Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Communication don’ts

Radio Commentary

When communicating with teenagers, keep this sentence in mind: 
“Please think about what you just said to me.”
Sometimes that simple statement can diffuse a lot of emotion and distractions.
On the other hand, here are some important, teen-tested statements that will kill off communication and should be avoided at all costs:
  • “Who do you think you are talking to?”
  • “Why did you do that?”
  •  “What were you thinking about?”
  • “How could you be so foolish or selfish?”
  •  “Don’t use that tone of voice with me.”

Communication is critical, so it helps to know and avoid these “killer” phrases when attempting to keep those lines of contact strong with a teenager.
Focusing on the positive is always the most effective way to go, though it can take a great deal of self-discipline on the part of a parent, who sees so clearly what needs to be changed.
If you can take the time to listen carefully, move the conversation in a positive direction, and avoid phrases that can turn a teenager stone-cold in an instant, you’ll find it is much easier to keep the lines of communication open.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Communication do’s

Radio Commentary

In these times when everyone is very rushed, it’s more important than ever to take the time to talk with your children. 
This is especially the case with teenagers who may be going through some challenges. 
Timing your talk is critical. Choose a time when your child seems most receptive. 
Here are some quick, practical, teen-tested phrases for adults to use successfully in communicating with adolescents:
  • First, say nothing for a while — just listen.
  • Then say:  “I’ve heard you say…” and paraphrase your child’s point. 
  • Ask: “Is that accurate?”
  • “Say: “What were your options or choices of action?”
  • Ask: “How were others affected by your actions?”
  • Then ask:  “How could you have handled things differently?”

This sequence of comments – listening, paraphrasing, confirming, asking about options, focusing on others, and then reaching a good conclusion— are all positive ways to communicate with a teenager.

Friday, May 27, 2016

A community for kids

Radio Commentary

Sometimes we want so much for our children, and our community’s children, that doing what’s best for them can seem overwhelming.
We can begin to feel that there are too many bases to cover, and too many areas to support or protect to make sure our children get our best efforts.
It can help to focus our energies on a shared vision. A publication called Helping Kids Succeed has a great approach.
It asks us to imagine living in a community where all young people feel loved and supported by their families and neighbors, with many positive, caring places to go.
  • Where all young people know what is expected of them — what actions are acceptable and not acceptable. And where they see adults set good examples in those areas;
  • A community where all young people believe that education and life-long learning are important, and have strong values that guide their actions;
  • A community where all young people have skills to make healthy choices and have good relationships; where all young people feel strong, worthwhile, and connected to some purpose in life.

Finally, it asks us to imagine a community where all young people are valued by everyone.
Imagine the richness of life for everyone in such a community.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Verbal and nonverbal messages

Radio Commentary

Communication has two parts, verbal and nonverbal. Both aspects convey vital information to the listener.
Verbal, of course, is the portion that is spoken out loud. It includes the words used and how they are put together.
Nonverbal communication is everything else — it includes facial expression, tone of voice, eye contact, posture, hand movements, and other indications of meaning, whether intended or not.
For this reason, it’s important to be very aware of what tone of voice you are using when you speak to your children. 
Often it’s not what you say but how you say it that conveys your underlying message.   
Children are particularly good at picking up on these cues, especially with their parents.
Pay attention to how loudly, softly, quickly, or slowly you speak. 
Remember that you also communicate with eye contact and facial expression. 
If you are looking away it can signal that you are either preoccupied or not being completely direct. 
Saying something too quickly, or too sharply, can undermine the message.
Be sure that all your messages are consistent, in word and expression.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Schools of Thought with Bill Cirone

