Katie Furden
Franklin Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Katie Furden also runs an after-school movement program for students that includes cheer, dance and yoga. (Santa Barbara County Education Office photo)

[Noozhawk’s note: Part of a series on the teachers who will be honored Nov. 3 at A Salute to Teachers, presented by Cox Communications and the Santa Barbara County Education Office. Click here for a complete series index.]

Katie Furden, a fifth-grade teacher at Franklin Elementary School in the Santa Barbara Unified School District, has been named a Distinguished New Educator.

Before joining Franklin, Furden had eight years of teaching experience, as a preschool teacher in San Clemente and as a first-grade teacher at an international school in Cambodia.

Furden, who grew up in Walnut Creek, graduated from San Diego State University with a bachelor’s degree and from Antioch University with a master’s degree in education and a multiple subject teaching credential.

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Furden said she enjoys traveling the world, yoga, running, and spending time with family and friends.

Franklin Principal Casie Killgore, in her recommendation of Furden, wrote about the academic success of Furden’s students.

“Struggling students flourish in her class because of the culture she creates. Academically strong students achieve even higher marks as her environment lends to differentiation and self-accountability. She was instrumental in our fifth-grade gains, where 67 percent of students scored proficient on the CAASPP (California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress),” Killgore wrote. “Along with being strong in rigor and techniques, she also likes to have fun. She spearheads spirit days, door contests and is the school cheer coach.”

Eight educators will be recognized Nov. 3 at A Salute to Teachers, an event hosted by Cox Communications and the Santa Barbara County Education Office.

Mandi de Witte of Carpinteria High School in the Carpinteria Unified School District has been named the 2019 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year.

Aniela Hoffman, a music teacher at Arellanes Junior High School in the Santa Maria-Bonita School District, will be honored as the 2019 Santa Barbara County Performing Arts Teacher of the Year.

Other distinguished new educators to be honored are Jacob West of Leonora Fillmore Elementary School in the Lompoc Unified School District and Andy Osiadacz of Dos Pueblos High School in the Santa Barbara Unified School District.

Distinguished mentors include Toni Roberts of Santa Ynez School in the College School District, Robin Ilac of Kermit McKenzie Intermediate School in the Guadalupe Union School District and Stephanie Gogonis of the Santa Ynez Valley Special Education Consortium.

In addition to Cox, the event is sponsored by Noozhawk, Anthem Blue Cross, Fielding Graduate University, Montecito Bank & Trust, the Santa Barbara Bowl and the SBCC Foundation.

Noozhawk Q&A

Noozhawk: Why did you decide to become a teacher? 

Katie Furden: I decided to become an educator to empower children to become the best versions of themselves. I strongly believe that children need to be valued and understood, and I wanted to be a part of helping them find and use their voices.

Noozhawk: How long have you been teaching?

KF: I have eight years of classroom experience as a lead preschool teacher, first grade TESOL teacher in Cambodia and now a third year as a fifth-grade teacher in Santa Barbara. After graduating from San Diego State University, I became a preschool teacher at San Clemente Preschool, a small community school where I spent five wonderful years teaching children ranging from 2 to 5 years old. I then left San Clemente to travel abroad to Asia, where I spent 11 months teaching at an international school in Phnom Penh as a first-grade teacher.

Noozhawk: What is your favorite subject/lesson plan to teach your students? 

KF: This is an interesting question because as a student I would have had a different answer than I do now. However, the more I teach, the more I love teaching all subjects. Watching my students get excited about what they’re learning is my ultimate goal. This is why I really try to plan real-world thematic units that we all can really get into. Therefore, I would say it’s not which subject is my favorite, but rather how can we make all subjects our favorite.

Noozhawk: What is your favorite part of being a teacher?

KF: Outside of watching my students succeed and overcome challenges, I would say my favorite part of being a teacher is laughter. The connections my students and I share are what tie everything together, and the moments we laugh are by far my favorite. 

Noozhawk: What are the challenges of your job?

KF: The challenges of my job are that it’s hard work to be a teacher. However, the most challenging is when my students face challenges themselves because I always take on their struggles. This is why I have made a conscious effort to stay mindfully active and positive not only for myself personally but as a model for my students, too.

Noozhawk: What are you most looking forward to this school year?

KF: We have more teacher trainings than usual, so I am looking forward to implementing our new programs. I guess it goes back to the fact that I love learning and sharing knowledge so, even though I am not super excited about being pulled away from my students, I am optimistic and enthusiastic to try out some new things.

Noozhawk: Who are your mentors?

KF: My Teacher Induction Program mentor was Susan Pico. Susan is a fifth-grade teacher at Cleveland Elementary School. I was fortunate enough to have her as my mentor for two years. During this time, she shared her knowledge and support. It was very nice to have a perspective from someone valuable outside my school site, so I really enjoyed working with her. My school site mentor would definitely be my amazing principal, Casie Killgore. There are no words that can emphasize her dedication, passion and stamina. Finally, my co-worker and lifelong friend, Katie Booser, who is a third-grade teacher at Franklin. She has also played a huge role in my journey. She has always believed in me and has taught me the importance of getting my students up and moving.

Noozhawk: Who are the people in your life and work environment who support you every day?

KF: Outside of school, my sister, Amanda Furden, has played a major role in supporting me as an educator. She is an educator and in her ninth year. She has taught me the importance of living life for the small moments of joy and excitement. In the classroom, she has taught me the importance of watching kids find their voice in their writing and in their social interactions. It has been a wonderful experience being a teacher with her by my side. 

Noozhawk: How does it feel to be honored as part of the Salute to Teachers? 

KF: I feel so honored to be a part of this. My school has been doing exceptional things, and it feels great to be recognized. It also feels amazing to be a part of a school and district who are so supportive and collaborative. My students are so proud.

Noozhawk: Is there anything else you want to share? 

KF: Some of my personal motivations include maintaining a healthy and positive lifestyle that I can impart on my community, particularly with the younger generation. So, I also teach an after-school movement program that includes cheer, dance and yoga. I think it’s crucial that we teach kids how to value themselves and others. Through this program, we do a lot of work with building confidence levels and learning the value of teamwork. Personally, I also find value in having a growth mindset and continuing to better myself as an educator and as a woman.

Noozhawk special projects editor Melinda Johnson can be reached at mjohnson@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Melinda Johnson, Noozhawk Special Projects Editor

Noozhawk special projects editor Melinda Johnson can be reached at mjohnson@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.