OUSD picks best students, teachers
By Misty Volaski
Cameras flashed Tuesday evening
at the Matilija Auditorium as 24 youths and teachers from around
the valley were honored with Student and Teacher of the Year
awards. These outstanding citizens were presented their awards
by the Ojai Valley Masonic Lodge and the Ojai Unified School
The evening began with songs by the Topa Topa Playhouse Chorus,
led by Sally Iwata.
The principal of each school took to the stage and described
why each teacher and student had been chosen for their school's
Principal Marty Babayco, Ph.D., congratulated Caitlin Molina
and Trevor Whiteley as the Meiners Oaks Students of the Year,
and Theresa Dutter as the school's Teacher of the Year.
Of Trevor, Babayco said, "He is extremely nice. Kindness
and steady are the words teachers and students use to describe
Trevor." Among other activities, Trevor was said to play
a "mean saxophone" and advised peers to "respect
Caitlin, Babayco said, "is a perfectionist. She has 100
percent completion of all homework, outstanding attendance, excels
in citizenship - and has a great attitude every day at school.
She never teases and is always nice.'"
Students describe Dutter as the most energetic teacher they ever
had, said Babayco of Meiners Oaks Teacher of the Year. "Theresa
says that it is quite an honor to be recognized by her peers.
However, she said, 'I still want to get better at what I do.'"
Kathy White, principal of Mira Monte Elementary, had the honor
of announcing Alexa Bowen and Tyler Wiggins as Students of the
Year, and Mrs. Carol Paquette as Teacher of the Year, from her
Paquette, White said, was a dedicated mother who was very involved
in the school. She had been a substitute teacher before moving
to Ojai, and before long, she was taking four classes in the
summer in order to become a teacher at Mira Monte the next fall.
Of Paquette, White said, "When Carol takes on a task, you
can be assured that she will do a better job than you could have
Tyler, she said, is athletic, playing baseball and tackle football,
and would love to design roller coasters when he grow up. Ms.
Rasch, his sixth grade teacher, said, "Tyler has an intense
desire to do well."
"Alexa has a gentle, quiet spirit. She has a good sense
of fairness," said White, who added that Alexa is academically
strong in all areas, in addition to having excellent citizenship
and work habits.
Doug Becker, principal at both San Antonio and Summit elementary
schools, had double duty when it came to announcing students
and teachers. He started with Summit, Ojai's smallest public
school, saying that Rose Givner and Martin Kerr were perfect
choices for Students of the Year. "Their excellence in leadership
and citizenship" make them outstanding students at Summit.
"Rose and Martin are special in the way they interact with
their peers," noted Becker. Of Laurie Alford, who was named
Summit's Teacher of the Year, Becker said that all of the students
like her, and that she excels in a small school environment.
She was a teacher at several places, but settled at Summit where
she is "well-loved by all."
Anna North and Cameron Kemp were the Students of the Year for
San Antonio. Becker said both students were gifted in academics,
and were both GATE students. "They're both involved in tons
of activities," he said. Teacher of the Year Linda McMichael
is "a veteran." She exemplifies everything a teacher
she should be, added Becker, and also excells in a small-school
Principal of Topa Topa Elementary Carol Holly said that Teacher
of the Year David Groat was chosen because he is "a wonderful
role model for his students. He is fair, honest consistent and
dedicated." He also loves to make his students laugh, she
Students of the Year Travis Volaski and Libby Bradley are great
all-around people, said Holly. Libby is "an exceptionally
confident, calm and intelligent person who exhibits our character
traits all the time."
Travis, she said, "is well-liked by everyone." He loves
basketball and aspires to be a pro someday. "He is a great
person," Holly added. "He's respectful, courteous and
a joy to be around."
After all the elementary school principals had announced their
students and teachers, Matilija Junior High principal Christine
Golden took the podium. Perry Johnson, Matilija's female Student
of the year, is active in the Ojai Youth Foundation as well as
the Imagine Ojai group. "She earned a straight 4.0 GPA.
She also hopes to go to India to help dispense the polio vaccine,"
said Golden. "She is on the road to success."
MJHS male Student of the Year Dustin Hibbard is "Joyful
and fun-loving and alwayd willing to take a risk," said
Golden. "He can laugh at himself and is easy-going.He intends
to join the Air Force. Wherever you catch him you are sure to
see a smile on his face."
David Settem, MJHS Teacher of the Year, said his favorite thing
about teaching at Matilija is the kids. He coaches the cross-country
team and is very dedicated to teaching, said Golden. His students,
she added, said that "he tries to make everybody feel smart."
Chaparral principal Steve Olsen said his high school is a place
of second chances. Students of the Year Susan Nelson and Noe
Rodriguez took full advantage of those chances. Susan went to
Chaparral with only freshman credits due to the fact that she
had a child. She left the school, said Olsen, but later returned
and worked hard to graduate this year with her GED. "Now,"
Olsen said, "She's planning on going to college and being
Noe, he said, was another student that took the second chance
Chaparral offered him and ran with it. "He started this
year a full semester behind in credits. But he basically decided
that he wanted to graduate this year, and he worked hard and
he will graduate this year," said Olsen.
Mike Westbrook, Chaparral's Teacher of the Year, used to teach
at Mira Monte before coming to Chaparral. "He has made it
a personal quest to make sure each and every student here passes
the new math exit exam," said Olsen. He tutors kids individually
if they need it, Olsen added.
Nordhoff's Teacher and Students of the Year are particularly
special this year, said principal Dan Musick. Male Student of
the Year, Andrew Nelson, is the son of Teacher of the Year Francie
Nelson. "But It wasn't a sympathy vote or anything,"
Musick said of the coincidence. "Both of them earned the
Mrs. Nelson was chosen out of several dozen teachers at Nordhoff
to be Teacher of the Year. "She brings a calming influence
to everything she does, and is able to work through difficult
situations with ease and fluidity."
Andrew "had distinguished himself as a student leader, taking
an active role in student government," said Musick. "He
is one of the top players in our league, leading the tennis team."
Most teachers, added Musick, spoke of Andrew's wit and bright
Meghan Lowe, female Student of the Year, is "obviously one
of our top students, carrying a 4.25 GPA while taking four advanced
placement classes." She also sings in the Gold and Blue
Chorus. "She is unafraid of a good challenge. She understands
the connection between school and life."
The Ojai Valley News
to the news