Humboldt County teachers honored for excellence

AWARD WINNERS Back row from left are Holly Matthews, McKinleyville Middle; John Larson, Grant Elementary; Linda Stewart, Peninsula School; Tim Olson, Eureka High; Zach Lehner, Zane Middle ; and Dr. Chris Hartley. From row from left are Roseann Buchner, Washington School; Dana Settelmayer, Fieldbrook Elementary; Johanna Mauro, Arcata High; Carole Meng, Dow's Praire School; Heidi Conzelmann, Morris Elementary; Camila Barrett, McKinleyville High; Jani Ayers, Alice Birney School; Sandra Close, Scotia School; Heather Gaiera, Eureka City Schools; and Adam Pinkerton, Arcata High. Submitted photo

Humboldt County Office of Education

HUMBOLDT – Twelve Humboldt County teachers have received an Excellence in Teaching award and were honored at a reception and ceremony at the Sequoia Conference Center in Eureka where more than 200 colleagues, friends and family members gathered to show their support.

The Humboldt County Office of Education (HCOE) sponsors this celebration annually to celebrate California’s Day of the Teacher by recognizing outstanding educators who were nominated by colleagues, students, parents, or school administrators and then selected to receive this honor.

This year’s Excellence in Teaching Award recipients are: 

• Camila Barrett: 9-12th Grade Math Teacher, McKinleyville High School

• Heidi Conzelmann: 4th Grade Teacher, Morris Elementary School 

• Heather Gaiera: Instructional Coach/Arts Integration, Eureka City Schools 

• John Michael Larson: 5th Grade Teacher, Grant Elementary School 

• Zach Lehner: 7th Grade ELA/Social Studies/Drama Teacher, Zane Middle School

• Holly Matthews: Resource Specialist, McKinleyville Middle School 

• Johanna Mauro: 9-12th Grade Art and Photography Teacher/Arts Institute Director, Arcata High School 

• Carole Meng: Reading Intervention Teacher, Dow’s Prairie School

• Tim Olson: 9-12th Grade Spanish Teacher, Eureka High School 

• Adam Pinkerton: 9-12th Grade Economics and Government Teacher, Arcata High School 

• Dana Settelmayer: 7-8th Grade Teacher, Fieldbrook Elementary School 

• Linda Stewart: 6-8th Grade Teacher, Peninsula School

The Excellence in Teaching Awards program has been in place since 1986. It recognizes classroom teachers from Kindergarten through 12th grade who have a minimum of five years teaching experience and have been identified as exemplary by their coworkers, students, or school communities. 

“This peer-driven program is a special opportunity to acknowledge the dedication, expertise, and commitment to student well-being and achievement Humboldt County teachers have for our children,” said Dr. Chris Hartley, superintendent of schools. “Award winners are truly exceptional and inspiring. They demonstrate motivation while providing relevant and meaningful learning experiences for all students.”

This year’s event included music accompaniment by Eureka High Students and hors d’oeuvres prepared and served by Fortuna and Arcata high school culinary programs. Video introductions were created for each honoree that showcased their style, enthusiasm, and talents.  

Three additional educators were also celebrated for receiving a Jean Olson Career Achievement award, recognizing an exceptional veteran or retired teacher for their lifelong contributions to public education, children, and the community. 

This award was first established in 1995, and in 1998 it was dedicated to the memory of long-time County Board of Education Member and President, Jean Olson, who passed away in that year. Larry Olson was a guest this year and offered a touching tribute to Jean and her many years of dedicated service. 

Jani Ayers, Roseann Buchner and Sandra Close were the recipients of the Jean Olson Career Achievement honor.

Ayers, a TK/Kindergarten teacher at Alice Birney has a teaching career spanning 39 years. She states that she’s always been particularly fond of our youngest learners and feels teaching is all about relationships. She credits her colleagues for their support and says her proudest moments are when her students realize for themselves that they have accomplished a task or met a goal they didn’t think they could do and she’s able to celebrate the joy of that achievement with them.

Buchner, a 1st grade teacher at Washington School has been teaching for 34 years. She noted that she was inspired to teach by her parents, who were lifelong learners, and something she’s continued to strive for.  She especially loves teaching early readers and watching that growth and progress from week to week. The enthusiasm of her students is what she claims keeps her motivated and she loves being part of their learning.  

Close, a K-2nd grade teacher at Scotia School for 37 years, credits her student’s excitement and willingness to learn as a key factor that brings her joy. She believes reading is especially foundational at this age and she strives to tailor the books in her classroom to what her students are interested in. She notes that when students are interested in particular stories, they can come alive and take them on incredible journeys, which encourages a love of reading.  

All of the teachers nominated humbly acknowledged how grateful they were for this honor and the importance of having the support of their families and colleagues. There was a consistent recognition that there are so many excellent educators throughout Humboldt County and how proud they were to be in such great company.

The 2019-20 Humboldt County Teacher of the Year will be selected from among the Excellence in Teaching Award recipients. For more information, please contact Stacy Young at [email protected] or (707) 445-7077.







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