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Santa Barbara, CA – June 20, 2024 – Laguna Blanca School proudly announces Dana Caldwell as the recipient of the 2024 Faculty Excellence Award. Presented at the Upper School Awards Ceremony on June 7, this prestigious accolade recognizes Dana’s outstanding contributions as Laguna Blanca’s Theater Instructor and Performing Arts Department Head.

Selected by a committee comprising recent award recipients, alum, and staff, the Faculty Excellence Award is the highest honor bestowed upon a member of the faculty at Laguna Blanca. The award winner should possess superior knowledge of their subject matter, provide fresh and stimulating classroom presentations, demonstrate concern for students both inside and outside the classroom, be actively involved in school life and student activities, and go above and beyond to assist and mentor colleagues.“This year’s recipient–Dana Caldwell–exemplifies excellence across all the award criteria,” says Head of School Ron Cino. Dana has been a proud Owl since 2014, serving as the Grades 5-12 Theater Teacher, Director, and Performing Arts Chair at Laguna Blanca. A Santa Barbara native, she earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and has been actively engaged as an actor, costume designer, director, and educator throughout her career. 

Credit: Courtesy

Dana’s versatility in instructional approach is commendable, seamlessly transitioning between engaging fifth graders with entertaining and educational activities to guiding seniors through more intensive coursework. Her ability to connect with students is evident in the positive feedback received from Laguna parents, who have expressed admiration for the meaningful impact Dana has had on their children’s learning experiences.

Dana is known for her responsiveness, supportiveness, and collaborative spirit as a colleague. Actively participating in discussions surrounding project-based learning and thematic units, she continuously seeks ways to enhance the educational experience for both students and fellow faculty members alike.

Dana’s unwavering commitment to her role extends far beyond traditional working hours, as she willingly sacrifices personal time to engage with students outside of the classroom, often spending nights and weekends with them to prepare for upcoming performances.

Beyond her instructional duties, Dana has cultivated an exceptional Technical Theater program at Laguna Blanca, collaborating with a world-class production design team led by Technical Director & Designer Richard Croy. Under Dana’s guidance, students have flourished, with several pursuing careers in production design and stage management directly after graduation—a testament to the program’s success and Dana’s mentorship.

“Our students’ commitment and achievements in theater are a source of immense pride,” Dana remarks. “I’m particularly proud of our upperclassmen who emerge as leaders, partnering in all facets of our productions.”

Dana also recognizes the broader significance of the arts in society. She understands that theater serves as a platform for storytelling, challenging societal norms, and fostering empathy and understanding. By integrating these principles into her work at Laguna Blanca, Dana not only enriches the educational experience but also contributes to the development of well-rounded individuals.

“Ms. Caldwell is rare and wonderful, and we are so lucky to have her,” remarks Mr. Cino. Dana’s passion for the performing arts and her dedication to fostering a supportive learning environment have left an indelible mark on the Laguna Blanca community.

Thanks to an endowment established by alumni parents Steven and Marilyn Gutsche, recipients of Laguna Blanca’s Faculty Excellence Award receive a cash award and a $3,000 stipend for travel, workshops, equipment, and teaching materials.

LAGUNA BLANCA SCHOOL Grades Early Kindergarten through Gr. 4: 260 San Ysidro Rd., Montecito; Grades 5 through 12: 4125 Paloma Dr., Santa Barbara. For information about Laguna Blanca’s programs, contact 805-687-2461 or visit

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