, school administrators, colleagues and others are invited to nominate mentor teachers who demonstrate exceptional teaching practices and leadership, and to nominate new teachers who demonstrate early career success and exceptional skill.
The final winners are chosen by a selection committee made up of expert educators, administrators, business and community partners, and a former county teacher of the year.
“At SBCEO, we are committed to developing, supporting and honoring educators throughout their careers,” said County Schools Superintendent Dr. Susan Salcido. “This year, we celebrate 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 amazing new educators and teacher mentors to make this happen. We congratulate them and thank them for their success and dedication.
The Distinguished Mentors are:
Cara Leach – Foothill Elementary School, Goleta Union School District
Cara Leach is a fourth-grade teacher at Foothill Elementary, where she is well-liked by her school community and throughout the district. Her colleagues in the Goleta Union School District are inspired by her willingness to share and collaborate for the betterment of students. She is considered a resource for her fellow teachers, known for graciously sharing materials with anyone who asks, even delivering her own supplies to their homes.
As a mentor, Cara is extremely responsive and intentional with the feedback she provides. Her colleague said: “During 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 like this after more than 25 years of teaching! You just need to do what you can in the moment. These comments continue to be profound and meaningful to me.
Cara takes the time to help all of her colleagues: from beginning teachers to paraeducators, trainee teachers and grade level teammates. She is a seasoned teacher who embraces new programs, tools and strategies to enhance the learning environment for her students.
Christina Roessler – Peabody Charter School, Santa Barbara
Christina (Tina) Roessler is described as an “expert teacher”. She teaches grade one at Peabody Charter and has developed a specific set of skills throughout her career as a professional educator. His refined strategies for working with students from different backgrounds and experiences have resulted in a strong record of student success, both academically and in terms of socio-emotional well-being.
A colleague shared, “Tina inspires me to continually improve myself as an educator and as a global citizen. She brings a lot of value to our team and our school as a bilingual person who has lived and studied outside of the United States. She puts her experience into practice by creating a welcoming environment for students and their families.
Tina supports and accelerates the professional growth of those lucky enough to work with her. Her colleagues say she inspires great confidence in those she mentors and demonstrates how vulnerabilities can be turned into strengths. Her support of others and her firm belief that all students can learn make Tina a role model for the profession.
Alyssa Spanier – Solvang School, Solvang School District
Alyssa Spanier is a dynamic teacher and natural leader on the Solvang School campus, where she teaches English Language Arts. Under her mentorship, new teachers benefit directly from Alyssa’s commitment to excellence and drive to succeed.
Alyssa has been instrumental in her school’s success. In the face of the pandemic, she became a Google Certified Teacher and trained staff to use Google Classroom as a way to deliver distance education. Alyssa also volunteers to lead student government and graduation rehearsal each year. His leadership on the language arts team has resulted in increased rigor and success in the literacy program.
Her colleague shared, “Alyssa is always checking on me, reminding me of deadlines, and providing very in-depth feedback on my assignments.” She is a constant advocate for students and their well-being and a great example of how to interact with, instruct and support students.
The new distinguished educators are:
Crystal Guzman – El Camino High School, Santa Maria-Bonita School District
Crystal Guzman demonstrates skill and positivity in her role as an English Language Arts and Leadership teacher at El Camino Junior High. She reignited school spirit on campus and won the Nicholson Hero Award for her tireless determination to improve El Camino. Crystal is said to be a “mistress” of teaching essay writing, and she implements deft tips and tools in the classroom with the grace of a seasoned teacher.
Crystal’s colleague says:[Crystal] never fails to ask how she can improve. It asks questions about the many skills that teachers need to master: content, pedagogy and school climate. She handles new concepts with beauty and curiosity.”
In addition to being an exceptional teacher, Crystal is highly respected by all staff, students and families in the El Camino community.
Elsy Mora – La Colina High School, Santa Barbara Unified School District
Elsy Mora is a math teacher at La Colina Junior High and completely immersed herself in the school during her first year of teaching. She fosters meaningful connections with students and is a hardworking and dedicated colleague. She was elected to represent the math department at monthly site meetings and makes decisions on behalf of the math team. Elsy also teaches students after school, providing not only additional academic support, but also a warm and welcoming environment for some of the school’s promising students looking to develop their skills, academic identities and relationships with adults. considerate.
Elsy’s colleague calls her a “unicorn” because she is a fully accredited, bilingual Latinx math teacher who also holds a degree in Chicano studies. She adds a unique voice to the site’s leadership team and is focused on creating learning opportunities for all students, especially those who struggle or are underrepresented in grade level math classes. superior. She thinks about students who really need extra support, and she highlights them for the rest of the site.
She connects with students both on the subject and on shared cultural experiences. Her colleagues shared a case where Elsy chatted with a group of girls about their quinceañeras. Elsy gave them details about her own “quince,” including the food, the dances, the dress, and her emotions around the event. The next day she brought pictures. Her colleague recalled “The girls said they had never had a teacher who had a quinceañera, and I could see how validated they were – sharing something so important with Ms. Mora.”
Kendall Stevens – La Cumbre High School, Santa Barbara Unified School District
Kendall Stevens is a second grade teacher at La Cumbre Junior High and teaches social studies in 8th grade. She quickly defined herself as an innovative, enthusiastic and motivated educator. In addition to the subjects she teaches, Kendall has stepped in to advise the leadership club and organized more opportunities for students on campus, including costume content, games, and dances.
Kendall asks for student feedback through Google Forms, release tickets, and one-on-one conversations, and she uses that feedback to improve every day. “She is always fine-tuning her lessons and planning to meet the needs of her students. Kendall also helps students see the importance of personal reflection in their own growth and educational journey,” her colleague said.
Kendall maintained warm, positive and collegial relationships with the staff at La Cumbre. She raises the bar in the classroom by incorporating a variety of speaking strategies with students to encourage them to think deeply and inspires her colleagues to do the same. She is motivated to grow as a teacher and works hard to make the campus a supportive place for students to grow.
These distinguished educators participate in a two-year teacher induction program, which pairs new teachers with experienced mentors to enhance practice, learn job responsibilities and focus on student learning. “Teacher induction programs elevate the teaching profession and have a positive impact on teacher retention. Supportive relationships and a focus on improving teaching practices transform our school communities,” said Ellen Barger, Assistant Superintendent, Curriculum and Instruction.
Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year Joanna Hendrix and Santa Barbara Bowl Performing Arts Teacher Jennifer Peterson will also be honored at A Salute to Teachers in November.
SBCEO is grateful to partners such as Cox Communications and sponsors including Fielding Graduate University, Melfred Borzall, Montecito Bank & Trust, Noozhawk, Santa Barbara City College Foundation, the Santa Barbara Bowl and others who make Event A possible. Salute to Teachers.
For more information about the awards or the event, click here or contact Steve Keithley, Director of Programs and Teacher Support, at (805) 964-4710, ext. 5281. For more information on the Teacher Induction Program, click here or contact John Merritt, Director, Teacher Induction Program, at (805) 964-4710, ext. 5426.