May 1, 2008
Laurie named County Teacher of Year
“…Without question, the single most important guiding principle in my work is that of equity…Through dedication, faith, and effective methods, I help my students achieve success, and help them discover what future successes await them…Every child is different, with unique interests and potential. We don’t know which ones will become artists, engineers, athletes, or politicians. We can only hope that we find a way to help them reach their potential. By receiving diverse learning opportunities, students can find a connection with their school and their teachers, and become intrinsically motivated to pursue academic success.” —Luke Laurie
Luke Laurie, a seventh and eighth grade science teacher for 10 years at El Camino Junior High in the Santa Maria-Bonita School District, was named 2008-09 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year. The announcement was made by County Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone at a press conference convened at the regular monthly meeting of the County Board of Education on May 1. Laurie will become the county’s official representative on July 1.
Laurie, one of a number of outstanding countywide nominees for the honor, was selected by a committee including representatives of teachers, administrators, PTAs, and the county school board. Distinguished Educators were also named and will be announced at the June board meeting.
Laurie has taught seventh and eighth grade science, eighth grade physical science, eighth grade robotics science, and seventh grade science for English Language Learners.
Superintendent Cirone expressed congratulations for Laurie’s professionalism, enthusiasm, creativity, and remarkable successes in the classroom and in the community.
Laurie received an associate’s degree in general studies with highest honors from Cuesta College, and a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies, summa cum laude, from California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo. He also received his teaching credentials and master’s degree in education from Cal Poly.
In 2006 Laurie was one of 14 teachers nationwide selected as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow, and worked on Capitol Hill for Congressman Mike Honda as an advisor on education and environmental policy.
He also won the 2005 Amgen Award for Science Teaching Excellence and in 2000 was named a Santa Barbara Crystal Apple Award winner as Outstanding Secondary Teacher in the North County.
His community involvement ranges from efforts that impact his students and their families to broader efforts to affect under-served communities in the greater Santa Barbara region.
He has served as advisor to MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, and Science Achievement), which has included events and workshops for families and community members. He is also the RoboChallenge Director, science department chair, a Beyond the Classroom facilitator and an organizer for the area Science and Technology Day.
Laurie stated, “I believe my role as an educator should not be confined solely to my classroom. This belief relates to both my involvement in extracurricular activities, and my advocacy work in public policy. I have been involved in many programs designed to enrich the lives of students through the region…I have had the good fortune of seeing may ‘firsts’ in my students by opening their eyes to the world around them through experiences outside the traditional scope of education. The MESA camping trips I have coordinated, for example, often provide the first overnight camping experience…for many of my students.”
He added, “I believe that in order to truly impact students, to motivate them to be successful and to allow them to take ownership of their learning, schools must offer a broad range of curriculum and enrichment opportunities. Through my work with MESA and my Robotics science course, I provide technical experiences and teach skills to fill a void in the traditional curriculum, and expose students to college and career possibilities in computer science, engineering, and other technical fields. Not incidentally, the learning is fun and engaging.”
Wrote Congressman Mike Honda: “Luke worked in my Washington, DC office…as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow. In my office, Luke had all the duties and obligations of a legislative assistant. He was my primary aid on all education matters…His diverse experiences as an educator and his work in under-served communities gave him unique insights in complex issues…Luke is comfortable in all situations, formal and informal, and was at home in the Halls of Congress. Luke is efficient, resourceful creative, a great team player, and an excellent communicator…The students of Santa Maria are very fortunate to have Mr. Laurie as their teachers.”
Wrote principal Mark Muller: “Mr. Laurie’s hard work and dedication to our students has obviously been noticed by all other teachers on our staff…His classroom is truly a model for other teachers to find even more ways to reach our students…Whenever he gets involved he takes a leadership role and contributes greatly to making the program or activity a great success…Mr. Laurie is a life-long learner who is always bettering himself as an individual and as a teacher. His students are very fortunate to have such an outstanding instructor, teacher, and mentor. Quite simply, Mr. Laurie is a Superstar!…Not only is he as fine a teacher as you will ever find, but he is a true and effective teacher representative who makes a difference by what he does.”
Wrote UCSB MESA programs directors Robert Cota and Phyllis Brady: “Luke is an exceptional teacher, a leader in the field, and a significant part of the Santa Barbara County education community…Several of Luke’s former MESA students have now completed engineering programs and other science-based majors at California universities. Luke’s skill as a motivator and mentor are evident in the work of his students…He subtly finds ways to let the students discover success on their own…His work in advocacy and outreach has been extensive and tireless. His clarity of communication and his strong leadership skills have positively impacted many teachers and students throughout the region…Luke has led the charge to bridge the technology gap of traditionally under-represented students by providing meaningful and highly applicable interactive STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education experiences specifically designed to increase student preparation for STEM careers and university attainment…He is an energetic education champion for all students to reach their loftiest goals.”
Laurie’s nomination will next be reviewed for consideration as California Teacher of the Year in the fall. The California winner will then proceed into consideration for 2009 National Teacher of the Year.
As Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year, Laurie will be available to speak countywide, and can be reached at El Camino Junior High, 361-7800, or at the County Education Office, by calling Petti Pfau at 964-4711, ext. 5281.