It’s no surprise Brandon Sportel is the 2016 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year. A special education teacher who oversees a classroom of eleven K-5 students with mild to moderate disabilities at Carpinteria’s Canalino Elementary School, Sportel won the prestigious statewide Milken Educator Award last month. And in February, the Carpinteria School District also named him its teacher of the year.
Lauded for his innovation and energy, Sportel is perhaps best at connecting with his students. “I love my job because every morning, [my students] are bound to keep me smiling,” Sportel told reporters last week after he accepted his Teacher of the Year award. When he first started coaching junior high school students, Sportel recognized he was able to bond with kids. He became a teacher in Carpinteria in 2005 after spending several years as an education specialist at Devereux School, which shut down in 2006.
Teachers do not go into the profession to drive up test scores, Sportel said last week, but to change the lives of kids. “Students absolutely trust their teachers,” Sportel added. Canalino principal Jamie Persoon added Sportel is committed to all kids, not just the ones in his class.
Other educators seek out Sportel for guidance and advice, and he gives presentations on trends in special education at CSU Channel Islands. Plus, he mentors student teachers at other area colleges. Outside of the classroom, Sportel has been involved in Special Olympics for more than 10 years.
“Our teachers serve over 67,000 students in 20 school districts,” county superintendent Bill Cirone said. “Being selected Teacher of the Year — and representing all the fine teachers throughout Santa Barbara County — is a tremendous honor.”