Saturday, February 24 , 2018, 12:18 am | Fair 37º


Santa Barbara County Names Three Distinguished Educators

Teachers Beverley Larsen of Ontiveros School, Nicole Mercado of Jonata Middle and Diane Siegal of Santa Ynez Valley Union High receive the award.

Beverley Larsen, an intervention teacher at Ontiveros School in Santa Maria-Bonita, Nicole Mercado, an eighth-grade English teacher at Jonata Middle School in Buellton, and Diane Siegal, an English teacher at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School, have been named 2008-09 Santa Barbara County Distinguished Educators by County Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone.

Distinguished Educators is a category formed to acknowledge outstanding teachers in the Teacher of the Year awards program.

“Beverley Larsen, Nicole Mercado and Diane Siegal exemplify what is best in our profession,” Cirone said. “We created the Distinguished Educators award as a means of paying tribute to the successes and the dedication that truly outstanding teachers display every day.”

The award was created as an outgrowth of the annual county Teacher of the Year award. This year, the selection committee, which included representatives of teachers, administrators, PTAs and school boards, agreed that the applications and credentials of Larsen, Mercado and Siegal were clearly Teacher of the Year caliber.

The committee members could select only one teacher to represent the county for the State Teacher of the Year award, but members also wanted to acknowledge the excellence of these educators.

“This is our way of publicly announcing how very grateful and proud we are of their efforts and successes,” Cirone said.

Luke Laurie, a science teacher at El Camino Junior High in Santa Maria-Bonita, was named County Teacher of the Year in May.

Larsen serves as an intervention teacher, supporting fourth- through sixth-grade teachers with their English Language Learner students at Ontiveros School in the Santa Maria-Bonita School District. She has been teaching for 40 years.

“I feel strongly that thematic instruction and integrating multiple subjects is a superior way to teach, inspire and enlighten my young charges,” she wrote. “As a teacher, I influence students’ lives and encourage them to better themselves and their community. My expectation is that they will continue to further their education and pursue their dreams in life. I want them to believe in themselves, take responsibility for their learning and become valuable members of our society.”

Mercado teaches eighth-grade English language arts at Jonata Middle School.

“I believe it is a blessing to do what I do,” she wrote. “I believe wholeheartedly that if students do not feel comfortable or secure in a classroom, they will not perform to the best of their abilities … Whether it is a 4.0 student or a struggling English learner, my students challenge me each day to come up with innovative ideas that will help them succeed.”

Siegal has been teaching ninth- and 11th-grade English and mixed-grade English Language Development courses for seven years at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School.

“My ultimate goal is for (students) to feel safe enough to express their ideas in a classroom environment that is absolutely scholarly, but also open and playful,” she wrote. “If I am diligent, prepared, reasonable, animated and engaged with my students, that is what they reflect back to me. … Students will learn the standards and participate when encouraged by an engaging teacher in a classroom culture of optimism. … The learning environment must be engaging, personal and humane, or the target groups we seek to advance will be further disenfranchised by boredom and failure.”

Tracey Beauchamp is a communications coordinator in the Santa Barbara County Education Office.

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