Luke Laurie, a seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher for 10 years at El Camino Junior High School in the Santa Maria-Bonita School District, was named 2008-09 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year.

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Bill Cirone

Thursday’s announcement was made by Bill Cirone, Santa Barbara County’s superintendent of schools, at a press conference convened during the monthly meeting of the Santa County Board of Education. Laurie will become the county’s official representative on July 1.Laurie, one of a number of outstanding countywide nominees for the honor, was selected by a committee including representatives of teachers, administrators, PTAs and the county school board. Distinguished Educators were also named and will be announced at the June board meeting.Laurie has taught seventh- and eighth-grade science, eighth-grade physical science, eighth-grade robotics science and seventh-grade science for English Language Learners.Without question, the single most important guiding principle in my work is that of equity. Through dedication, faith, and effective methods, I help my students achieve success, and help them discover what future successes await them,” Laurie said.Cirone expressed congratulations for Laurie’s professionalism, enthusiasm, creativity, and remarkable successes in the classroom and in the community.Laurie received an associates degree in general studies with highest honors from Cuesta College and a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies, summa cum laude, from California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo. He also received his teaching credentials and masters degree in education from Cal Poly.In 2006, Laurie was one of 14 teachers nationwide selected as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow, and worked on Capitol Hill for Congressman Mike Honda as an adviser on education and environmental policy.He also won the 2005 Amgen Award for Science Teaching Excellence, and in 2000 was named a Santa Barbara Crystal Apple Award winner as Outstanding Secondary Teacher in the North County.His community involvement ranges from efforts that affect his students and their families to broader efforts to affect underserved communities in the greater Santa Barbara region.He has served as an adviser to MESA (Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement), which has included events and workshops for families and community members. He is also the RoboChallenge director, science department chairman, a Beyond the Classroom facilitator and an organizer for the area Science and Technology Day. Click here to access his extensive Web site.I believe my role as an educator should not be confined solely to my classroom,” Laurie says. “This belief relates to both my involvement in extracurricular activities and my advocacy work in public policy. I have been involved in many programs designed to enrich the lives of students through the region. I have had the good fortune of seeing may firsts in my students by opening their eyes to the world around them through experiences outside the traditional scope of education. The MESA camping trips I have coordinated, for example, often provide the first overnight camping experience … for many of my students.He added, I believe that in order to truly impact students, to motivate them to be successful and to allow them to take ownership of their learning, schools must offer a broad range of curriculum and enrichment opportunities. Through my work with MESA and my Robotics science course, I provide technical experiences and teach skills to fill a void in the traditional curriculum, and expose students to college and career possibilities in computer science, engineering and other technical fields. Not incidentally, the learning is fun and engaging.Congressman Honda wrote: Luke worked in my Washington, D.C., office … as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow. … His diverse experiences as an educator and his work in underserved communities gave him unique insights in complex issues. … The students of Santa Maria are very fortunate to have Mr. Laurie as their teacher.Principal Mark Muller said: Mr. Lauries hard work and dedication to our students has obviously been noticed by all other teachers on our staff. His classroom is truly a model for other teachers to find even more ways to reach our students.Laurie’s nomination will be reviewed for consideration as California Teacher of the Year in the fall. The California winner will proceed into consideration for 2009 National Teacher of the Year. As Santa Barbara County teacher of the year, Laurie will be available to speak countywide. He can be reached at El Camino Junior High School at 805.361.7800, or at the County Education Office by calling Petti Pfau at 805.964.4711, ext. 5281.