2020 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year:
Joe Nightingale School Orcutt
Union School District
We have incredibly important work. What other profession affects somebody’s tomorrow the way ours does? Our students are going to be growing up and ruling the world one day, and we cannot lose sight of that. I am honored to be part of such an important profession!”. – Michele Frantz
A first grade teacher at Joe Nightingale School in Orcutt, Michele Frantz has been an educator for 24 years including almost five years as a teacher on special assignment while leading the Orcutt Union School District’s English-language development implementation. She is a talented teacher of young students and believes her role is foundational to a child’s later successes. A team-player at heart, Michele leans on her colleagues and leaders while offering support and mentorship as well.
2019 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year:
Mandi de Witte
Carpinteria High School
Carpinteria Unified School District
One of the biggest parts of my job is making student relationships — to forge relationships with them, get to know them and know what makes them tick so I can inspire them. All students can learn. All students can learn science if you can inspire them, give them the support and if you have the proper tools.”. – Mandi de Witte
A science teacher at Carpinteria High School in the Carpinteria Unified School District, Mandi is in her eighth year of teaching, having previously taught in the Ventura Unified School District. Mandi is also a lead teacher in the South Coast Science Project, a UCSB-based center providing professional development for teachers in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties through a variety of programs that assist teachers in the delivery of the content of the science standards to students. Gerardo Cornejo, her principal, states that Mandi’s “dedication and commitment to the education of our students is evident every day in the engaging and challenging lessons she creates for our students. Carpinteria High School is fortunate to have her as a teacher, mentor and role model.”
Watch Mandi interviewed by County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Susan Salcido HERE.
2018 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year:
Oak Valley School
Buellton Union School District
I look forward to work every day. I cherish those “aha” moments when a student grasps a concept. I pride myself on creating a close classroom community where students learn to celebrate successes, learn from mistakes, challenge each other, help each other, and above all, leave my classroom with the ability to succeed, academically and personally. – Jennifer Cline
A fifth grade teacher at Oak Valley Elementary School in the Buellton Union School District, Mrs. Cline is in her seventh year of teaching at Oak Valley. Jennifer embodies the kind of perseverance and persistence that makes Jennifer a true role model in the classroom. We are delighted to count Jennifer among our ranks of great educators. She is known for her humility, passion for the profession, and empathy for students. Dr. Randal Haggard, her district superintendent, ranks Mrs. Cline in the top one percent of teachers he’s observed in his 30 years in public education. “And when it comes to meaningful use of technology as a tool for teaching, she is unsurpassed.”
Learn more about Jennifer HERE.
2017 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year:
Mary Buren School
Guadalupe Union School District
“I am very humbled to be a part of a family of teachers, students, and parents working together to embark on a voyage into the future of a child’s education. I am still as energized as I was in my beginning years of teaching, and I still feel that drive to be the best teacher that I can be.” – Michelle Minetti-Smith
Michelle Minetti-Smith is now in her 20th year of teaching first grade at Mary Buren Elementary School in the Gaudalupe Union School where her grandmother taught for 20 years before her. Michelle is the fourth generation of her family to attend the school! Michelle takes the idea of ‘home-grown talent’ to a new level. Her family’s deep generational ties to the community is just one of the motivators behind her persistent demonstration of excellence. Few know better than Michelle the importance of making a difference in one’s community. She truly walks the talk.
Learn more about Michelle HERE.
2016 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year:
Special Education Teacher
Canalino Elementary School
Carpinteria Unified School District
Since 2006 Brandon Sportel, 2016 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year, has worked as a Special Education Teacher in the Carpinteria Unified School District. Currently a Special Day Class teacher for students with mild-to-moderate disabilities at Canalino Elementary, Brandon was honored not only as our local Teacher of the Year, he was also honored with the prestigious Milken Educator Award given to only one teacher per state.
“Brandon has a unique ability to reach students with a combination of warmth, understanding, and structure that allows them to find success in the face of often significant challenges. His commitment to all kids, and his team approach to making students successful is what makes him stand out as an exceptional leader,” says Principal Jamie Persoon.
Learn more about Brandon HERE.
2015 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year:
3rd Grade Teacher
Vieja Valley School
Hope School District
With more than 22 years of teaching experience, Heiduk uses her natural enthusiasm and eagerness to support both students and colleagues as they learn and grow. Having taught in the Hope School District since 1995, teaching third-graders since 2009, she has extensive experience in working with elementary students.
Most recently, Allison has focused her work on implementing the Common Core State Standards in her classroom and mentoring her colleagues, who are benefitting from her early work on the new standards.
