Ocean View School District names Denise Gribbin, Lisa Banuelos its Teachers of the Year

Denise Gribbin, center, a special education teacher at Mesa View Middle School, has been named an OVSD Teacher of the Year.
(Courtesy of Ocean View School District)

As the coronavirus pandemic raged on along with classroom debates about masks and vaccines, Denise Gribbin and Lisa Banuelos just kept teaching.

Not only that, but they did so at a very high level.

Gribbin and Banuelos are the 2021-22 Ocean View School District Teachers of the Year, the district announced recently. District Supt. Carol Hansen and Board of Trustees Vice President Patricia Singer made the surprise announcement at each teacher’s school on Thursday.

Gribbin is a special education teacher at Mesa View Middle School, while Banuelos teaches kindergarten at College View Elementary, also in Huntington Beach.

“While these teachers serve different student populations, they are both shining examples of how to teach with care and compassion,” Hansen said. “They are nurturing and encouraging and let their students know that they can accomplish anything they set their minds to.”

Gribbin will also be the school district’s nominee for the county-level Teacher of the Year program, which is coordinated by the Orange County Department of Education each spring.

She has been a special education teacher in the Ocean View School District for 14 years, including past roles as a special day teacher at Westmont Elementary in Westminster and Marine View Middle School.

“I was very surprised,” Gribbin said of learning of her honor. “It was great to even be nominated by my peers. That warmed my heart and made me feel appreciated. But I kept telling everybody, ‘I’m not going to get it.’ I don’t do anything flashy, I don’t put on big shows. I’m a resource teacher. I love my students and do my job.”

Gribbin said her job is intricate, especially during the pandemic and distance learning, as she has provided specialized academic support and instruction to her students and their families. She was formerly a retail manager, then went back to school when she was 38.

“I’ve been loving it ever since,” she said. “I’ve never looked back. It was like a calling. How many people wake up in the morning and absolutely look forward to going to work? Very few, and I just few fortunate that I am one of those people.”

Lisa Banuelos, center, who teaches kindergarten at College View Elementary, has been named an OVSD Teacher of the Year.
(Courtesy of Ocean View School District)

Banuelos has been teaching at College View Elementary for 26 years at the kindergarten, first-grade and second-grade levels. This school year, she and her team partner were instrumental in obtaining an All Kids Bike grant for the school, providing all kindergarten students with a bike, helmet, safety equipment and learn-to-ride curriculum.

“It’s been a struggle, especially in [kindergarten],” Banuelos said of teaching during the pandemic. “Our kids didn’t get an opportunity to attend preschool, so they’ve never been away from home. It’s been a challenge, but they’re doing really well.”

She said earning Teacher of the Year was special, along with the fact that all three of her boys were able to be there for the surprise ceremony. Ben, Nate and Teddy all attended College View Elementary, with Teddy, the youngest, graduating from College View last year.

“It was nice,” she said. “I love this school so much ... In most districts, they honor a teacher at each school, but in this district it’s just one elementary school teacher and one middle school teacher. It’s a huge pool of teachers to be pulled from, so it’s a huge honor. It’s just like, ‘Wow.’”

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