Heather Robbins (right), an English Language Arts teacher at San Antonio School in Lockwood, is honored July 21 as Monterey County’s Middle School Teacher of the Year. (Contributed Photo)

LOCKWOOD — Heather Robbins of San Antonio School in Lockwood has been named Monterey County’s Middle School Teacher of the Year.

The English Language Arts teacher had been told she was being called in to discuss the upcoming school year on July 21, but she was surprised to see the school board and Monterey County Office of Education Superintendent Deneen Guss, who then congratulated her.

“This is to honor you for all of your hard work that you do each and every day on behalf of the students you serve,” Guss said in her speech to Robbins. “Your application said you were one of the most empathetic teachers. The students love you because you care for them as a person. You’re loving, you’re caring, you go above and beyond to make sure that their needs are met.”

Robbins began her teaching career in 2012, first teaching in North Carolina before moving to California in 2017. She taught high school in Paso Robles and then switched to San Antonio School in 2018.

“Not only is she a phenomenal teacher, but she’s an even better person,” said Josh Van Norman, superintendent of San Antonio Union School District. “When you go into her classroom, some of our most difficult students to reach, she’s able to do that, and she does that by creating relationships with them and believing in them.”

Robbins credited her high school English teacher with inspiring her, and said she hoped to similarly inspire her own students.

“I would like to believe that my greatest contributions and accomplishments in education are that first and foremost, I put my students first,” Robbins said in her application for the award. “I believe that showing students that you care about each and every single one of them goes a long way.”

According to Jessica Hull, communications officer for Monterey County Office of Education, Robbins models professionalism and shows her students the importance of being an educator in this country.

“She provides all students with a positive learning environment; one that is welcoming and shows respect to everyone,” Hull said. “Her message is that teachers are flexible, adaptable and caring, now more than ever during this pandemic.”

Robbins’ empathy toward her students was highlighted by a parent of one of her former students, who said her son had behavioral issues but that Robbins treated him with respect as a way to guide him to focus on learning.

“One benefit of teaching in a small, close-knit community such as Lockwood is that the community is deeply embedded and involved in all students’ success,” Robbins said. “Having a positive learning environment also helps students grow and stretch themselves; by feeling comfortable in the classroom, students are more likely to share in discussions, think about the world beyond, and see themselves as succeeding in areas they might not have thought about before.”

This year’s Monterey County Office of Education teacher distinctions differed from past years, as teachers of the year at school sites were awarded $500, but countywide honorees were awarded a total of $1,500. Community Foundation for Monterey County sponsored the awards, and school board members were on hand with a giant check to highlight the award amount.

Monterey County Office of Education Superintendent Deneen Guss (from left); SAUSD board members Sandra Soares, Dennis Walters and Eric Johansen; Heather Robbins; SAUSD Superintendent Josh Van Norman; and board members Amy Sweet and Kathy Forgnone present a $1,500 check to Robbins. (Contributed Photo)
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Sean Roney is a freelance reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.


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