“Being able to be a teacher leader and provide insight to teachers, ask questions of teachers, and also to be able to learn from others, has not only been a great educational contribution to my site, district, and profession, but also to my own personal growth as a teacher,” Heiduk said.
To see Allison in action, click here.
2014 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year:
Mathematics Teacher and Academy Director
Dos Pueblos High School, Santa Barbara Unified School District
A teacher for 17 years, the past 15 of them at Dos Pueblos High School in the Santa Barbara Unified School District, Kelly Choi has led efforts to integrate technology into the classroom, develop ways to use it effectively in instruction, and train other teachers in its use. Kelly is one of the Santa Barbara Unified School District’s technology coaches and the director of her school’s Charger Academy, which gives intensive attention to students who are most at risk of not graduating from high school.
The Academy was established to provide students with the personalized attention and support they need to be successful in both school and life. The Academy connects school with community through mentorship programs, internship opportunities, and partnerships with organizations throughout Santa Barbara, with the ultimate goal to graduate productive and responsible citizens with a comprehensive life plan.
In each of the past four years, the Academy has identified 30 ninth-graders who are most at risk of dropping out, based on their high truancy, frequent disciplinary issues, and low grade-point averages, and helped them succeed. “My strength is creating a relationship with my students built on honesty, trust, and respect,” Kelly writes. “But mostly, I just kill them with kindness. My expectations are high, my curriculum is rigorous, and my students’ success rate is excellent. All this happens because everything I do is rooted in being kind and encouraging. When students believe that I am genuinely invested in their success, and every action I make is based on that belief, the most at-risk student will rise to the occasion. Simply put, I believe that student success begins with the relationship they have with their teacher.”
Click here to watch Kelly on Local Leaders.
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2013 – Riccardo Magni, Pioneer Valley High School, Santa Maria Joint Union High School District
2012 – Desa Mandarino, San Marcos High School, Santa Barbara Unified School District
2011 – Marilyn Garza, Santa Barbara Junior High School, Santa Barbara Unified School District
2010 – Diane Siegal, Santa Ynez Valley Union High School, Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District
2009 – Luke Laurie, El Camino Junior High School, Santa Maria-Bonita School District
2008 – Ole Pedersen, Orcutt Union School District
2007 – Ron Zell, Jonata/Oak Valley, Buellton Union School District
2006 – Celeste Darga, Washington Elementary School, Santa Barbara Unified School District
2005 – Eric Burrows, San Marcos High School, Santa Barbara Unified School District
2004 – Peggy Lubchenco, La Colina Junior High School, Santa Barbara Unified School District
2003 – Chris Mullin, Santa Ynez Valley Union High School, Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District
2002 – Therese Brady, Ontiveros School, Santa Maria-Bonita School District
2001 – Tory Babcock, Santa Ynez Valley Union High School, Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District
2000 – Sandra Robertson, Santa Barbara Junior High School, Santa Barbara Unified School District
1999 – Carolyn Teraoka-Brady, Goleta Valley Junior High School, Santa Barbara Unified School District
1998 – Peter van Duinwyk, Santa Barbara High School, Santa Barbara Unified School District
1997 – Pamela Holst, Roosevelt Elementary, Santa Barbara Unified School District
1996 – Lissa Lee, Santa Barbara Junior High School, Santa Barbara Unified School District
1995 – David Kuehn, Santa Ynez Valley Union High School, Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District
1994 – Timothy Stenson, Los Robles High School, Santa Barbara County Education Office
1993 – Carmen Candelaria, Bonita School, Santa Maria-Bonita School District
1992 – Linda Wiezorek, Los Berros School, Lompoc Unified School District
1991 – Betty Migliore, Ontiveros School, Santa Maria-Bonita School District
1990 – Richard Malvarose, Benjamin Foxen School, Blochman Union School District
1989 – Janice Lorber, Santa Barbara High School, Santa Barbara Unified School District
1988 – David Georgi, Santa Maria High School, Santa Maria Joint Union High School District
1987 – David Winters, Santa Barbara Junior High School, Santa Barbara Unified School District
1986 – Mike Couch, Santa Barbara High School, Santa Barbara Unified School District
1985 – Glen Newcomb, Lompoc High School, Lompoc Unified School District
1984 – Maryanna Gray, La Colina Junior High School, Santa Barbara Unified School District
1983 – David McEachen, Santa Barbara High School, Santa Barbara Unified School District
1981 – Barbara Franklin, Laguna Blanca School (Private School)
1952 – Geraldine Jones, Hope School, Hope School District
For more information on the Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year program, visit: SB Co. TOY