From creating a passion for learning in the citizens of tomorrow to mentoring colleagues, Santa Barbara High School biology and medical biology teacher Ashley Cornelius has established a reputation as an exemplary educator.
After teaching for 11 years in the Santa Barbara School District, Cornelius has been recognized as one of Santa Barbara County's distinguished mentors.
She will be honored Nov. 5 at the fourth annual “A Salute to Teachers” event hosted by the Santa Barbara County Education Office and Cox Communications.
“Learning more about how our world works and the details on how our body functions have always amazed me,” Cornelius said. “I was drawn to teaching because I love seeing people get excited about something new that they've learned or questioning something that they see.”
Lauren Ann Galvin, a Santa Barbara High School teacher in the Teacher Induction Program, said Cornelius was committed to helping her during those first years as a teacher.
“She has made it a point to make me feel welcome (by) sharing her room as I began as her student teacher,” Galvin said.
“She has introduced (me) to teaching and guided me through what I understand to be the hard years for a teacher,” Galvin said. “She has stuck with me these past three academic years, watching out for the development of my career.”
The two have grown into friends as well as close colleagues.
Cornelius became a traveling teacher and offered Galvin her classroom, so Galvin would not have to travel as much in her first year of teaching.
“This may sound like a small thing if you are not familiar with the concept of being a traveling teacher but it’s difficult to be an efficient science teacher when you’re moving from classroom to classroom,” Galvin said. “She took on the additional burden of becoming a traveling science teacher as well.”
Cornelius has been working with two other teachers to develop the Sports Medicine Pathway at SBHS, which is designed for students who have an interest in a medical career.
“It has been a fun challenge to figure out how to best serve students who are interested in a career in the health field and provide a set of classes that will help them be prepared for their future education,” Cornelius said.
“It is not necessarily geared towards the student who knows they want to become a doctor,” Galvin said. “It is more for the student who wants to develop an interest in an unknown medical path or perhaps would like to engage in a course with the medical theme to make the science more tangible.”
Cornelius also works with the school’s Visual Arts and Design Academy, an art academy that allows students to take drawing classes, digital art and photography and other career-focused art instruction.
“The VADA team has been an incredible inspiration for teaching, they are dedicated, creative and supportive,” Cornelius said. “Teaching biology to the 10th graders has been fun (as well as) exploring ways to increase the visual and artistic side of science.”
Outside of work, she is learning how to build furniture and taking care of her two children in elementary school.
“I'm busy getting them to their activities, but I love being creative,” she said.
A Salute to Teachers is presented by Cox Communications and the Santa Barbara County Education Office and will be held from 5 p.m. 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: Ballard Elementary School, Cold Spring School District, College/Santa Ynez Elementary School, Hope School, Monte Vista School, Leonora Fillmore Elementary School, Manzanita Public Charter School, Franklin Elementary School and Alvin Elementary 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.