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 Gonzalez 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?
Tiffany Gonzalez: I became a teacher because I had two amazing elementary school teachers who really helped me when I was struggling. They put in extra effort and met with me outside of school to work on reading, and went the extra mile to help me grow.
I loved learning and going to school because of them. I knew I could do anything I set my mind to because they believed in me.
It made me want to do the same, to help foster a love of learning and encourage students to achieve their goals.
Noozhawk: How long have you been teaching?
TG: 16 years.
Noozhawk: What is your favorite subject or lesson plan to teach your students?
TG: Reading, because it’s so exciting once they start to read independently.
In kindergarten, the students start the year and almost can’t even believe they’ll be able to read by the end of the school year. It’s like an abstract concept for them.
And when they do start reading sentences, it’s kind of magical.
Noozhawk: What is your favorite part of being a teacher?
TG: My favorite part is seeing the student’s faces light up when they understand something, and their excitement to answer questions during lessons.
Noozhawk: What are the challenges of your job?
TG: The challenges of teaching are meeting all the students’ needs and differing levels.
Noozhawk: What are you most looking forward to this school year?
TG: Seeing the students’ reading progress since we’ve been doing the science of reading professional development and changed our approach to teaching reading.
Noozhawk: Who are your mentors?
TG: My family were my first mentors, and encouraged and supported me in reaching my goals throughout my life so far. And my colleagues are people I look to for advice and support every day.
Noozhawk: Who are the people in your life and work environment who support you every day?
TG: My transitional kindergarten/kindergarten team, our administration and my colleagues.
Noozhawk: How does it feel to be honored as part of the Salute to Teachers?
TG: It is a great honor to be recognized this year. There are so many amazing educators in our community doing this same work with students and it’s nice to be able to share the work that we do.