Geoff Green
SBCC Foundation

Local Leaders with Bill Cirone

Sara Miller McCune
SAGE Publishing

Talking with Teachers with Bill Cirone

Shannon Saleh
La Colina Junior High School

Creating connections

Radio Commentary

Several types of activities can help create and maintain connections with your children as they get older.
Share a hobby. Explore an interest that you both enjoy, whether it’s rollerblading, playing golf, or skimming through fashion magazines or websites. Time spent this way can result in hours of naturally-flowing conversation.
Look at baby pictures. A walk down memory lane is a great way to bring up other awkward topics including the many physical and emotional changes that occur throughout your child’s life.
Make time in the car for conversation. The moments you have together in the car can help you share important information and emotions.
You can also learn a lot about your child if you pay attention to conversations with friends while they’re riding in the back seat.
See your child as others do. Many parents only see their children when they’re at home. Get involved with your child’s school or summer program. Volunteer to help with extracurricular programs, such as theatre, clubs, or sports.
You may discover new and wonderful aspects to your child that you otherwise would have missed.
All these activities help you create and maintain connections as your children travel into adulthood. They also form the basis of shared experiences and close relationships throughout a lifetime.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

I Madonnari

Radio Commentary

The plaza of the Old Mission will once again come to colorful life when Santa Barbara’s Italian Street Painting Festival is celebrated over Memorial Day weekend, May 28 to 30.
I Madonnari, which is part Renaissance fair, part performance art, and one of Santa Barbara's most popular open-air festivals, will once again transform the plaza at the Mission over Memorial Day weekend.
My office sponsors the program, run through our Children’s Creative Project, as a continuing means of fostering arts education and expression for young and old alike.
It is also a major fund-raiser for the Children’s Creative Project.
The Project uses professional artists-in-residence to provide quality arts instruction in the visual and performing arts.
The Project also brings professional performing arts groups to Santa Barbara to work with our local school children.
These performers reach over 50,000 children in scores of elementary schools every year.
The Children’s Creative Project is more essential than ever. Every dollar raised is used to support visual and performing arts instruction in our schools.
At the I Madonnari festival, pavement squares sponsored by businesses and organizations are made available for local artists, architects, and school children.
Don’t miss out on this local tradition, starting May 28 at the Santa Barbara Mission.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Advising preteens

Radio Commentary

I’ve heard some parents express concern that their preteens don’t listen to them.
This is because preteens may adopt an oblivious attitude or appear to “tune out.”
But parents should not underestimate their influence. Preteens want to know their parents’ opinions and values. They only tune out when parents lecture, preach, or scold.
So, a helpful tool for communication with preteens is to express your opinions indirectly.
For example, you might comment on the behavior of a television character to get a point across.
If a character is driving recklessly, you could say, “It seems he’s being awfully irresponsible about his friend’s safety.”
This kind of statement is usually more effective with preteens than a direct statement like “How could he be so reckless?” or “Don’t you ever drive like that!”
Along the same lines, if your preteen wants to see a movie that you consider controversial, you might go see it with her and then ask her opinions about it.
Instead of lecturing about how bad the movie was, ask what she thought about the characters’ actions and decisions.
This will not only give you insight into her thinking, but can help you get your values across.
Finally, modeling the way you want your children to act can be a very useful way of ‘giving advice’ silently. It works.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Reducing stress

Radio Commentary

Children cope better with stress in their lives when they don’t feel helpless. So teach them how to care for themselves and assume more family responsibility as they grow up. 
Show them how to balance chores and play. Help them plan schedules that are realistic. Show them the importance of adequate rest and proper nutrition. These precautions help prevent stress from erupting in the first place.
Encourage your children to ask for help when they need it, analyze problems as they arise, and plan alternatives for coping.
It’s been demonstrated that children who enjoy learning have good defenses against stress, so encourage your children to do their best in school. 
But remember that too much academic pressure is a chief cause of childhood stress, so don’t go overboard.
If you child is having a problem at school, support the school’s effort to correct the problem. 
Confide in your child’s teachers and principal if you sense there is a problem with stress.
These professionals are trained to integrate coping skills into classroom activities like group discussions, role-playing, films and problem-solving exercises.
Keeping in touch with your child’s school is an important safeguard against stress.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Listen to your kids

