Santa Ynez Valley Union High School social sciences teacher Gregory Wolf has been named Santa Barbara County’s 2024 Teacher of the Year, the county Board of Education announced during its meeting Thursday afternoon.
Wolf has been teaching for 10 years and currently teaches U.S. history, political science and advanced placement psychology at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School.
“He embodies all of those qualities the most exemplary teachers possess,” county Superintendent of Schools Susan Salcido said. “Greg is beloved, appreciated and known as the ‘go-to’ person for just about everything. In one colleague’s words, ‘Greg is truly the full package when it comes to embodying the soul of an outstanding educator.’”
Each year, Santa Barbara County school districts nominate teachers for the Teacher of the Year award, who are then reviewed by a selection committee and the SBCEO Teachers Network. Finalists are then chosen and interviewed, and the selection committee does classroom observations of each finalist.
“Greg has created a very dynamic and engaging learning environment where all students are engaged, collaborating, and producing amazing and relevant public work,” said Santa Ynez Valley Union High School Principal Michael Niehoff, who nominated Wolf. “He has made a very successful transition and transformation from a traditional teacher to a learning facilitator.”
Now that Wolf has received the Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year award, he is also eligible for the California Teacher of the Year award.
“Teaching is a very demanding profession that entails a lot of personal sacrifice, but the kids make it more than worth it,” Wolf said. “We have an amazing group of students at Santa Ynez High School, and I am extremely blessed to be able to work with them. They inspire me in unimaginable ways.”
Wolf said his teaching philosophy involves creating a safe space for students and giving students ownership of their learning “with the goal of facilitating engagement, development of critical thinking skills, creativity, and a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment that will hopefully fuel every student’s desire to pursue success in their own lives beyond the classroom.”
“Every morning, a question I ask myself is, ‘What can I do today to ensure that the experience of all my students is meaningful and positive?’” Wolf said. “I believe that for all people in education, if that is what drives us, then everything else will work itself out.”
In addition to the courses Wolf teaches, he has served as the social sciences department chair, vice president of the Parent Teacher Student Association, and Associated Student Body activities director.
“While I want to say congratulations, of course, for your selection, I also want to thank you very much for the work you do in your classroom and for helping your students — our students, our future — to be more well equipped at taking care of us in the future,” county Board of Education President Judy Frost said to Wolf on Thursday.
Wolf, as well as other award-winning teachers in the county, will be introduced and honored at the Santa Barbara County Education Office’s Education Celebration on May 11, and will be further honored at the annual Salute to Teachers event that is set to take place in November.