Noted for her NCAA past

No stranger to the sports world, Laguna Beach High School Principal Joanne Culverhouse will soon be spending some time on the sidelines, appearing in a publication that will be distributed at some of 2012's biggest sporting events.

Buick and the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. (NCAA) have asked to tell Culverhouse's story in a magazine that will be given out at the 2012 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans and during the March Madness tournament.

It all started when Thurston Middle School math and video production teacher Andy Crisp found out about Buick's Human Highlight Reel contest, which asked videographers to tell the story of an NCAA athlete making a difference in their community.

Crisp immediately thought of Culverhouse, a former college athlete at the University of Nevada, Reno, and approached her about doing a film short in the spring.

"I just knew she'd be a good subject because she's so gregarious, and she'd be good on camera," he said. "But more than that, she's impacted thousands of kids in Laguna Beach."

Culverhouse was principal at El Morro Elementary School, then at Thurston until this year, when she made the jump to LBHS.

The film didn't win the contest, but Buick asked for the rights to Culverhouse's story to use in its Buick NCAA Special Edition Magazine.

The video features Culverhouse talking about her college experience, when she had a full-ride scholarship for basketball, volleyball and softball.

She said she soon realized that sports were taking up all her time, and she nearly lost her scholarship due to failing grades. In her second year, she decided to drop a sport to stay afloat.

"I thought it would be an inspirational story to students going through the same thing … they can get master's degrees and Ph.D.s and make a difference in their community," Crisp said.

Due to her experience and love of sports, Culverhouse has made a point to have a dual focus on extracurriculars and athletics. Growing up, playing sports was not only an outlet, she said, but it also provided an extended family.

"I feel strongly that kids need to have a connection to school," she said. "They have to be involved to really fully appreciate the high school experience — be it athletics, performing arts, instrumental, Model United Nations, cheerleading, clubs or community service."

Culverhouse's adoration for all things active is transparent in her day-to-day life, whether she's on her unicycle, high-fiving students or playing pickup basketball with staff at lunch. The latter is how she got to know Crisp.

Although she wasn't immediately drawn to academics, Culverhouse quickly got the hang of it, going on to earn two master's degrees from UNR and a doctorate from UCLA.

"I see how education opens so many doors for an individual. I feel like I'm a life-long learner," she said. "I never learn enough."

As for the recognition, Culverhouse stayed humble.

"I'm happier for Andy than I am for myself," she said. "There are thousands of NCAA athletes out there. He had the vision."

Twitter: @joannaclay

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