Radio Commentary

One of the simplest parent tips is one that is often overlooked because it is so obvious:
Listen to your children.
As the saying goes, there is a reason we are given two ears and one mouth.
For parents it is tempting to reverse the ratio and do more talking than listening. After all, there is so much we want our children to learn and do. We are the source of much knowledge, and there is a powerful urge to share it often.
And, of course, talking to children is very good for them. It helps them acquire more of the subtleties of language.
But children also need to talk and to be heard.
When you listen carefully to what children are saying, you send the clear message, “You matter to me. I care about what you have to say. Your ideas and opinions are worthy of being heard.”
Those are powerful messages for children to absorb.
The best advice is to slow down, face your child, even get down to his level, wait, and listen carefully to what he or she has to say.
Avoid the temptation to talk over your children. Don’t finish their thoughts, even if their speech is halting or they are searching for words. Let them find the words on their own, or help with gentle prompting.
Don’t hurry your child to get on with it. Be patient. The time you spend listening will bear long-terms dividends for both of you.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Reading maps

Radio Commentary

Reading maps is an important skill for everyone to master, whether the map is on paper, a computer, or a GPS screen.
Help by putting your child’s natural curiosity to work. Even small children can learn to read simple maps of their school, neighborhood, and community.
Go on a walk and collect natural materials like flowers or leaves to use for an art project. Map the location where you found each item.
Create a treasure map for children to find hidden treats in the yard or inside your home. This can even be a great idea for birthday parties. Encourage children to play the game with one another, taking turns with hiding the treasure and drawing the map.
See if your child can find your street on a county or city map. Point out where your relatives or your children’s friends live.
Point out different kinds of maps, like state highway maps, city or county maps, and bus route maps. Discuss their different uses.
Before taking a trip, show your children on a map where you are going and how you plan to get there. Look for other routes you could take and talk about why you chose the one you did.
Children sometimes like to follow the map as you travel. If you are on a long trip, you can point out what town you have just reached and ask children to find the next town on your route.
All these activities help with geography skills year-round.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Relaxed and receptive

Radio Commentary

High-stakes testing is a fact of life. Students of all ages will take standardized tests throughout their school careers.
While some students are naturals at test-taking, others need help to do their best.
A publication titled “Principal Communicator” outlines four conditions that can help parents help their children feel confident about tests.
They all start with “R”: being Receptive Relaxed, Ready, and Rested.
Being “Receptive” is important. Parents can help young people develop a receptive attitude toward school in general, and testing in particular.
They can do this by making sure students understand that testing is merely a part of the learning process and that it is a measuring stick for how much they have learned.
The second “R” is for “Relaxed.” Anxiety can block the best-prepared student from doing well on a test.
It’s important to help children avoid getting hung up on how hard a test might be, or the negative consequences of doing poorly.
Being Ready — not cramming at the last minute — and being Rested, by getting a good night’s sleep before the test, are also vital.
Make sure your child knows you have confidence in them to do well, but that your approval of your child as a person does not depend on a test score.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Economics, happiness

Radio Commentary

An early goal for public education in this country was to help people become economically self-sufficient.
Our leaders felt that public schools would give all Americans the basic reading and math skills they needed to succeed in the workplace. As a result, poverty and its consequences would be reduced.
Early national leaders also saw the public schools as a “social escalator in a merit-based society.”
They thought it would enable children of humble birth to pursue financial success and improve their lot in life.
Later, as the Industrial Age introduced new occupations, the public schools offered more courses with direct vocational content.
Early proponents of public schools also saw an educational role in enhancing individual happiness.
They felt that knowledge would produce people who could think rationally, apply the wisdom of the ages, and appreciate culture.
In 1749, Benjamin Franklin said: “The good education of youth has been esteemed by wise men in all ages as the surest foundation of the happiness of both private families and of communities.”
It is very important as we continue to reform and improve public education that we keep our eye on the big picture — the lofty goals our founding fathers had in mind.

