Sarah Roberts, Joan Ashley earn Ocean View School District Teacher of the Year honors

Sarah Roberts, left, and Joan Ashley have been selected as the Ocean View School District Teachers of the Year.
Sarah Roberts, left, and Joan Ashley have been selected as the Ocean View School District Teachers of the Year.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Sarah Roberts and Joan Ashley have each been teaching in the Ocean View School District for at least 15 years.

The pair of Huntington Beach residents have taught hundreds and hundreds of students during that time. While the teaching is its own reward for many, Roberts and Ashley each earned their own high honors recently: They have been named the Ocean View School District Teachers of the Year for 2022-23.

Roberts, a world history and ASB teacher at Mesa View Middle School, will also be the district’s representative for the Orange County Teacher of the Year competition, the winner of which will be announced by the county Department of Education this spring.


Both Roberts and Ashley, a fifth-grade teacher at Circle View Elementary in Huntington Beach, were honored on campus last week with a surprise visit from district personnel including Supt. Michael Conroy and Board of Trustees President Patricia Singer.

Sarah Roberts, left, teaches at Mesa View Middle School and Joan Ashley, right, teaches at Circle View Elementary School.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

“The biggest honor is just to be recognized by peers,” said Roberts, in her 10th year at Mesa View. “I was able to read through many of the nominations, and I was brought to tears. Just hearing what other people have to say about you, and kind of remarking on your own career for you, I think that’s pretty remarkable. I got to hear from students and parents and staff, and it was just an honor.”

Like all teachers, Roberts and Ashley have had to navigate a landscape affected by the coronavirus pandemic in the last three years. Roberts said she gave birth to her middle child in February 2020, just weeks before schools were shut down, and her plans for her long-term substitute quickly went out the window.

When she came back from maternity leave, she became the school’s assistant principal for a time. She had a chance to go the administrative route but decided her heart was still in the classroom with the kids.

That remains true. Roberts said her daughter, Sadie Jo, the oldest of three children, is in kindergarten this year, which gives her a different perspective on teaching.

“There’s so many families over the years that I’ve gotten to know,” Roberts said. “You know, they’re on my Christmas card list and they’re a part of community now too. I really appreciate that ... Obviously, history is history, it’s there. It’s what is written. But I try to make it more than that and build relationships with them, make it more than just what’s written in a book and make them excited to come to my class.

“I always try to keep that in the back of my mind. If a parent walked in the door right now, I want to be proud of what I’m doing and what’s going on in my classroom.”

Ashley is in her sixth year at Circle View, after more than 10 years at Harbor View Elementary.

She is a firm believer in the Ocean View School District; her children, Johnathan and Sarah, both went through the district.

“It’s impossible to do the job without going above and beyond, but it’s definitely exciting and special,” Ashley said. “It’s always nice to be appreciated by your peers.”

At Circle View, Ashley is a union representative, as well as the climate lead for the school. The latter responsibility means she meets monthly at the district office with district student services director Barb Davis to work on options for students and staff relating to emotional issues.

“I am very invested in the whole child, getting to know them emotionally, what’s going on at home and finding the key to unlock whatever might be keeping them from working to their potential,” Ashley said. “We see these kids oftentimes more than their parents see them. We have them seven hours a day, and it’s so much more than making sure we get the reading curriculum done, or the math curriculum. It’s these formative years, trying to send them off to middle school feeling good about themselves and being kind, caring human beings.”

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