[Noozhawk’s note: One in a series on the teachers who will be honored Nov. 6 at A Salute to Teachers, presented by Cox Communications and the Santa Barbara County Education Office.]
Ten educators will be recognized Nov. 6 at A Salute to Teachers, an event hosted by Cox Communications and the Santa Barbara County Education Office at the Music Academy of the West in Montecito.
Alisyn Blanton of Miguelito School in the Lompoc Unified School District has been named the 2022 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year.
Frank Koroshec of San Marcos High School in the Santa Barbara Unified School District will be honored as the 2021 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year.
Josie Coburn of Orcutt Academy High School in the Orcutt Union School District will be recognized as the 2022 Santa Barbara Bowl Performing Arts Teacher of the Year.
Elizabeth Caruso of Monroe School in the Santa Barbara Unified School District will be honored as the 2021 Santa Barbara Bowl Performing Arts Teacher of the Year.
The 2021-2022 distinguished mentors to be recognized are Lorena Armstrong of Mary Buren School in the Guadalupe Union School District, Riccardo Magni of Pioneer Valley High School in the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District, and Melissa Woods of Dos Pueblos High School in the Santa Barbara Unified School District.
The 2021-2022 distinguished new educators to be honored are Samantha Ayala of La Honda STEAM Academy in the Lompoc Unified School District, T.J. Berry of Santa Ynez Valley Union High School in the Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District, and Christina Peña Eckert of Carpinteria Middle School in the Carpinteria Unified School District.
The eighth annual presentation will be livestreamed at 5 p.m. Nov. 6 at s.sbceo.org/salutestream.
In addition to Cox, Salute to Teachers is sponsored by Noozhawk, Fielding Graduate University, Montecito Bank & Trust, Santa Barbara Bowl, Santa Barbara City College and Southwest Airlines.
Noozhawk: Why did you decide to become a teacher?
T.J. Berry: When I came out of high school, I knew that I wanted to be able to pour into and invest in young people. I had really influential adults invest in me as a student, so I pursued my teaching career to be able to have the same influence that my teachers had on me for other young people.
Noozhawk: How long have you been teaching?
TJB: This is my third year teaching. I did my first year teaching middle school at Solvang School. Now, I teach U.S. history at Santa Ynez High School.
Noozhawk: What is your favorite subject or lesson plan to teach your students?
TJB: I really enjoy when we do simulations. Students are asked to take on the persona of a historical figure or phenomenon and act it out. This type of activity allows for students to learn through experiencing the historical processes that we are learning about in class. It’s really fun to put students in hats and see them experience history.
Noozhawk: What is your favorite part of being a teacher?
TJB: The relationships that I get to build with students. I get to support them on the days when life isn’t going their way, and also cheer them on when they are doing cool things. Those relationships with students have allowed me to have really cool conversations with students about content, as well as about life.
Noozhawk: What are the challenges of your job?
TJB: It’s hard to figure out what is going to best resonate with your students. When I am thinking about a specific topic or subject that I am going to be engaging my students with, it is tricky to figure out what the activity is that will fully engage them in the action and process of learning.
Noozhawk: What are you most looking forward to this school year?
TJB: I am most looking forward to doing the whole school year in my classroom, with students in person. There is an energy that happens when you get a classroom community going and then get to walk with that class all the way through the school year.
As we become more comfortable with each other throughout the year, it allows for us to engage in raw, authentic learning in a safe space where students know that they are safe, known and loved.
Noozhawk: Who are your mentors?
TJB: Greg Wolf, who was my mentor through the Teacher Induction Program, teaches right next door to me. We work very closely to create activities for students as well as plan our courses.
Noozhawk: Who are the people in your life and work environment who support you every day?
TJB: My department and my lovely wife help me stay motivated and driven to serve my students to the best of my ability on a daily basis.
Noozhawk: How does it feel to be honored as part of the Salute to Teachers?
SA: It is an honor to be recognized for what is happening in my classroom. I love my job because of the interactions that I get to have with students. The relationships that I build in my classroom have allowed for me to coach students in history content, as well as in life.
It is an honor to be recognized for my commitment to students.