Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year Gregory Wolf | Credit: Courtesy Santa Barbara County Education Office

Step into Gregory Wolf’s classroom, and you’re entering a safe space specially curated for students to be seen, heard, and put in charge of their learning. 

The beloved social sciences teacher at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School was recognized for his student-centered educational philosophy and named the 2024 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year at the County Board of Education meeting on Thursday.

With the county title, Wolf is now eligible for the California Teacher of the Year award.

“Every morning, a question I ask myself is: What can I do today to ensure that the experience of all my students is meaningful and positive?” Wolf said as he accepted the honor. “I believe that for all people in education, if that is what drives us, then everything else will work itself out.” 

Wolf, who has been teaching for 10 years, has garnered respect and admiration from both his colleagues and the county for his inspirational teaching style and “vision for the future of education,” according to Boardmember Nadra Ehrman. 

“Teaching is a very demanding profession that entails a lot of personal sacrifice, but the kids make it more than worth it,” Wolf said. “They inspire me in unimaginable ways, and I look forward to many more years of serving them to the best of my ability.”

At his school, he’s called the “undisputable heartbeat” of the Social Sciences Department and wears many hats – Wolf teaches U.S. History, Political Science, and Advanced Placement Psychology and has served as the Social Sciences Department chair, vice president of the Parent Teacher Student Association, and Associated Student Body (ASB) activities director.

County Superintendent of Schools Susan Salcido said Wolf is an “exemplary teacher” and was chosen from an impressive pool of candidates. 

“From top to bottom, from every corner of the campus, Greg is beloved, appreciated, and known as the ‘go-to’ person for just about everything,” Salcido said. “In one colleague’s words, ‘Greg is truly the full package when it comes to embodying the soul of an outstanding educator.’”

From left: Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District Superintendent Andrew Schwab, 2024 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year Gregory Wolf, and Santa Ynez Valley Union High School Principal Michael Niehoff | Credit: Courtesy Santa Barbara County Education Office

Wolf’s colleague Chris Mullin, 2003 County Teacher of the Year and California State Teacher of the Year, said that Wolf  “shuns the sage onstage persona” in his classroom and is a “highly respected teacher” and “trusted guide” among his fellow educators. 

“On breaks, we all congregate in Greg’s room, swapping jokes and successful lessons with one another,” Mullin said. “His room is a place of collegial laughter and a welcome respite from those occasionally challenging days of high school teaching.”

Wolf said his classroom experience is “designed to put students at the center of everything.” 

“I aim to give students ownership of their own learning with the goal of facilitating engagement, development of critical thinking skills, creativity, and a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment that will hopefully fuel every student’s desire to pursue success in their own lives beyond the classroom,” he said. 

To be considered for Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year,  applicants must have eight full years of classroom teaching experience. In the fall, all county school districts are invited to submit a nomination. 

The Santa Barbara County Education Office’s Teachers Network and a dedicated team of selection committee members conduct an extensive review of all applications and letters of recommendation. Finalists are selected for an interview round where they are asked about their unique instructional practices and philosophy of education. The selection committee also does a classroom observation of each finalist at their school.

Wolf, along with other award-winning teachers from Santa Barbara County, will be introduced at SBCEO’s Education Celebration on Thursday, May 11, 2023, and officially honored at the annual A Salute to Teachers event to be held in November at the Music Academy.

County Board of Education with 2024 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year; From left: Nadra Ehrman, Marybeth Carty, Maggi Daane, Judy Frost, Gregory Wolf, County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Susan Salcido, Joe Howell, Michelle de Werd, & Bruce Porter | Credit: Courtesy Santa Barbara County Education Office


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.