On Dec. 11, The Rotary Club of Santa Barbara recognized La Cumbre Junior High School teacher Nicole Caiazza for her extraordinary contributions to public education. It is the second of four such awards the Rotarians will present to area educators this academic year. Caiazza teaches seventh grade English Language Arts and Social Studies, and the AVID elective course for eighth graders.
Since 1986, the Rotary Club has honored outstanding teachers from South Coast schools each year. It awards a high school, junior high, elementary, and special education teacher with a certificate and a $1,000 check to spend on classroom needs. Marco Silva from Peabody was the first recipient this year, having been recognized in late October.
“Our educators do amazing things for the students and families of our community,” said Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone, whose office coordinates the recognition with the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara. “We are delighted that the annual Rotary awards recognize those contributions, and help provide teachers the resources for them to enhance the classroom experience for local school children.”
“The Rotary Club of Santa Barbara is committed to supporting the Santa Barbara County Education Office, and it gives us great pleasure to recognize the efforts of outstanding teachers like Nicole,” said Brian Sarvis, chairman of the Teacher Recognition Committee of the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara. “Rotary of Santa Barbara and Rotary International members know that educators like Nicole Caiazza have a tremendous impact on their students, who one day will be the leaders of our community. Nicole says that the secret to her success is attitude,” Sarvis continued, “and she certainly lives that motto for both her students and her peers.”
“Nicole Caiazza is one of the brightest spots not only at La Cumbre Junior High School but in the entire district,” says her principal, Ms. Jo Ann Caines. “Her classroom is like a museum walk, engaging students from the minute they enter the room. La Cumbre is indeed lucky to have such an energetic, eager, stellar teacher on staff, and she is recognized as such by students, staff, and the community.”
Caiazza has been teaching at La Cumbre for the last eight years. She earned her undergraduate degree from San Diego State University, and received her teaching credential and masters in education from UCSB.
“My hope is that each year I can create an environment where students build curiosity, learn to ask higher level questions, and work together toward a common goal,” Caiazza states. “When they make mistakes along the way, I praise them because that is when they will truly learn the most. I want students to be proud of their growth and have a better attitude about how they see themselves and their potential to successfully reach their future goals.”
Caiazza and her husband of two years, Iain Garcia, love Santa Barbara. When they need to recharge their emotional batteries, they look to the outdoors, playing beach volleyball, running, or going on bike rides along the coast.
Caiazza is the first in her family to attend college, and she is the first to earn a graduate degree. “As a first generation college student myself,” she says, “I understand the importance of education, and that it is not always an easy path to achieve your dreams of higher education. I always encourage my students to make good choices, have a positive attitude, and set goals for their future, no matter what obstacles seem to be ahead.”
The Rotary Club of Santa Barbara meets at Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort in Santa Barbara for lunch from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Fridays. Recipients of the club’s Teacher Recognition Awards are made with the assistance of the Teacher Programs and Support department of the Santa Barbara County Education Office.