Thursday, September 21 , 2017, 6:24 am | Fair 58º

 
 
 
 

Buellton Union School District’s Jennifer Cline Named 2018 Teacher of the Year

Award recognizes Cline for her compassion and dedication to teaching, and her skill incorporating technology into the classroom

Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone announced Thursday that Jennifer Cline is the 2018 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year. Click to view larger
Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone announced Thursday that Jennifer Cline is the 2018 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

A fifth-grade teacher at Oak Valley Elementary School in the Buellton Union School District has been named the top teacher in Santa Barbara County.

County Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone announced Thursday that Jennifer Cline is the 2018 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year.

“We appreciate Jennifer’s passion, compassion, dedication, creativity, energy and the skills she brings to teaching — we also appreciate her kind and caring demeanor,” Cirone said. “Being selected as Teacher of the Year is one of education’s greatest honors. The award represents the outstanding teachers and classrooms in Santa Barbara County.”

The Teacher of the Year program recognizes and honors exceptional teachers on a district, state and national level. The award sets Cline in the running for consideration as California's Teacher of the Year for 2018.

Cline was presented with a plaque and recognized for her exemplary service at a monthly Santa Barbara County Education Office board meeting.

“Our fifth-graders are lucky to have Jennifer’s dedication,” board president Marybeth Carty said.

Cline began her teaching career in the Buellton Union School District 10 years ago, and she has been teaching fifth grade at Oak Valley Elementary School for the past seven years.

As long as Cline can remember, she wanted to be a teacher.

“Teaching is an extremely rewarding profession,” Cline said. “It takes a lot of energy, devotion and caring about the students, but it’s rewarding to see them learn, succeed and leave the classroom as a better person.”

Life detoured Cline's journey to the classroom, and she was told there was no money to be made in teaching.

She worked several jobs, got married, and had a child before admitting to herself that she was missing her life-long dream of being an educator.

County Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone and County Education Office Board President Marybeth Carty present Jennifer Cline with a plaque for the 2018 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year award. Click to view larger
County Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone and County Education Office Board President Marybeth Carty present Jennifer Cline with a plaque for the 2018 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year award.  (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Cline spent 10 years completing her degrees and getting her credential. 

She completed her early childhood education degree from Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria and began teaching preschool in 2000. She received her liberal studies degree through an online program from California State University, Chico, and holds a teaching credential and master's degree from Chapman University.

Making a personal connection with students at the start of the day is an important factor in Cline’s classroom.

She prides herself on creating a close classroom community where students challenge and support each other, and above all, leave with the ability to succeed in middle school and high school, both academically and personally. 

She encourages an environment where students feel safe to make mistakes, discuss issues and celebrate accomplishments — no matter how big or small.

“In this classroom, mistakes are expected, inspected and respected,” reads a poster that hangs on the wall. 

“Building the classroom community is essential to having a productive learning environment,” Cline said. “I’m a big proponent of peers working together to solve problems. The relationship I build with my students comes from trust — they have to trust me to be able to learn.” 

Cline looks forward to greeting the students every morning and working every day.

“It’s a rewarding experience,” Cline said. “I’ve had a lot of emotional connections with students that have carried on after they left, and that’s meaningful.” 

Outside of the classroom, Cline is involved with Oak Valley Elementary School’s fourth-grade STEM club and working with a local high school robotics club to start a second- and third-grade after-school robotics team.

Cline is a champion of incorporating technology in the classroom.

She received a grant in 2015 from the Santa Barbara County Education Office, which allowed her students to begin using Minecraft.

“I’ve been the technology go-getter since I started,” Cline said. “I wasn’t afraid to jump in. I decided to use it as a learning tool. You see kids attached to a device — there’s televisions in cars, kids at restaurants with an iPad or iPhone — and to get students engaged, we needed to wrap that into our teaching.”

Cline said she cherishes those “aha” moments when a student grasps a concept.

“There’s always going to be children, and they will always need wonderful teachers,” Cline said. “Teachers are with children more than their parents sometimes. There’s a huge responsibility on your shoulders.”

The Buellton Union School District is a K-8 district with an enrollment of approximately 700 students. 

“Even the small are powerful and mighty,” Cline said. “It’s nice to have the small voice be heard, and it’s just as impactful.”

Buellton Union School District Superintendent Randal Haggard ranks Cline in the top 1 percent of teachers he's observed in his 30 years in public education. 

Haggard said Cline is an advocate for utilizing technology effectively in the classroom and Common Core curriculum — a set of English language arts and math standards for K-12 students to reach by the end of each grade level.

“Jennifer is a superstar, and she is humble,” Haggard said. “Her approach to students is empathetic. She builds a community within her classroom that is rich for learning. She is a great representative for teaching.”

A selection committee comprised of administrators, local business leaders, and last year's Teacher of the Year Michelle Minetti-Smith reviewed applications, reviewed letters of recommendations and visited the nominated teachers’ classrooms before picking Cline. 

Roy McLaughlin, a manager at the Santa Barbara Teachers Federal Credit Union, is a first-time member of the selection committee.

“All of the candidates were impressive,” McLaughlin said. “Jennifer excelled in all areas — her involvement with the community outside of the classroom, personal connection with the students, classroom management skill and integration of technology in the classroom as a tool to facilitate learning was impressive.” 

Cline will become the county's designated representative on July 1, when she succeeds Minetti-Smith, who teaches first grade at Mary Buren Elementary School in Guadalupe. 

Cline will also be acknowledged at the May 25 Santa Barbara County Education Office Education Celebration event held in Buellton and will be highlighted at the Nov. 4 A Salute to Teachers gala in Santa Barbara, held in partnership with Cox Communications.

Lisa Maglione, who was Cline's principal at Oak Valley for three years, said in a statement that her attributes of  “humbleness, passion for the profession, and empathy for students are the cornerstones that make her a great representative of all that we want and need our teachers to strive for.”

Santa Barbara County Education teachers serve over 67,000 students in 20 school districts.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone announced Thursday that Jennifer Cline is the 2018 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year. Click to view larger
Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone announced Thursday that Jennifer Cline is the 2018 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)
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