Archive » May 10, 2012
County Teacher of the Year: Riccardo Magni
By SaraLloyd Truax, Staff Writer
From counting bacteria on their cell phones to extracting energy from ocean waves, his unique and creative projects propel student and teacher alike to the top of the class.
Bill Cirone, County Superintendent of Schools, announced on May 3 that Pioneer Valley High School’s biology teacher and science department head, Riccardo Magni, is 2012-13 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year effective July 1.
“My personal teaching goal is to have every student leave my classroom each day having made a positive change to their knowledge base.” But, in more student oriented terms, “we need to keep the ‘cool’ in school,” says Magni.
Magni, one of a number of nominees countywide to be considered for the honor, was selected by a committee including former teachers, administrators, PTAs and school board members. Cirone expressed thanks to Petti Pfau for orchestrating the search and congratulations for Magni’s professionalism, enthusiasm, creativity, and remarkable successes inside and outside the classroom.
Magni is an avid grant writer and has obtained 36 science-related grants for his school totaling $45,500. “I believe all kids can learn,” says Magni, who does his best to “create the spark that will motivate students to work to the best of their ability,” in part by providing unique equipment and experiments for them to benefit from.
Magni earned his teaching credential and Bachelor of Science in molecular biology from Haverford College in Penn., and a Master of Science from National University in San Jose. Having students who now want to attend those colleges because he did means a lot, Magni says.
Magni began his teaching career at Saratoga High School, eventually moving to Santa Maria High in 2001. He began teaching at Pioneer Valley High in 2004. He currently teaches biology at all grade and academic levels as well as AP environmental science, he says.
The average score in his regular biology class surpassed last year’s state average, and 14 of his students passed AP science exams – even though 85% of students are minority or socially disadvantaged, Cirone reported to the audience in the packed board room.
“From the real rhino skull in my classroom, my pet snakes, CSI labs and unique laboratory instrumentation, I want my classroom to be the one that kids are talking about at lunch or on Facebook,” Magni told the crowd.
Magni initiated the Pioneer Valley Summer Science Institute, where he mentors students on college-level scientific research projects. “There just isn’t time in the regular school year,” he says, so he thought “Why not do it in summer?”
The first year of the program netted four students who earned two third-place projects in the county science fair – the district’s first-ever entries in the 56-year history of the fair. Summer two saw six students achieve two second-place prices. With this summer’s group of eight, Magni has his sights set on a first-place finish.
In addition to his teaching load, Magni is a father of three and has served his community as a coach, library tutor and science volunteer at various schools.
“He is the one teacher that has gone above and beyond in any way possible for his students,” says student Shannon Patterson. “It has been and continues to be an honor to be his student.”
It is not just his students that think highly of Magni. “He is a deserving teacher who needs to be recognized for his excellent work in one of the noblest jobs, being a great teacher,” wrote colleague J. Manuel Casillas in his evaluation.
Magni’s will next be considered for California Teacher of the Year. The California winner proceeds to be considered for 2013 National Teacher of the Year. email@example.com