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Oxnard Instructor Named County Teacher of the Year


OXNARD — Martha Barrett, a veteran bilingual teacher and mentor, was named Ventura County Teacher of the Year on Monday during a surprise visit by the county superintendent.

"I'm really flabbergasted," Barrett said, shortly after Supt. Chuck Weis handed her flowers and told her the news.

Barrett, 40, will represent more than 6,000 county teachers in the statewide competition.

A team of educators from throughout the county chose Barrett based on professional skills, commitment to education and community involvement. She beat out six other local candidates.

Earlier this year, she was named teacher of the year for the Oxnard Elementary School District.

After 17 years of teaching, Barrett left the classroom just last week to become a consulting teacher for the Oxnard Elementary School District's Peer Assistance and Review program. She will help struggling teachers, lead training seminars and give teachers tips on how to present a successful lesson.

Barrett's new job appointment was a result of a state law that requires districts to gradually replace mentor teacher programs with peer assistance. In the new program, teachers review their peers and suggest how to improve. After three years, she plans to return to an elementary school classroom.

Oxnard schools Supt. Richard Duarte said Barrett is "truly a master teacher." She has presented numerous workshops on technology, literacy and classroom management, and has served as a mentor to the district's beginning instructors.

"She has been an exemplar in sharing information with other teachers," Duarte said. "We've had to turn people away from her workshops."

Barrett grew up in National City in San Diego County. She received a bachelor's degree, master's degree and teaching credential from San Diego State University. After teaching in the National Elementary School District for 10 years, Barrett moved to Oxnard in 1993.

Since then, Barrett has taught at several local year-round campuses: Ritchen, Rose Avenue, Kamala and Sierra Linda elementary schools. She has taught native Spanish speakers in grades one through four, and spent one year teaching in the gifted and talented program at Rose Avenue. She also has served as Kamala's technology facilitator.

Barrett is married and has three children, who attend Citrus Glen Elementary, Balboa Middle and Buena High School. Barrett volunteers at her children's schools, teaching art lessons, setting up computers and translating for parents. She also has served as team mom for her children's soccer teams, and has hosted exchange students from Japan and Spain.

Most days, Barrett said, she can't imagine a better job than teaching. After one day of teaching first grade, she told her family: "I can't believe I got paid to do the Hokey Pokey today."

But every March when her students get spring fever, Barrett said she gets frustrated with the profession. That's when, Barrett wishes--for a brief moment--that she could quit and work at McDonald's. No more papers to grade, no work to take home, no parents to call.

When mentoring new teachers, Barrett tells them that the job is difficult, but she urges them to stick with it. And she offers tips on how to make teaching easier--and more successful. "We all need our bag of tricks," she said. "And if they don't have one, I'll loan it to them. And I'll help them develop their own."

Sierra Linda Principal Dennis Johnson praised Barrett for her compassion and commitment, and said the school lost a great teacher when she went to the district office.

In her new job, Barrett already has answered a few calls from teachers needing some guidance, said her supervisor, Martha Hernandez.

"Teachers just love her," Hernandez said. "She helps them be the best teachers they can be. She's a great representative, and should be California's Teacher of the Year."

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