Riccardo, who teaches high school biology at Pioneer Valley High School in Santa Maria, was also named this year’s Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year. As a part-time faculty member he teaches education classes at Brandman’s Santa Maria campus.

“Riccardo exemplifies the type of faculty members we seek at Brandman – experts who can bring a wealth of experience and practical knowledge to the classroom, as well as dedication to the success of each and every student,” said Dr. Christine Zeppos, Dean of the School of Education. “We are very proud to have Riccardo among the many stellar faculty at Brandman University; he certainly deserves both honors for his passionate dedication to education and his commitment to the community.”

“I am very honored to receive these awards; I also feel humbled that my peers nominated me and that the selection committees felt that I was the ‘one’,” Magni said. “I teach at Brandman University because I feel that I can make a difference. If my experiences can help other newer teachers do a better job, then it is definitely worth it.”

“The Santa Maria Valley campus is very fortunate to have Riccardo as an adjunct instructor,” says Patricia Graham, Campus Director for the Santa Maria Valley campus. “His students have high praise for his expertise and knowledge. Several students have commented on the manner in which he brings the classroom experience to life, stating ‘this was my first class at Brandman University, and he helped me to think again and believe that I am making the right decision to become a teacher.’ Riccardo demonstrates what good teaching should look like every time he steps into the classroom.”

The Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators

The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), recognizes outstanding K-12 teachers who employ innovative approaches to environmental education and use the environment as a context for learning for their students.

During the 2008-2009 school year, Riccardo Magni was tasked by the principal at Pioneer Valley High School to reinvigorate an advanced environmental science class that had low enrollment. With the help of grant funding, Riccardo purchased Probeware and Labquest devices and organized students to begin monthly testing of a local pond at Jim May Park. Students test the water for environmental factors such as turbidity, nitrates and dissolved oxygen; analyze the data; and share results with a local elementary school to teach and inspire younger students about the environment. Riccardo leads field trips to the Avila Sea Life Center, where students participate in a workshop, collect ocean water samples and study sea life. He conducts ecological nature walks to provide students with opportunities to observe, classify and predict the species living on campus. He also has invited dozens of industry professionals to talk to students and expose them to real-life applications of environmental science. He recently founded the Summer Science Research Institute, a 6-week summer program during which students have built a wind turbine and a wave energy device to extract energy from the ocean. Riccardo has instilled excitement in science classes at Pioneer Valley High School and has been approached by other science teachers in his school district seeking help to start similar programs.

Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year

Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone honored Magni with the Teacher of the Year award during a recent press conference at the regular monthly meeting of the Board of Education. Magni was nominated by fellow teachers at his school.

Magni wrote in a statement, “My personal teaching goal is to have every student leave my classroom each day having made a positive change to their knowledge base, whether it be fundamentals such as reading, writing or communications, or gaining a better understanding of the world of science.”

He also says, “We need to keep the ‘cool’ in school.”

Wrote colleague J. Manuel Casillas: “Riccardo Magni is a very deserving, dedicated, and responsible teacher who has been instrumental in the establishing of a strong and diverse science department staff at Pioneer Valley High School…Mr. Magni’s dedication to the success of the students is evident in the work he does after school, during the year, and during the summer research program he supervises…The success that the students experience in Mr. Magni’s classes and summer program is a result of the dedication, preparation, and hard work he puts into the job…He is a deserving teacher who needs to be recognized for his excellent work in one of the noblest jobs, being a great teacher.”

Besides being Teacher of the Year, Magni also has obtained 36 grants totaling $45,500 for science education at his school. Magni will become the county’s official representative on July 1st. He now has a shot at California Teacher of the Year in the fall. The California winner then proceeds into consideration for the 2013 National Teacher of the Year.


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