Out of a competitive selection of candidates, Michelle Minetti-Smith exceeded the expectations of the Santa Barbara County Education Office and was awarded 2017 Teacher of the Year. A first grade teacher at Mary Buren Elementary School in the Guadalupe Union School District, she’ll be in the running for California Teacher of the Year come fall.
A fourth-generation student at Mary Buren, Minetti-Smith knew from a young age she wanted to be a teacher. After graduating Fresno State in 1996, Minetti-Smith returned home and landed a bilingual teaching job at her former elementary school. She followed in the footsteps of her grandmother, who taught for two decades at the school.
After 20 years of teaching first grade, Minetti-Smith still exudes the same amount of excitement she had when she first started working. When asked what she has learned over her 20-year-long career, she said, “As a teacher, you’re a lifelong learner. My duty as a professional is to keep learning and make myself a better educator.”
It’s uncommon for someone to teach the same grade for as long as Minetti-Smith has, but she explains that she has an attachment to the first grade. “Giving them the love of books and reading,” she said, has been the highlight of her career. Guadalupe Superintendent Ed Cora said of Minetti-Smith, “She has done a phenomenal job. She is the last person who wants attention, which is why she deserves it!”
Although Minetti-Smith was notified on April 12 that she had been selected Teacher of the Year, she was required to keep that information to herself until Thursday. After being awarded her plaque, she said, “It is very hard for me to be away from my students today, but I can’t wait to share this with them during class tomorrow!”
An Education Celebration in Buellton on May 26 will celebrate her county-wide recognition, and she will be honored at “A Salute to Teachers” on November 5 in Santa Barbara.