Friday, May 13, 2016

I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival planned for May 28-30

News release

Photo: Nell Campbell
Agaves/Artist Jennifer LeMay
The I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival will celebrate its 30th anniversary from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on May 28, 29, and 30 at the Santa Barbara Mission. A ceremony at noon on Monday, May 30, on the Mission steps will introduce and thank the major festival sponsors and featured artist Cecelia Linayao as her street painting is concluded.

I Madonnari, the first festival of its kind in North America to present the performance art of street painting, is presented by and raises vital funding for the Children’s Creative Project (CCP), a nonprofit arts education program of the Santa Barbara County Education Office.

The festival features 150 street-painting squares drawn with chalk pastels on the pavement in front of the Mission. As the public watches, 300 local artists transform these pavement canvases into elaborate compositions in unexpectedly vibrant colors. The spaces range in size from 4-by-6 feet to 12-by-12 feet and in price from $150 to $700, each one bearing the name of its sponsor — a business, organization, family, or individual. The festival is sponsored in part by The Berry Man, Loreto Plaza Shopping Center, Yardi, Daniel and Mandy Hochman, and Bella Vista Designs. Members of the public can sign up at the festival’s information booth to receive a brochure to be a street painting sponsor or an application to be an artist next year.

This year’s featured artist, Cecelia Linayao is a fine arts graduate of Cal State University, Long Beach. Chalk has become a favorite tool in her artist’s toolkit. Besides the traditional crafts of painting with oils, acrylics and computer, she has exploded out of the studio and into the street. Street Painting is a huge part of her repertoire. She has won many awards and been featured at festivals throughout the United States for both solo and team projects. Based locally in southern California, her art is global; they include projects in China, Canada, Mexico and Italy. Her paintings on walls and canvas are also global. She is a Muralist and Ambassador for the Art Miles Mural Project, a global initiative advocating Peace through Art. A recent mural featuring the Pope won a MY HERO Award.

Cecelia is deeply honored to be the Featured Artist at Santa Barbara’s I Madonnari. Keeping in mind the gravitas of a 30th anniversary, she has chosen a classic subject — the Madonna — with surprise touches of whimsy for celebration.

To celebrate the 30th year, seven amazing and long-time I Madonnari artists are collaborating to create a 24-by-30 feet street painting. Tracy Lee Stum, Sharyn Chan, Ann Hefferman, Lisa Jones, Jennifer LeMay, Jay Schwartz, and Laura Wilkinson are designing an original piece. Tracy Lee Stum will debut her book “The Art of Chalk” with a book signing from 2 to 3 p.m. each day. Rod Tryon will create a special mirror anamorphosis, with a conical or cylindrical mirror placed in the center of the street painting to transform a flat distorted image into a three-dimensional picture that can be viewed from many angles. By looking uniquely into the mirror, the image appears not to be distorted.

An expanded area for children to create street paintings will be located at the west side of the Mission inside a private parking area. Some 600 Kids’ Squares are available. When completed, they will form a 40-by-60-feet patchwork of colorful paintings. Throughout the three-day event, the 2-by-2-feet Kids’ Squares can be purchased for $12, which includes a box of chalk.

Live music and an Italian market will be featured on the Mission lawn throughout the three-day event. The festival’s fabuloso Italian Market offers authentic Italian cuisine produced by the Children’s Creative Project Board of Directors. According to Board President Phil Morreale and Market Coordinator Bryan Kerner, this year’s market will include lemon-rosemary roasted chicken, pasta, pizza, calamari, Italian sausage sandwiches, gelati, coffees, and specialty items designed from prior years’ festivals including T-shirts, posters, note cards and more.


