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Excellence in Education

Honoring Those Who Inspire Students to Learn and Thrive

Twelve Ventura County teachers recently received $16,000 in grants for their unique, innovative lesson plans that have been classroom-tested and kid-approved.

Via a partnership between IMPACT II, a curriculum-sharing and recognition program for K-12 educators, and the Ventura County Office of Education, teachers received funds to implement their special programs.

“IMPACT II boosts teacher morale by recognizing innovative teaching,” says Andrea Rubin, VCOE’s student competitions coordinator. “Recognizing innovative teachers at the awards dinner is an opportunity to celebrate the true heroes and heroines in our communities.”

In order to be chosen to receive these grants and be recognized for their talents, teachers submit interesting and engaging lesson plans that cover a wide variety of subject matters, including social sciences, history and language arts.

“It's always an honor winning the Impact II grant,” says Ventura Charter School teacher, Holly Johnson, who’s been teaching kindergarten for eight years. “I'm so inspired by other educators that win this grant. The projects they create are ones I wish I could have done had I been their student!”

Olivia Hernandez, at Hueneme High School is another grant recipient.

“It was a humbling experience to be recognized alongside my partner teacher, Rachael Ball. A lot of work went into these lesson plans. It was also our first time teaching the novel, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, so it felt reassuring that we were doing something right.”

After 24 years of teaching and winning this award 14 times, Jennifer Dobbie says it never stops being an amazing honor.

“We joke that it’s like the Oscars for teaching,” she says.

In addition to recognizing teacher excellence, IMPACT II aims to share these innovative lesson plans with other teachers.

“IMPACT II puts cutting-edge classroom projects into the mainstream, turning students on to learning,” says Andrea. “It enables excellent teaching ideas to reach all teachers in the county and raises community awareness of exemplary classroom practices.” These lesson plans are not only used by local teachers but are made available to educators throughout the country and beyond.

“I strive to develop projects and lessons that are authentic and joyful, while challenging our youngest learners to grow in ways they may not have realized they could,” says Holly. “I think projects that are purposeful and have a connection to service in the community are ones that make a lasting impact on students. Too often our children are robbed of play and opportunities that nourish their curiosity—both very innate human traits. I feel that it is important for educators to find ways to bring this joy into our classrooms so that our students can thrive.”

Jennifer adds, “Creating engaging lessons is key to being a successful teacher; where students not only learn but become lifelong engaged learners who go on to become interactive members of society. I teach middle school, so it’s doubly challenging to engage them, especially now having to compete with social media. If teachers don’t create an exciting learning environment, students will be less likely to reach their own goals and may have a negative view of school and not look at learning as a lifelong goal.” 

Since its inception, IMPACT II has grown tremendously as teachers, business leaders and administrators have become aware of the program. To date, grants have totaled almost $400,000, which are awarded in amounts of $1,000 for individual teachers and $2,000 for teams. Sponsors including Amgen Foundation, NAVSEA, SAGE Publications, Inc., and STS Education supply grant funds.

“Teachers are encouraged to utilize grant money to pay for classroom supplies and materials to implement their lesson plans in the classroom,” says Andrea.   

2022 Ventura County IMPACT II Grant Recipients

Christa Lamb & Kari White, Colina Middle School  Seeds of Success

Laura Ruiz-Bingham & Carlos Mendez, Ventura Charter School    The Skin You Live In

Jessica Granados & Hector Rodriguez, VCS Changemakers

Holly Johnson & Laura Ruiz-Bingham, VCS                        For the Farmworkers: A Kindergarten Expedition About the Journey of our Food and Appreciating Our Local Heroes Who Help

Olivia Hernandez & Rachael Ball, Hueneme High School   Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe: Defining Love and Writing Our Narrative

Kari White, Colina Middle School     Sing Your Song

Jennifer Dobbie Epley, Isbell Middle School Camp Half-Blood: Creating Websites to Engage Readers

Emily Noel, VCS        Diverse Artists’ Fridays

Holly Johnson, VCS   Kinderzine: Amplifying the Voices of Our Youngest Learners

Christa Lamb, Colina Middle School Step to Tomorrow

Melissa Wood-Glusac, Thousand Oaks High School Greek Myth in the Real World

View the lesson plans at Impact II Curriculum.pdf?.