Meet the 2015 Ventura County Teacher of the Year

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The Ventura County Office of Education is proud to announce that a veteran educator known for sparking a love of learning in some of our most at-risk kids is the 2015 Ventura County Teacher of the Year. Kathy Elliott teaches ninth to twelfth grade English and art at Pacific High School, a continuation school in Ventura. She has been an educator for 30 years and taught at Pacific High School for 12 years.

Elliott found out she won on Wednesday morning when family, friends and education officials came to surprise her during class. Among the dignitaries who participated were Ventura County Superintendent of Schools Stan Mantooth, Ventura Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Trudy Tuttle Arriaga and Pacific High School Principal Kenny Loo.

“Kathy Elliott is the teacher we want for our children, and the teacher we would have wanted for ourselves,” said Loo.  “Ms. Elliott creates a caring, relevant learning environment for all her students. It is this kindness and acceptance that translates into rich classrooms conversations about topics of age, death, genocide, family, and love.”

This year, Elliott created an interdisciplinary learning unit entitled “Elder Buddy and the Aging Brain,” in which students conducted first-hand historical research through weekly visits to their “Elder Buddy” at the Ventura Townehouse and Cypress Place senior communities. That project was recently honored with an IMPACT II grant from the Ventura County Office of Education.

Elliott also began a creative writing unit that empowered students to take the role of a child in the Holocaust. Students were given a biography of a victim and they created video screenplays, newspaper articles, diaries, journals, or dramas to reflect that person’s experiences.

Elliott is active beyond the classroom as well. She leads efforts to engage English learners and coordinates the school’s Talent Show and Spring Art Showcase. She even chairs an unofficial “sunshine committee” to help her colleagues break through to struggling students.

Elliott says the key to her success is treating her students with respect.  “I am honored to have the opportunity to develop relationships with these very special young men and women. Every day I learn from them. Every day I am in awe of them. My students are resilient beyond belief.”

The Teacher of the Year program is administered by the Ventura County Office of Education. Candidates are nominated by their district, school or professional organization. A panel of educators selects the winner based on the candidate’s essay, experience and an introductory letter from their sponsor. The winning  Ventura County Teacher of the Year becomes eligible for the 2016 California Teacher of the Year award. The first Ventura County Teacher of the Year was named in 1973.

Additional information about the Teacher of the Year program is available by clicking here.