From left: Elsy Mora Zambrano, Alyssa Spanier, Jennifer Peterson, Joanna Hendrix, Kirsten McLaughlin, Ingo Hentschel, Susan Salcido, Ellen Barger, Christina Roessler, Crystal Guzman, Kendall Stevens, Cara Leach | Credit: Courtesy

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SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, CA – The ninth annual “A Salute to Teachers gala, presented by the Santa Barbara County Education Office (SBCEO) and Cox Communications, was held on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022 at the Music Academy in Santa Barbara in celebration of our county’s finest TK-12 educators. The event honored the Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year, Santa Barbara Bowl Performing Arts Teacher of the Year, three Distinguished New Educators, and three Distinguished Mentor award winners.

More than 300 people were in attendance, including teachers, principals, superintendents, community members, business partners, and elected officials from throughout the county. With Andrew Firestone returning as emcee for the seventh year, the evening included a series of personalized video tributes dedicated to each honoree, produced by Cox Yurview television, as well as student performances from the Orcutt Academy High School Jazz Band, Sing! children’s choir, and 2022 Spirit of Fiesta, Tara Mata. Guests enjoyed an elegant dinner as well as dancing in the Music Academy’s historic Marilyn Horne Main House.

This year’s honorees represented schools and districts from nearly every region of Santa Barbara County. Each honoree was presented with their award on stage by the award’s business sponsor and given the opportunity for remarks. Click HERE for a quote from each honoree.

Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year Joanna Hendrix, an SBCEO teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing, accepted the award with an acknowledgement to her students and their families: “To my former and current students, their parents, and those yet to come, thank you. Thank you for allowing me into your homes, for sharing your culture, your language, and your dreams. For partnering with me and trusting me along the way. Thank you to the deaf adults and community members who have supported my students and showed them the possibility of what is yet to come.” Hendrix is a deaf education teacher employed by SBCEO, serving preschool, transitional kindergarten, and kindergarten students from the Santa Maria and Orcutt regions. Her classroom is housed on the campus of Ralph Dunlap Elementary School.

In her closing remarks, Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools Susan Salcido emphasized the importance of elevating and celebrating the teaching profession: “What a gift to be a part of this community – dedicated and invested in elevating the profession of teaching and recognizing the dynamic and complex work of teachers. This evening was a moment to pause as a community and send this message to teachers: we believe in you, we respect you, we value you, and we salute you. We thank you for your unwavering commitment to our children, and the ways in which you humbly and boldly prepare and show up for your students every day. To the family and friends of honorees, thank you for dressing up tonight, for standing up and sometimes holding up your teacher. And to our community partners, thank you for your time, energy, and resources in support of teaching excellence.”

Kirsten McLaughlin, Market Vice President for Cox Communications in Santa Barbara, told the crowd, “As the daughter of two educators and a product of the Santa Barbara Unified School District, it is an honor to recognize the tireless work of our teachers and all they do to support their students and our community. Since the inception of this event in 2013, Cox is proud to be the founding co-sponsor of A Salute to Teachers and grateful for our longstanding partnership with the Santa Barbara County Education Office. Congratulations to this years’ incredible honorees and to our teachers across the county who work tirelessly to educate the next generation.”

A Salute to Teachers recognized the following individuals. Click HERE for a quote from each honoree.

  • 2023 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year Joanna Hendrix – SBCEO Deaf Education Regional Program in Orcutt Union School District
  • 2023 Santa Barbara Bowl Performing Arts Teacher of the Year Jennifer Peterson – Cabrillo High School/Lompoc Unified School District
  • 2022-23 Distinguished Mentors
    • Cara Leach – Foothill School/Goleta Union School District
    • Christina Roessler – Peabody Charter School
    • Alyssa Spanier – Solvang School/Solvang School District
  • 2022-23 Distinguished New Educators
    • Crystal Guzman – El Camino Jr. High School/Santa Maria-Bonita School District
    • Elsy Mora Zambrano – La Colina Jr. High School/Santa Barbara Unified School District
    • Kendall Stevens – La Cumbre Jr. High School/Santa Barbara Unified School District

The Santa Barbara County Education Office is grateful to the following business partners for their support of this event:

Founding Co-Sponsor

Cox Communications

Valedictorian Sponsors

Fielding Graduate University, Montecito Bank & Trust, Noozhawk, Santa Barbara Bowl, Santa Barbara City College Foundation, Melfred Borzall

Salutatorian Sponsors

Linkedin, Rusty’s Pizza Parlors

Honor Roll Sponsors

Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo, Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District, ExxonMobil, Griffith & Thornburgh LLP, Santa Barbara Teachers Federal Credit Union, Seasons Catering, Sonos, UCLA Health, United Way Santa Barbara County

For more information about the honorees, awards, or the event, visit or contact Steve Keithley, SBCEO Director of Teacher Programs, at (805) 964-4710, ext. 5281. 


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