On April 28, the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara recognized Goleta Valley Jr. High School teacher Justina Weinbender for her demonstrated excellence and significant contributions to public education. It is the fourth and final such award the Rotarians presented to area educators this academic year.
Weinbender has been teaching seventh and eighth grade English at Goleta Valley for 19 years —20, if you include her student teaching there. “I don’t plan on retiring until I’ve been teaching over 40 years,” she says.
Since 1986, the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara has honored outstanding teachers from South Coast schools each year. It awards a high school, junior high, elementary, and special education teacher with a certificate and a $1,000 check to spend on classroom needs.
“We appreciate the vision, caring, and commitment of the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara in making annual awards that recognize the contributions of outstanding teachers, while providing resources that enable them to enrich their classroom environments,” said County Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone, whose office coordinates the recognition with the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara. “Our teachers are second to none and perform daily heroic acts on behalf of students and families.”
“The Rotary Club of Santa Barbara is committed to supporting the Santa Barbara County Education Office, and it gives us great pleasure to recognize the efforts of outstanding teachers like Justina Weinbender,” said Mike Bieza, chairman of the Teacher Recognition Committee of the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara. “Rotary of Santa Barbara and Rotary International members know that educators like Justina have a tremendous impact on their students, who one day will be the leaders of our community.”
Education is a family affair for Weinbender, whose husband teaches U.S. History at Goleta Valley. Described as a devoted, creative, “out-of-the-box” thinker, Weinbender says of her students, “I really want them to think for themselves, and to make the learning rich and useful for them. When a student tells me they watch movies differently because of class, or they understand the news because of what they’ve learned,” she adds, “that absolutely makes my week.”
Weinbender earned an undergraduate degree in English as well as her Masters in Education from UCSB. Her strength lies in her compassion and dedication. She wants every student to succeed, regardless of their background or ability.
Her passion is noticed not only by her students, but by her fellow teachers and administrators. “Ms. Weinbender exemplifies excellence and a dedication towards keeping students first,” says her principal Mauricio Ortega. “With consistency, she provides rigorous and engaging lessons, opens her classroom up to clubs during lunch, and runs the school newspaper. It has been a tremendous gain to have Ms. Weinbender at our school, and I have no doubt that she will continue to be a huge asset for our students.”
The Rotary Club of Santa Barbara meets at Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort in Santa Barbara for lunch from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Fridays. Recipients of the club’s Teacher Recognition Awards are made with the assistance of the Teacher Programs and Support department of the Santa Barbara County Education Office.
Justina Weinbender with Rotary Club of Santa Barbara’s Mike Bieza