La Colina Junior High School teacher Manjot Singh.

La Colina Junior High School teacher Manjot Singh.  (Courtesy photo)

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

The transition from UC Santa Barbara credential student to full-time teacher was a smooth but stark one for Manjot Singh.

“I had never really recognized how much work really goes into teaching, to be honest — just the amount of grading, the amount of work you have to do outside of actually teaching the kids is enormous,” said the eighth-grade math teacher at Santa Barbara’s La Colina Junior High School.

Nevertheless, Singh, now in her second year teaching, mastered the learning curve and has caught the eye of the county.

Singh, along with Amy Porter of Carpinteria Family School and Megan Heffernan of Santa Barbara’s Peabody Charter School, is being honored Nov. 5 with a Distinguished New Educator award from the Santa Barbara County Education Office’s Salute to Teacher’s gala, which is hosted by Cox Communications.

She was nominated by Tracy Womack, another La Colina math teacher who has mentored Singh through the SBCEO’s Teacher Induction Program since her time at UCSB.

“I have been able to watch her growth as an educator, and as a colleague,” Womack wrote in her nomination application to the county. “Ms. Singh began the credential as an inexperienced, enthusiastic candidate with big ideas for improving math education. Her passion has never left, but her skills have dramatically improved.”

The after-hours work was especially challenging to get used to, Singh told Noozhawk, but La Colina’s faculty and staff helped ease the transition.

“I had just a ton of incredible, amazing support from everyone,” she said.

That steep learning curve teachers face in their first year hardly fazed her, though.

“All I’ve heard from everyone is that it’s going to be hard, but that in the end, those relationships with the kiddos are going to be worth it,” she said. “And I completely agree.”

In her application, Womack lauded Singh for popularity with her pupils and her ability to encourage even the most reticent students to participate in her class.

“One of the highlights and one of the most rewarding things is when I hear a kid say something like, ‘Math class is actually fun today,’ and they like it,” Singh said. “That is the most rewarding thing because I just know how it can easily go in the other direction.

“I had a kid start the first year off saying, ‘Fractions are fun’. And I laugh about it because I’ve literally never heard any kid in any class ever — whether they’re good or bad at math — say fractions are fun. I don’t think I’m ever going to forget that.”

The positive impacts she’s having on her students come as they work through one of the most formative periods of their lives.

“What I look forward to most is seeing how these kids started off the year, how their year will end up, and how much growth and progress they have made in between that time,” she said. “They go from being an innocent little kids to really getting ready for high school, and that transition is huge.

“They’re becoming teenagers,” she added. “All of that is really fun and interesting to teach, and I just can’t wait to see where we end up at the end of the year.”

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.

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.