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SB Bowl Performing Arts Teacher of the Year Award Winners


The Santa Barbara Bowl Performing Arts Teacher of the Year Award is an annual recognition of an exemplary performing arts teacher made in partnership with the SBCEO Teachers Network and The Santa Barbara Bowl.

2024: Elesa Carlson Drama and Art Teacher, Righetti High School, Santa Maria Joint Union High School District. Elesa Carlson

Elesa is Righetti High School's Art & Drama Program director, known for being an inclusive educator who ensures students with disabilities, English learners, and those that struggle with a variety of other pressures at school or home have a place in the classroom. Her inclusiveness is visible in every production filled with students of diverse backgrounds. Elesa makes deliberate efforts to reach out and "recruit" students to her programs, and students know they will be given an opportunity to succeed.

Elesa inspires creativity in students as artists and actors, while generously sharing her time and energy. She runs various clubs as well as the Righetti Improv Team, that entertains staff and students with highly regarded micro-productions on campus. Says her principal, Ted Lyon, "It is inspiring to see and hear how empowered students act and feel after interactions with Ms. Carlson."

“I truly love working at Righetti with such a wonderfully diverse group of students,’’ said Carlson, who also teaches fine arts. “It's been my personal mission to present spaces where all are welcome and to share the arts inclusively by offering opportunities big and small for them.’’ Learn more about Elesa HERE.

2023: Jennifer Peterson, Choir & Theatre Director, Cabrillo High School, Lompoc Unified School District

Jennifer Peterson is the Choir and Theater Director at Cabrillo High School in the Lompoc Unified School District and has a 25-year career in performing arts education.

In her last 15 years at Cabrillo, Jennifer has put on 34 plays and musicals with her students. An inspiring educator with a deep passion for performing arts, Peterson seeks to create opportunities for her students that they might not otherwise have, including high-quality productions. “These are full-length Broadway shows, with the exact same books and music you'd see in New York or on any professional theater company's stage, done on a shoestring budget in 8 weeks of rehearsal,” says Garson Olivieri, Cabrillo High School teacher and nominator of Peterson for this award. Congratulations Jennifer.

2022: Josie Coburn, Music Teacher, Orcutt Union School District

 Josie Coburn is a music and band teacher in the Orcutt Union School District, where she has taught for over eight years. Ms. Coburn has inspired her students in many ways, including fostering their desire to pursue music instruction as a career. She encourages creativity and is regarded by her students as someone willing to brainstorm ideas with them for new and exciting solos, riffs, and performances. Known as one who will work harder, stay longer, and go the extra mile, Coburn inspires students by example.

"Under Coburn’s direction, the Orcutt Union School District  band program has tripled in size, and the Orcutt Academy High School Band  has quadrupled in size, and both have become points of pride in the Orcutt community."  - Holly Edds, Superintendent 

Learn more about Josie HERE.

2021: Elizabeth Caruso, Music Teacher, Monroe Elementary School, Santa Barbara Unified School District

Liz Caruso teaches music at Monroe Elementary School in the Santa Barbara Unified School District. Recognizing the importance of music education, Caruso created the Monroe School Choir for students in grades 4-6. The choir has since performed for many community events including the SB Education Foundation’s fundraisers. Additionally, Caruso brought the BRAVO! free afterschool music instruction program to Monroe School in 2018. Through Caruso’s vision and passion, every BRAVO! elementary student musician has the opportunity to enhance and enrich their lives through music.

“Every time I go into Liz’s classroom, students are not only engaged through moving, dancing, rhyming, singing, or playing an instrument, they are engaged and enveloped in a community of compassion, respect, and love. Wherever you find Liz on campus, you’ll find her reaching out to help, affirm or lift up our students, families and staff.” - Brian Naughton, Monroe Principal 

Learn more about Liz HERE

2020: Bree Jansen, Choreography, cheer & LA Teacher, Lompoc High School, Lompoc Unified School District

Bree teaches dance, choreography, cheer, and language arts classes at Lompoc High School where she has taught for 18 years. She devotes countless hours to dance and drama performance opportunities for her students including all students in her outreach. Students state they feel safe, cared for, and free to be who they are in her classes. “Lucky are those who have been blessed to have crossed Mrs. Jansen’s path. Her love for what she does is impeccable.” ~ LHS Parent.

Learn more about Bree HERE.

2019: Aniela Hoffman, Music Teacher, Arellanes Jr. High School, Santa Maria-Bonita School District

“Every day, students inspire me!” – Aniela Hoffman

Aniela is the Music teacher at Arellanes Junior High School. She teaches Jazz Band and Honor Band, fundraises for the bands, gives students the opportunity to see professional musicians, all the while instilling confidence and passion for music. Her students perform regularly throughout the year to sell-out crowds, and provides concerts at charity events in the community. Aniela’s connections with her students run deep, where former students not only visit, but also perform along side her current students thus enriching students’ lives for many years.

Learn more about Aniela HERE.

2018: Garson Olivieri, Band and Orchestra Teacher, Cabrillo High School, Lompoc Unified School District

“I want my students to truly believe that the sound has the answer, and it will tell you if you listen. You are your own best teacher. I can’t make you better, but together we can help you find the better that is already in you.. – Garson Olivieri

Garson is the Band and Orchestra teacher at Lompoc’s Cabrillo High School. In addition to teaching at Cabrillo, he also taught at Vandenberg Middle School, in Lawndale and in Palmdale prior to that. Once in Lompoc, Olivieri started a string orchestra program that has expanded to five classes in three schools. The Cabrillo Marching Band he directs has won the bronze and silver medals at the Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association Championships. Most recently, he completed a master’s degree in band conducting at the American Band College of Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas.

Learn more about Garson HERE.

2017: Brett Larsen, Music Teacher, Adams Elementary School, Santa Barbara Unified School District

“The invisible structure underneath performing art is developing language skills, fine motor skills, spatial reasoning, listening skills and cooperation. These are the skills that combine to create empathy and humanity.“- Brett Larsen

Brett, an educator for 12 years, is the music program teacher that includes vocal music and Orff instruction for kindergarten through sixth graders at Adams Elementary School. Known for his open-door policy where he supports students with extra tutoring as needed before school and during students lunch period. He teaches all third graders how to play the recorder and ukulele, fourth grade students learn how to play the violin, and students in fifth and sixth grade receive instrumental music lessons. Also the organizer of the Talent Show, Grandparents Day, the co-leader to Bravo!, the Santa Barbara Unified School District’s elementary honor band, Brett is admired throughout the district for his genuine dedication.

Click HERE to learn more about Brett.

 2016: Sarah Barthel, Drama and Choir Teacher, Lompoc High School, Lompoc Unified School District

The main theme of the importance of thinking for yourself is one that resonates with me. Particularly in a modern society with so much technology at our fingertips, it is easy to quickly be caught up in something without thinking it through for yourself. That is a timeless message and one that certainly bears repeating.” – Sarah Barthel

Sarah received bachelor’s degrees with highest honors in mathematics and theater from Bethany College in West Virginia, then completed her MA.ed  at Chapman University and has been teaching at Lompoc High since 2000. Both a math and drama teacher, Sarah has added AP Calculus and choir to her teaching schedule. She also worked for the Pacific Conservatory Theatre (PCPA) in Santa Maria as the lead instructor for the Young People’s Project during the summers of 2011 through 2015.

To learn more about Sarah click HERE.