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Salute to Teachers: Michelle Minetti-Smith Wants Her Guadalupe Students To Love Reading

2017 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year spends her day with students at campus she attended as a child

Michelle Minetti-Smith, 2017 Teacher of the Year for Santa Barbara County, will be recognized during A Salute to Teachers. She is a first-grade teacher at Mary Buren Elementary School in Guadalupe. Click to view larger
Michelle Minetti-Smith, 2017 Teacher of the Year for Santa Barbara County, will be recognized during A Salute to Teachers. She is a first-grade teacher at Mary Buren Elementary School in Guadalupe. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

[Noozhawk’s note: This is one in a series of stories on the educators recognized for the 2016 A Salute to Teachers event.]

Michelle Minetti-Smith doesn’t just teach her students how to read, she also fosters a love of reading. 

The instructor at Mary Buren School in Guadalupe was named 2017 Teacher of the Year for Santa Barbara County. She said she focuses beyond the basic lessons.

“A student may forget that /ie/ in Spanish is called a dipthong, but they will never forget the 16 versions of the Gingerbread Man stories we’ve read before we made gingerbread cookies in my class,” she told Noozhawk.

“It is my hope that their love of reading will last a lifetime and they will continue to seek knowledge and pleasure from a variety of books in both Spanish and English.”

The 43-year-old teacher is among eight educators who will be honored Nov. 5 at the fourth annual Salute to Teachers gala, which is hosted by Cox Communications and the Santa Barbara County Education Office.

Minetti-Smith, who was named Teacher of the Year in the spring, began working at the Guadalupe school in 1996, teaching first a bilingual first-grade class and now a developmental bilingual class.

“I am excited to say that I feel like I have been teaching maybe five years, not 19,” she said. “I am still as energized as I was in my beginning years of teaching, and I still feel that drive to be the best teacher that I can be.”

Guadalupe Union School District Superintendent Ed Cora said he has seen Minetti-Smith’s hard work and professionalism firsthand.

“Mrs. Minetti-Smith’s class is a joy to visit,” he wrote. “Her calm, friendly yet structured class is an excellent place for students to learn. Her students are always engaged in her lessons and they respond excellently to her direct, yet caring teaching style.”

It’s not only limited to the classroom, according to Cora, who called Minetti-Smith a model teacher.

“Displaying kindness and caring for others is the hallmark of her persona,” he said. “Her selfless giving is shared daily with everyone in our school community.”

She is teaching at the school she attended as a youngster and where her grandmother once taught.

Minetti-Smith’s fifth-grader teacher was Mary Buren, the woman for whom the campus is named.

After high school, Minetti-Smith attended California State University, Fresno, where she earned a liberal arts degree and minored in Spanish.

When she interviewed for the job, she surprised the panel by answering in Spanish. She said she considers her bilingual skills among her greatest accomplishment as it allows her to easily communicate with students and parents.

At his retirement dinner, former Principal Jose Nichols pointed to the hiring of the former student to teach in Spanish as one of his greatest accomplishments.

“Education has opened so many doors for me, and I hope the education that my students receive in my class will be a step in the path to many doors being opened throughout their lifetime,” Minetti-Smith said.

Sponsored by Noozhawk, Salute to Teachers is presented by Cox Communications and the Santa Barbara County Education Office and will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Nov. 5 at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara. ​Click here for more information or to register for tickets to the free, black-tie optional event.

The event will also recognize nine Santa Barbara County elementary schools designated as California Gold Ribbon Schools this year: Alvin Elementary School, Ballard Elementary School, Cold Spring School District, College/Santa Ynez Elementary School, Franklin Elementary School, Hope School, Leonora Fillmore Elementary School, Manzanita Public Charter School and Monte Vista School.

The schools are recommended by county education offices and the schools then submit applications, said Steve Keithley, the SBCEO director of teacher programs and support. The California Department of Education chooses finalists and the county Education Office puts together a visitation team to validate each school’s “model program” they wrote about in the applications.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully 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.

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