Gregory Wolf — a Santa Ynez Valley Union High School social science teacher in the Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District — is the 2024 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year. On Oct. 16, he was named the 2024 California Teacher of the Year, the highest state recognition a teacher can earn.
Elesa Carlson, the drama director and an art teacher at Righetti High School in the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District, will be recognized as the 2024 Santa Barbara Bowl Performing Arts Teacher of the Year.
The 2024 distinguished mentors to be recognized are Victoria Aguirre of Hollister School in the Goleta Union School District, Natalie Durbin of Liberty School in the Santa Maria-Bonita School District, and Tiffany Gonzales of Peabody Charter School in the Santa Barbara Unified School District.
The 2024 distinguished new educators to be honored are Ryan Helsel of Goleta Valley Junior High School in the Santa Barbara Unified School District, Sammi Lambert of San Marcos High School in the Santa Barbara Unified School District, and Julio Molina of Delta High School in the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District.
The 10th annual presentation will be livestreamed at 5 p.m. Nov. 4 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=orwewJn9SQE.
Noozhawk: Why did you decide to become a teacher?
Natalie Durbin: I couldn’t imagine anything better than being around the energy and laughter of children.
Noozhawk: How long have you been teaching?
ND: This is my 20th year in education.
Noozhawk: What is your favorite subject or lesson plan to teach your students?
ND: I started as an English Language Arts teacher, so I will always have a love for teaching reading and writing.
Noozhawk: What is your favorite part of being a teacher?
ND: The laughter. I get to laugh with students and staff every day.
Noozhawk: What are the challenges of your job?
ND: Time. There is never enough time.
Noozhawk: What are you most looking forward to this school year?
ND: I am looking forward to helping build a site instructional coaching system in which teachers feel supported and inspired.
Noozhawk: Who are your mentors?
ND: I have had many mentors over the last 20 years, but it all started with Ms. Shirley Bozina and Mr. Dwane Johnson. Without them, I would not be the teacher I am today.
Noozhawk: Who are the people in your life and work environment who support you every day?
ND: My family is everything. I am blessed to have the best husband, kids, parents and extended family that have supported me in everything I have ever dreamed of doing.
I have the gift of a wonderful staff at Liberty School and the Santa Maria-Bonita School District that put up with my never-ending optimism and allow me to do a job that I know I was made to do.
Noozhawk: How does it feel to be honored as part of the Salute to Teachers?
ND: This award has been an incredible blessing as it has allowed me to reflect on the last 20 years.
I have had 20 years filled with amazing students, mentors and co-workers who have allowed me to be a part of their lives.
I couldn’t imagine anything better.