San Marcos High School physical education teacher Brian Roth on Thursday was named this year’s Santa Barbara County Distinguished Educator.
For the last eight years, Roth has taught PE, swim instruction, and water safety. But his commitment to helping his students in all aspects of their lives is what sets him apart.
“Brian Roth exemplifies what is best in our profession,” William Cirone, the county’s superintendent, said in a prepared statement.
His career — which has seen him teach water polo at UCSB, SBCC, and the Santa Barbara Water Polo Club, in addition to teaching high school students how to swim — Roth said, is about imparting important lessons in his students: showing respect for themselves and others, having self-confidence, and taking responsibility for their actions.
“The greatest accomplishment,” Roth said, “is when a student says, ‘This guy’s the reason I believed in myself.’ There are some hard moments, but in the end, when a kid looks up to you, you feel like you’re doing something right in the world.”
Roth — who has previously been named the U.S. Water Polo Coach of the Year as well as San Marcos’s Teacher of the Year — said that he was “very humbled” by the award, and thanked his wife, fellow teachers, and San Marcos High School principal Ed Behrens for all their support.
With a smile on his face, Roth recalled how — this school year alone — he has taught 94 low-income students how to swim and how one of those students in particular overcame his fear of the water.
That student, Roth said, was reluctant to learn how to swim. But then that student became a father. Roth, a father of two boys himself, made the student see how learning how to swim was about more than just the student. “What happens when your baby falls in the water?” Roth remembered asking him. “The kid started learning that same day.”