Monday, January 22 , 2018, 3:26 pm | Fair 62º


Rotary Honors Santa Barbara High Educator for Going Above and Beyond

The Rotary Club of Santa Barbara recently recognized Santa Barbara High School special education teacher Eric Nichoson for his extraordinary contributions to public education. It is the first of four such awards the Rotarians will present to area educators this academic year.

Nichoson is a resource specialist, teaching grades 7-9. This year he is co-teaching American government, economics, U.S. history, and algebra 1. He has been at Santa Barbara High School for 12 years. Prior to that, he taught in the San Diego City school system for two years.

Since 1986, the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara has honored outstanding teachers from South Coast schools annually. It awards a high-school, junior-high, elementary, and special-education teacher with a certificate and a $1,000 check to spend on classroom needs.

“Our teachers are second to none and perform daily heroic acts on behalf of students and families,” said County Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone, whose office coordinates the recognition with the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara.

“We appreciate the vision, caring and commitment of the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara in making annual awards that recognize the contributions of outstanding teachers, while providing resources that enable them to enrich their classroom environments,” Cirone said.

“Rotary of Santa Barbara and Rotary International members know that educators like Eric Nichoson have a tremendous impact on their students, who one day will be the leaders of our community.” said Mike Bieza, chairman of the club's Teacher Recognition Committee.

Nichoson took an unconventional path to the classroom.

“I didn’t complete my undergraduate work until I was in my mid-30s because I was not ready to commit to being a ‘student,’” he said. “When I did, I treated it like a job. I went through UCSB in 18 months and graduated summa cum laude.” He subsequently completed his teaching credentials at California Lutheran University.

Of Nichoson, Santa Barbara High School principal Dr. John Becchio said, “I can attest to the fact that he is one of the truly great people that works with our communities’ kids.

"As a special-education teacher, he is motivated by the fact that he gets to positively influence and help the students in our community who need it the most, and they are often the ones who want to be at school the least because school has always been hard for them due to their disabilities.”

“Mr. Nich,” as he is affectionately called, was himself inspired to become an educator by one of his high school teachers.

Nichoson has been seen at local thrift stores buying dictionaries for his students; proctoring a special exam session on a Saturday so he can read the test to a student with dyslexia; attending athletic and extracurricular events so his students know he is interested in them beyond the classroom; and roaming the hallways with his quirky ties saying hello to everyone he passes.

“Mr. Nich is certainly one of the bright spots in his students’ school day,” Becchio said. “It is my honor and privilege to call him a colleague. He truly makes a difference, every day.”

The Rotary Club of Santa Barbara meets at Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort in Santa Barbara for lunch from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Fridays. Recipients of the club’s Teacher Recognition Awards are made with the assistance of the Teacher Programs and Support department of the Santa Barbara County Education Office.

— David J. Lawrence for Santa Barbara County Education Office.

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