I Madonnari is produced by the Children’s Creative Project (CCP), a nonprofit arts education program of the Santa Barbara County Education Office. The organization is the first to create a festival in North America featuring the public art of street painting. After traveling to a street painting competition in Italy, CCP Executive Director Kathy Koury created the festival and the concept of sponsored street-painting squares as a fundraiser and produced the first local festival in 1987. The late Father Virgil Cordano and the Santa Barbara Mission’s bicentennial committee members also worked with Koury to include the I Madonnari festival in the yearlong series of official events that celebrated the Santa Barbara Mission’s bicentennial.

The festival has continued to grow and now is being replicated in more than 100 cities throughout the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. In November 2015, four I Madonnari street painters — Ann Hefferman, Julio Jimenez, Melody Owens, and Meredith Morin — traveled to Santa Barbara’s sister city of Puerto Vallarta to create street paintings with local artists and children. Koury has continued to work with Santa Barbara and Puerto Vallarta Sister City representatives to further develop the festival that has taken place in the city’s main plaza since 2006. The project is co-sponsored by the Santa Barbara-Puerto Vallarta Sister City Committee.

Street painting, using chalk as the medium, is an Italian tradition that is believed to have begun during the 16th century. Called “Madonnari” because of their practice of reproducing the image of the Madonna (Our Lady), the early Italian street painters were vagabonds who would arrive in small towns and villages for Catholic religious festivals and transform the streets and public squares into temporary galleries for their ephemeral works of art. With the first rains of the season, their paintings would be gone. Today, the tradition lives on in the village of Grazie di Curtatone, Italy, where the annual International Street Painting Competition is held in mid-August.

Festival proceeds enable the CCP to sponsor fine-arts programs conducted by professional artists during school hours for 50,000 children in county public schools. Resident artists provide workshops in the visual and performing arts for more than 35,600 children. Fundraising from the I Madonnari festival helps to continue the CCP’s work to support annual performance events and other activities.

On April 13 at the Arlington Theatre, the CCP presented a free performance for 2,000 elementary schoolchildren who experienced the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. The performance was presented in collaboration with UCSB Arts & Lectures. The performance was fully funded by the I Madonnari Festival with grant support from The Towbes Foundation.

This school year 50,000 children at 90 school sites will view some 450 performances presented by multicultural touring companies featured in the CCP’s Arts Catalog. To support this program, festival proceeds also provide every county public school with a $200 arts credit to help pay the companies’ performance fees.

For festival photos or more information about the Children’s Creative Project or I Madonnari, or to arrange artist interviews, contact Koury at 964-4710, ext. 4411, or go to imadonnarifestival.com. To interview featured artist Cecelia Linayao: 619-993-2089, or CeceliaLinayaoFineArt.com.

Preteens and friends

Radio Commentary

When children become preteens, their interest in friends and social activities often increases dramatically. Parents may be faced rather abruptly with issues of trust and peer pressure.
Preteens may resist having parents check up on their outside activities. They may say, “I can’t believe you don’t trust me.”
One good response is, “I trust you, but I don’t like the situation you’re going to be in.” Or, “I trust YOU to stay away from trouble, but I can’t be sure your friends will.”
Preteens may think they can avoid peer pressure on their own, but they actually will appreciate having you help them.
If your child is going to a party, ask a lot of “what if” questions.
For example, say, “What if your friends dare you do to something that is against our family’s rules?”
Many parents also report great success with “escape lines” that allow preteens to blame you when resisting pressure.
For example, a preteen offered alcohol can say, “No thanks. My dad always smells my breath when I come home.”
The bottom line is that parents of preteens must sometimes be willing to be unpopular. They don’t have to let preteens go somewhere or do something just because their friends’ parents allow it.
Parents must continue to set limits on behavior and be willing to say “no” when necessary. It’s good parenting, and their children will grateful — if not today, then some day soon.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Bee stings

