Approximately 300 people gathered at the Canyon Country Community Center on Friday to celebrate and honor more than 50 teachers of the Santa Clarita Valley.
The teachers celebrated came from almost every school in the SCV, and master of ceremonies Dave Caldwell said this edition of the Teacher Tribute, hosted by the SCV Education Foundation, was special because it was the first time the community could honor its teachers in person since the pandemic.
“But this way people can intermingle, and just see each other again,” said Caldwell. “You can see it with the school community, how so many people have taught together over the years, worked together, and so they’re pretty excited to be together. We’re excited to have them together.”
Caldwell and other organizers of the event were decked out in seafaring costumes and regalia to fit the “Education Lifesavers” theme of the event, which was meant to make the guests feel like they were on a cruise ship, according to Caldwell.
The event also featured a free meal and a musical performance by fifth and sixth graders who performed on ukuleles received as part of a grant in 2020.
“We just feel it’s important to acknowledge that they’re such a cornerstone of our community in terms of what they provide to kids and for giving all kids a chance,” said Caldwell. “It’s been particularly tough for them the last couple years with COVID. Like we’ve all had to deal with adjustments and everything else and we’re proud of them.”
Tara Gordon, a teacher at Live Oak Elementary for 27 years, is one of these people and she said it was “super humbling” to be awarded for her hard work.
“I’ve worked with a lot of these teachers in the multiple districts and I think after all this time it’s just nice you’re recognized by your peers, it means more than you know, ” said Gordon.
Gordon also said that being able to go to an in-person event with her peers was something she’d been waiting a long time for. “It’s fun, like we’re having a good time because we’ve been, like, cooped up for so long,” said Gordon.
Heather Frame, a teacher at West Ranch High School who was also being honored, seemed to have a similar sense of gratitude toward the whole event but said it was never the reason she got into teaching.
“It’s lovely to be acknowledged, it’s not why we do it,” said Frame. “It’s not about us, so it was a lovely surprise. It’s a nice little tribute. Especially given last year, and how like crazy the last few years have been. It was a nice acknowledgment.”
Teacher Tribute Honorees
Teacher Tribute honors one teacher from each of the 55 public schools who are selected by their peers and school administrators. The 2021/2022 Teachers of the Year are:
Castaic Union School District
• Castaic Elementary: Kristen McGaffee.
• Castaic Middle School: Miquela Moreno.
• Live Oak Elementary: Tara Gordon.
• Northlake Hills Elementary: Teresa Uno.
Newhall School District
• McGrath Elementary: Rosa Becerril-Burns.
• Meadows Elementary: Cindy Brenenman.
• Newhall Elementary: Matthew Cavin.
• Oak Hills Elementary: Clarissa Smith.
• Old Orchard Elementary: Igmedio Gardose.
• Peachland Elementary: Gina Rodriquez.
• Pico Canyon Elementary: Kimberly Goodnight.
• Stevenson Ranch Elementary: Laura Arnott.
• Valencia Valley Elementary: Karen Clark.
• Wiley Canyon Elementary: Tara Speiser.
Saugus Union School District
• Bridgeport Elementary: Dina Ticas.
• Cedarcreek Elementary: Katy Engbrecht.
• Emblem Academy: Jeff Charton.
• Charles Helmers Elementary: Jenna Dwyer.
• Highlands Elementary: Robyn Ortiz.
• James Foster Elementary: Johanna Durkin.
• Mountainview Elementary: Adam Hollinger.
• North Park Elementary: Christina Bakoo.
• Plum Canyon Elementary: Juli Schoenberger.
• Rio Vista Elementary: Jennifer Stradling
• Rosedell Elementary: Cassie Rivera.
• Santa Clarita Elementary: Scott Cusack.
• Skyblue Mesa Elementary: Shellie Dungan.
• Tesoro del Valle Elementary: Andrew Rude.
• Westcreek Academy: Audrey Hatae.
Sulphur Springs Union School District
• Canyon Springs Community: Jan LaJoice.
• Fair Oaks Ranch Community: Anne Amling.
• Golden Oak Community: Debbie Eaton.
• Leona Cox Community: Jen Twitchell.
• Mint Canyon Community: Jackie Charrow.
• Mitchell Community: Emily Fraker.
• Pinetree Community: Valerie Andrews.
• Sulphur Springs Community: Katie Calnan.
• Valley View Community: Kaitlyn Graff.
William S. Hart Union High School District
• Academy of the Canyons: Robert Walker.
• Arroyo Seco Junior High: Heather Coo.
• Bowman High School: Sheryl Valenzuela.
• Canyon High School: Steven Rector.
• Castaic High School: Hannah Mistry.
• Golden Valley High School: Courtney Straka.
• Hart High School: Diane De La Maza.
• La Mesa Junior High: Shelley Turski.
• Placerita Junior High: Elizabeth Leon.
• Rancho Pico Junior High: Melinda Wignal.
• Rio Norte Junior High: Mitzi Mandel.
• Saugus High School: Ashley Winkler.
• Sequoia Charter: Fidel Garcia.
• Sierra Vista Junior High: Kathlee Coleman.
• Valencia High School: Jennifer Burrill.
• West Ranch High School: Heather Frame.