San Marcos High School English teacher Frank Koroshec is Santa Barbara County’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
San Marcos High School English teacher Frank Koroshec is Santa Barbara County’s 2021 Teacher of the Year. ((Santa Barbara County Education Office photo))

Frank Koroshec is more than an English teacher and chair of the English department at San Marcos High School. He’s a game-changer.

Koroshec, a 16-year education veteran who has taught in the Santa Barbara Unified School District since 2012, on Thursday was named the Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year.

The exemplary educator was selected for his dedication to engaging students through authentic instruction that challenges them on multiple levels as well as for his passion for equitable access to all educational opportunities.

“I have many different emotions,” said Koroshec, who teaches high school seniors. “The honor is one thing, but there are many losses this past semester. I think about how they (students) didn’t get to do prom. They didn’t get to go win state for mock trial or have grad night or normal graduation. Even when I learned about this (the award) … I wasn’t able to tell them in person because we were running out of Zoom sessions.”

More than 60 people, including Koroshec’s current and former students, gathered — virtually on the video conferencing platform Zoom — after the announcement and celebrated his recognition.  

“It was so powerful to see,” he said. “They all were together to show solidarity and affirmation of the community that we form and cherish in those classes. That made it over the top worth it and emotional.”

The Santa Barbara County Education Office announced the 2021 Teacher of the Year during a ceremony Thursday afternoon at a virtual governing board meeting.

The county education board of directors, including Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools Susan Salcido, as well as a handful of Koroshec’s colleagues, students, family and other supporters participated via Zoom because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“During this time of uncertainty, teachers have risen to the challenge, demonstrating their adaptability, knowledge, creativity and resilience,” Salcido said in a statement. “There has never been a more important time to highlight the exemplary work educators do on behalf of students. 

“Mr. Koroshec personifies these qualities, and we are pleased he will be representing Santa Barbara County as the 2021 Teacher of the Year. Mr. Koroshec is an exemplary educator who advocates for equity, self-awareness and academic success for all students.” 

Koroshec creates a community where students can experience personal growth during their journey to academic excellence, Salcido said.

He has seen the effectiveness of this approach in the programs he has created, including the Developing Independent Artists, which brought together students with a passion for music.

Koroshec serves on the SMHS site leadership team and Secondary English Language Arts Team for the Santa Barbara Unified School District. He also mentors new instructors, has created professional development opportunities, and advocates for social justice and equity in and outside of the classroom.

Koroshec founded the Resource Family Association Student Support Team (RFASST), an organization that aims to educate students by providing service and support to families involved in the foster and adoption system. It raises awareness through its speaker series and supports families through a parents’ night out, where the students provide child care while parents enjoy time away from their children.

Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year Frank Koroshec meets over Zoom on Thursday with colleagues and other supporters to celebrate the honor.

Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year Frank Koroshec meets over Zoom on Thursday with colleagues and other supporters to celebrate the honor. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

RFASST partners with a division of Child Welfare Services in Santa Barbara County, and launched a sister program at Pioneer Valley High School in Santa Maria.

“I’ve had the privilege of watching some of his work in the foster youth community,” Santa Barbara Unified School District Superintendent Cary Matsuoka said at the meeting. “I remember attending one of the family gatherings, and he lives a full and rich life. His personal calling of being a foster parent and building a community that way — it’s an extension of his teaching in his classroom.”

Matsuoka attended the online meeting and raved about Koroshec’s work as an educator.

“As I conclude 40 years of a career in education, I’ve been around hundreds, maybe thousands of high school teachers,” said Matsuoka, who plans to retire June 30. “Frank stands out as one of the best.

“I’ve watched a lot of teachers teach. When you step into Frank’s classroom, it feels like you are watching a performance where the students are the performers.”

In a statement, former student Valerie Carroll said Koroshec is “by far the most impactful teacher I had at San Marcos High School, and he continues to impact me as I continue my academic career.”

Carroll continued: “The space Mr. Koroshec created in his classroom is one that is hard to come by, and seldom re-created. Some of my most important realizations are self-reflection that came to me in his class, in those seats. I will forever be thankful for the lessons Mr. Koroshec taught me, as they are more than knowledge, they are power.”

In 2015, he established the SMHS Writing Center to offer students assistance in composition. He launched “The Conversation,” an online literary platform, and coordinated an annual poetry slam and writing contest for students in 2016.

During the remote meeting, SMHS Principal Kip Glazer participated inside Koroshec’s classroom.

“This is where the magic happens,” Glazer said.

The two worked together during the academic school year. Glazer offered her congratulations after the announcement.

“I’m honored to work with you,” Glazer said. “You are a living example of what an amazing scholar is and an amazing leader.”

Selecting the Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year is a rigorous process. Applicants complete an extensive application and submit letters of recommendation in the fall. A diverse selection committee, including the 2020 Teacher of the Year recipient and county board of education vice president Judy Frost, reviews the applications and selects four to six finalists. 

Those individuals typically are interviewed and observed in their classrooms. This year, schools closed just after the five finalists were announced. The process quickly transitioned online with Zoom interviews and presentations by finalists.

“You inspire,” Frost told Koroshec. “That is the basis for all learning, and we thank you for that.”

As the recipient of the prestigious Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year award, Koroshec represents the county’s exceptional teachers. He will become the county’s designated representative on July 1.

The county winner also is put into the running for consideration as the state and national Teacher of the Year recognition programs.

Koroshec joins last year’s teacher of the year, Michele Frantz, a first-grade teacher at Joe Nightingale Elementary School, and Carpinteria High School science teacher Mandi de Witte in 2019.

Koroshec earned a bachelor of arts degree in kinesiology from Westmont College in 1997. In 2004, he received a master of arts in English from California State University, Northridge, and his clear single subject credential from the University of La Verne in 2005. 

Koroshec began teaching full time in 2004 after a stint as a substitute teacher and a musician in a rock band. 

“I fell in love with literature through touring because my band was super nerdy,” he said. “We would just read and pass around books.”

He has landed other impressive accolades, including the Santa Barbara Unified School District Teacher of the Year (2019), Crystal Apple Award nominee (2017), Educator of the Year award from the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce (2016), and Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation Joseph B. Whitehead Educator of Distinction (2015).

Before SMHS, Koroshec taught at Saugus and Buena high schools.

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