Radio Commentary

This is the time of year that parents should talk to their children about the risk of bee stings, and take some precautions.
Honeybees will sting if provoked or if they’re defending their nests.
The California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources has a list of precautions that children can take to avoid getting injured by bees.
First, children should be taught to stay away from ALL bee swarms and colonies.
If they encounter a bee swarm, children should run away quickly. Teach them to protect their faces and eyes as much as possible while running.
Children should get inside a car or building to take shelter. Tell children not to swat at bees. Rapid motions will cause them to sting. 
If children do get stung, tell them to go quickly to a safe area, such as a building or vehicle.
The bee’s stinger should be removed as soon as possible. Do not squeeze the stinger because pressure will release more venom. Instead, scrape out the stinger with a fingernail or credit card.
Wash the sting area with soap and water. Then, apply an ice pack for a few minutes to relieve pain and swelling.
Be sure to seek medical attention if your child has trouble breathing, or has been stung numerous times.
These simple steps can go a long way to prevent bee stings, or at least to ease the pain after being stung.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Day of Teacher

Radio Commentary

Today is the California Day of the Teacher, which encourages our community to salute some of the unsung heroes and heroines in our midst.
Teachers embody our society's belief that universal public education is key to meeting the challenges of a changing world.
They strive to make every classroom an exciting environment where productive and useful learning can take place and each student is encouraged to grow and develop.
Our teachers reach out to foster the well-being of each student, regardless of ability, social or economic background, race, ethnic origin, or religion.
Teachers also motivate individual students to find new directions in life and reach high levels of achievement.
This year, May 2 to May 6 was designated Teacher Appreciation Week by the National PTA. It is a time for honoring teachers and recognizing the lasting contributions they make to our communities.
It is fitting that this month we take time to remember and salute the teachers who mold and educate our children and have such impact on the future of our society.
Please join me in saying ‘thank you’ to our teachers for their skill, patience, dedication, their hard work and their results. They are true community heroes who make a difference every day, and we are all very grateful.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Drug advice

Radio Commentary

The Partnership for a Drug-Free America provides good suggestions for parents to help their children stay off drugs.
Their ideas deserve parents’ consideration.
For example, parents are urged to make sure the information they offer fits their children’s age and cognitive level.
When a six or seven-year-old is brushing his teeth, parents can say, “There are good things we need to do to keep our bodies strong and healthy, like brushing our teeth. But there are also some things we shouldn’t do because they can hurt our bodies, like smoking or taking medicine when we are not sick.”
An eight-year-old can understand a simple lesson about specific drugs, like marijuana or alcohol.
If marijuana is mentioned on TV, take advantage of the chance to ask your child if he knows what it is. Say it’s a bad drug that can hurt your body.
If your child has more questions, answer them. If not, let it go. Short, simple comments, repeated often enough, will get the message across.
For older children, you can add more details. Explain to a 10- to 12-year-old what marijuana and crack look like, their street names, and how they can negatively affect the body.
Don’t be afraid to talk about these issues. Cocaine, crack, heroin, and meth are very dangerous and illegal drugs that can kill a user, sometimes even if they are taken only once. It is important to be honest about these types of dangers.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Michelle Minetti-Smith named county’s Teacher of the Year

News release

“I am very humbled to be a part of a family of teachers, students, and parents working together to embark on a voyage into the future of a child’s education. I am still as energized as I was in my beginning years of teaching, and I still feel that drive to be the best teacher that I can be.” – Michelle Minetti-Smith

Michelle Minetti-Smith
The Santa Barbara County Education Office is pleased to announce that Michelle Minetti-Smith, a first grade teacher at Mary Buren Elementary School in the Guadalupe Union School District, has been named the 2017 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year. Mrs. Minetti-Smith is in her 20th year of teaching at Mary Buren.

