Credit: Luis Medina/ Santa Barbara County Education Office
Credit: Santa Barbara County Education Office

The Santa Barbara County Education Office (SBCEO) announced the 2023 teacher of the year to be Joanna Hendrix, a special education deaf and hard of hearing instructor from the Orcutt Union School District, who incorporates intuitive learning methods in her classroom of 3- to 6-year-old students.

Hendrix said she was “honored and humbled” to receive the award, and she is now the second SBCEO instructor to receive this award in 40 years. “I hope that throughout the coming year, I have the opportunity to highlight all of the ways that the Santa Barbara County Education Office team supports students with disabilities and students within special programs in each district,” she said.

Hendrix is a special education teacher employed by SBCEO, and works with preschool, transitional kindergarten, and kindergarten students from the Santa Maria and Orcutt regions. Her classroom at Ralph Dunlap Elementary School in the Orcutt Union School District, is one of 17 special education classrooms overseen by SBCEO throughout the county. 

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The award was presented to Hendrix during one of SBCEO’s regular meetings, and Hendrix’s parents attended in support of their daughter. Superintendent of Schools Susan Salcido presented the award and commended Hendrix for her ability to form relationships with her students which enables them to “thrive, grow, and express themselves with confidence.” 

Hendrix teaches students with a wide range of hearing ability, language development, and literacy skills, and Hendrix said students who join her class often arrive with a frustration of being unable to express themselves fully, or understand the world around them. “I aim for our space to be inviting, safe, inclusive, accessible, and a visually stimulating environment,” she said. “Despite the frequent assumption that my class is quiet, my deaf students are a lively and boisterous group of inquisitive young learners… We laugh, we dance, we explore our community, we make mistakes, we try again, and we celebrate each small success, fostering positive relationships through communication and play.”

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