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Salute to Teachers: Kelly Keene Taps Student Creativity With Festival of Writing

[Noozhawk’s note: Second in a series on the teachers who will be honored Oct. 28 at A Salute to Teachers, presented by Cox and the Santa Barbara County Education Office. Click here for a complete series index.]

Kelly Keene, who has been selected as a 2018 Distinguished New Educator, teaches English 11, AP Language and EL Support at San Marcos High School in the Santa Barbara Unified School District. 

She first stepped into a school classroom as a volunteer while a student at UC Berkeley. After graduation, Keene was a substitute teacher at public and private schools in Los Angeles. These early experiences influenced her as she studied in the Teaching Credential Program at UC Santa Barbara.

| Salute to Teachers | Complete Series Index |

Keene has taught at San Marcos for two years. Principal Ed Behrens has been impressed with Keene’s efforts to create “exciting and engaging curriculum” for students in all her classes. As an example, he praised her for gathering props for students to use while acting out scenes from Romeo and Juliet.

Susan Thompson, Keene’s mentor at San Marcos, singled out the new teacher’s launch of the Festival of Writing in collaboration with a colleague.

Kelly Keene is being recognized as a 2018 Distinguished New Educator. Click to view larger
Kelly Keene is being recognized as a 2018 Distinguished New Educator.  (Santa Barbara County Education Office photo)

Students were encouraged to write and research topics that excited them. Their final compositions — everything from poems, memoirs, short stories to newspaper articles and screenplays —were presented in the school library.

Eight educators are being recognized at A Salute to Teachers event Oct. 28, hosted by Cox Communications and the Santa Barbara County Education Office.

Fifth-grade teacher Jennifer Cline, at Oak Valley Elementary School in Buellton, is Santa Barbara County’s 2018 Teacher of the Year, and​ Garson Olivieri, a teacher at Cabrillo High School in Lompoc, is being recognized as the Santa Barbara Bowl Performing Arts Teacher of the Year.

Distinguished new educators being honored this year include Desiree Hitch from Ernest Righetti High School in the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District; Jani Lindberg from Santa Ynez Valley Union High School and Santa Ynez Valley Special Education Consortium; and Keene from San Marcos High in the Santa Barbara Unified School District.

Distinguished mentors include Christine Petrone from Manzanita Public Charter School in the Lompoc Unified School District; Denise Stevens from Rice Elementary in the Santa Maria-Bonita School District; and Kevin O’Hara from Carpinteria Middle School in the Carpinteria Unified School District.

In addition to Cox, the event is sponsored by Noozhawk, Anthem Blue Cross, Fielding Graduate University, Montecito Bank & Trust, the Santa Barbara Bowl and the SBCC Foundation.

Noozhawk Q&A

Noozhawk: Why did you decide to become a teacher? 

Kelly Keene: I’ve always known that I wanted to be a teacher. I really liked the idea of helping people on a daily basis and getting to work with kids. They have so much energy and excitement that it’s contagious. I also had some great teaching when I was growing up and wanted to pass on what they taught me to my students as well. 

Noozhawk: How long have you been teaching?

KK: This is the beginning of my third year of teaching. I have also taught for a year in Los Angeles as a substitute. 

Noozhawk: Do you have a favorite subject/lesson plan to teach your students? Why that one?

KK: I really like getting to use new material from the Pathways professional development that my principal sent me last year and this year. It focuses on how to teach cognitive strategies so that students make meaning from their reading and writing. We also did a multi-genre project last year and culminated in a Festival of Writing that I enjoyed because my students had fun with it. 

Noozhawk: What is your favorite part of being a teacher?

KK: The students and hearing their ideas and excitement. I also enjoy getting to design and create lesson plans every day. Not so many other jobs have as many opportunities to be creative. 

Noozhawk: What are the challenges of your job?

KK: There are not enough hours in the day to complete all the bureaucratic components of a teaching job. We teach during the day, and there is very little time to plan lessons, grade assignments, meet with parents and other colleagues, answer emails, research new best practices, run clubs, attend sporting events and meet one on one with students. 

Noozhawk: What are you most looking forward to this school year?

KK: I am looking forward to teaching AP Language and Composition this spring because it involves the type of writing that I most enjoy doing myself. I also am looking forward to the Festival of Writing that we can expand this year to both a winter and spring event. 

Noozhawk: Who are your mentors?

KK: Susan Thompson is my mentor at San Marcos High School who has helped me as a cooperating teacher when I did my student teacher and as a mentor during my first two years here full time. I still go to her for guidance on a regular basis. I also have worked with Tim Dewar through UCSB’s Teacher Education Program and he has continued to mentor me through the Pathways program. 

Noozhawk: Who are the people in your life and work environment who support you every day?

KK: My parents have always supported me on this path towards becoming an educator. I also would not be here if it weren’t for the friends I made in grad school who have also gone on to teach at other schools across California. I feel lucky to have picked up many teaching skills from them. 

Noozhawk: How does it feel to be honored as part of the Salute to Teachers? 

KK: I am honored and overwhelmed. I have not been teaching all honors or AP classes, so I am excited for the work that my CP and EL students have done to be recognized as well. I would not be here if I didn’t get to work with some really great kids. 

Noozhawk: Is there anything else you want to share?

KK: I am very thankful and honored to be recognized at this year’s Salute to Teachers. There are also so many wonderful, hardworking educators in our community that may not get specifically recognized, but deserve our gratitude. 

Noozhawk special projects editor Melinda Johnson can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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