Not only is teaching “in the genes” for Minetti-Smith; so, too, is the very building in which she works. “My grandmother taught here for 20 years,” she says. “And Mrs. Buren”—after whom the school site was eventually named—“was my fifth grade teacher. I was the fourth generation to attend this school,” she says proudly. She also hastens to add that she is delighted to still be in touch with her former fifth-grade teacher, who turned 100 last year.

“There is a very special quality about Michelle’s story that we are delighted to celebrate,” says County Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone. Cirone introduced Minetti-Smith as the county’s newest Teacher of the Year at their monthly board meeting Thursday afternoon.

“She takes the idea of ‘home-grown talent’ to a new level,” Cirone continued. “Her family’s deep generational ties to the community in which she serves is just one of the motivators behind her persistent demonstration of excellence. Few know better than Michelle the importance of making a difference in our community. She truly walks the talk.”

“Our teachers serve over 67,000 students in 20 school districts,” Cirone concluded. “Being selected Teacher of the Year — and representing all the fine teachers throughout Santa Barbara County — is a tremendous honor. We are delighted to count Michelle Minetti-Smith among our ranks of great educators.”

Minetti-Smith was just one of a number of exceptional nominees for Teacher of the Year honors. She was selected after a comprehensive review process conducted by a five-person committee. The committee consisted of administrators, local business leaders, and last year’s Teacher of the Year, Canalino Elementary teacher Brandon Sportel.

She will become the county’s designated representative on July 1, when she succeeds Sportel as Teacher of the Year, and her nomination for consideration as California’s Teacher of the Year will begin sometime in the fall of 2016. The state winner will then move forward in the competition for 2017 National Teacher of the Year.

Minetti-Smith, who graduated from Fresno State in 1996, knew from an early age that she wanted to be a teacher, following in the footsteps of her late grandmother. “I had a couple of job offers in Fresno once I graduated,” she says, “but I wanted to come home.”

Upon her return, she submitted her resume to the district office in the hopes they would soon be hiring. A week later she was called in for an interview with her former elementary principal, Mr. Jose Nichols. The job ad was for a bilingual teacher. “The panel was very surprised when I began answering them fluently in Spanish,” she says. She got a job offer that afternoon.

“I was so humbled when, at his retirement dinner, Mr. Nichols told a room full of people that one of his greatest accomplishments was having me come back to our school, fully bilingual and able to teach in Spanish. Education has opened so many doors for me,” she says, “and I hope the education that my students receive in my class will be a step in the path to many doors being opened throughout their lifetime as well.”

Minetti-Smith’s recognition is just the latest in a succession of high-profile successes for Mary Buren. Last spring, the Ellen DeGeneres Show and Target donated $100,000 to the school’s library, which had been destroyed in flooding the year prior. HGTV crew-members followed up later with some special, signature touches.

“I remember as a kid going to the Guadalupe City Library to browse the bookshelf or to listen to Mrs. Villegas, the librarian, share some of her favorite stories,” Minetti-Smith says. “I’m so delighted that our kids have such a special, inviting space—right inside our own school—that encourages them to develop a love of books and reading.”

But it takes more than just a nice building, as Guadalupe Superintendent Ed Cora knows well. It’s people.

“In every sense of the word ‘caring,’ Michelle goes above and beyond to see that others’ needs are met,” Cora says. “She is truly a rare gem, and our school community is fortunate to be the benefactor.”

Michelle will also be recognized at the May 26 Education Celebration event held in Buellton, and will be highlighted at the November 5 “A Salute to Teachers” gala in Santa Barbara, held in partnership with Cox.

“I believe teachers need to be ambassadors for education and do their part in educating the public about the great things that are happening in our schools and our districts,” Minetti-Smith says. Her being named Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year provides just the opportunity to fulfill that ambassadorial role.

As Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year, Minetti-Smith will be available to speak countywide. He can be reached at 684-4141, or by calling Steven Keithley, Director of Teacher Programs and Support for the Santa Barbara County Education Office at
964-4710, ext. 5281.