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Salute to Teachers: As Mentor, Denise Stevens Gives of Herself With ‘A Gracious Heart’

[Noozhawk’s note: Part of 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.]

Denise Stevens has been teaching for more than 20 years in the Santa Maria-Bonita School District, and is currently the ELD intervention teacher for students from transitional kindergarten through sixth grade. 

She is being recognized for her work as a mentor, and is a “valuable resource” for beginning teachers as well as longtime educators, wrote Colleen Lathery, principal at Rice Elementary School in the Santa Maria-Bonita School District.

“All of our new teachers have expressed their gratitude for her positive energy, instructional leadership, support and open door policy at all times,” wrote Lathery in nominating Stevens as a Distinguished Mentor.

| Salute to Teachers | Complete Series Index |

Ashley Winchester has appreciated Stevens’s personal and professional support as she begins her career in teaching. “She is a leader, role model and friend,” Winchester wrote of her mentor in a nomination letter.

“She has come in and observed, given me feedback, shared materials and strategies, helped me with behavior plans and has gone above and beyond her duties as a mentor and does it with a gracious heart.”

Denise Stevens is being recognized as a Distinguished Mentor. Click to view larger
Denise Stevens is being recognized as a Distinguished Mentor.  (Contributed photo)

Stevens earned her bachelor’s degree and Multiple Subject Teaching Credential and master’s of arts in education, with a specialization in curriculum and instruction, at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. She has participated in several teacher training programs. She was a Saturday School teacher for the district’s Migrant Education Department and English as a Second Language night classes.

Stevens has joined with her colleagues at Rice Elementary School to honor Lexi Brown, the granddaughter of the school’s librarian. Lexi died of cancer in May 2016. Stevens and others have organized fundraisers for the Project Lexi Brown Foundation.

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 Kelly Keene from San Marcos High School 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.

Noozhawk Q&A

Noozhawk: Why did you decide to become a teacher? 

Denise Stevens: I started working with students from Pre-K to high school while I was in college. I think this is when I finally discovered my calling.

Noozhawk: How long have you been teaching? 

DS: Public School since 1996.

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

DS: Math. I love working with students as they problem solve and use manipulatives to show their thinking.

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

DS: The students — sharing my students' excitement in the learning process.

Noozhawk: What are the challenges of your job?

DS: Time. I never have enough time to accomplish everything that needs to be done.

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

DS: Our school's team-building event and fundraiser during the month of October, Coins for Cancer.

On Oct. 28, Rice School teachers will take part in Tough Mudder in Las Vegas in order to show their continued love and support for Lexi, her family and the Project Lexi Brown Foundation. Lexi Brown was our school librarian's granddaughter; she passed away from cancer on May 4, 2016.

Noozhawk: Who are your mentors?

DS: My friends and family.

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

DS: My husband and teenage boys, along with my Rice School "family."

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

DS: I feel very humbled. I feel that there are many others who should receive this honor based on their dedication to our profession.

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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