A first-grade teacher from Joe Nightingale Elementary School in Orcutt was named teacher of the year Thursday by the Santa Barbara County Education Office.
Admired for her longstanding dedication to students, Michele Frantz was awarded the top honor for teachers across Santa Barbara County.
Frantz succeeds Carpinteria High School teacher Mandi de Witte, who will round out her tenure as teacher of the year in July.
"I was really surprised," Frantz said in a phone interview from the Santa Barbara ceremony. "When they called my name, all I could say was, 'Wow.' I'm quite surprised and honored to be representing teachers across Santa Barbara County."
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The 24-year veteran teacher joined the Orcutt Union School District in 1995 after a yearlong student teaching assignment with Lucia Mar Unified School District in south San Luis Obispo County.
In addition to her time in the classroom, Frantz spent four years as a teacher on special assignment.
“Michele is an amazing and inspirational teacher both personally and professionally,” Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools Susan Salcido told the audience.
“She is gifted in her ability to understand and meet the needs of each student, whether that need is academic, behavioral or social-emotional.”
Frantz was selected from a pool of candidates by a committee consisting of administrators, local business leaders and de Witte.
Seventy-five seventh- and eighth-grade students from five local schools went head-to-head to Monday in the annual junior high Battle of the Books.
“Michele is an amazing and inspirational teacher who is truly dedicated to helping each of her students achieve at their highest level," said Orcutt Union Superintendent Deborah Blow. "She makes learning engaging and fun, and [is] a lifelong learner [who] enjoys trying new strategies or technology.”
Frantz will be recognized as part of the May 23 Education Celebration in Buellton and during the Nov. 2 Salute to Teachers in Santa Barbara.
Education Office spokeswoman Valerie Cantella said Frantz will advance as the county nominee for California teacher of the year.
The state winner will go on to compete for the 2020 national teacher of the year.
"I know this is a wonderful opportunity to represent education and teachers," said Frantz, who is excited to take on the duties that come with the title.
"Teachers are amazing and dedicated individuals, and I’m so proud to represent all of them."
Five local school district employees — Kim Bramsen of Ballard School District, Shannon Filburn from Lompoc Unified, Richard “Mr. Rick” Nichols and Sandra Tomasini, both of Solvang School District, and Kathy Robb of Buellton Union — also were recognized during the ceremony as the county's classified school employees of the year.
Bramsen, who is described as the "second-generation caretaker" for the 137-year-old schoolhouse, was also named one of six classified school employees of the year by the California Department of Education.
He will be formally honored May 23 by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond at a luncheon in Sacramento.
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