Eric Burrows, a Solvang resident and high school history teacher for San Marcos High School in Santa Barbara, has been honored as one of California's Teachers of the Year.

"Which is an incredible honor," he said.

A state selection committee, including former honorees, reviews and evaluates each candidate through classroom observation and interviews.

State Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell then took the committee's recommendations and named California's five Teachers of the Year.

The U.S. and European history teacher said he enjoyed having the council visit his class.

"It's one of the things I think we need to do more of, opening up the classroom and let the public see how well our kids are getting educated," said Burrows.

"Anytime a parent comes in the classroom, I respond with a 'Wow, this is great,'" he added.

With an emphasis on interdisciplinary learning, Burrows seeks to better immerse his students in the subject.

Using art, music, architecture, literature, paintings, poetry and any other portion of culture he can, Burrows attempts to give students a better understanding of the time in history they are studying.

"The culminating project I've done in the past is having groups of students take on a subject, and then teach their peers about it in an interdisciplinary way."

Asking students to take complex subjects and think of presentations or plays that can educate others is meant to force students to consider problems they never had to before.

"My classes are very challenging, very difficult, but they rise to that challenge. That's what makes teaching so fun," said Burrows.

Besides his two college preparatory classes, the San Marcos teacher also teaches a Law History course, which participates in the Mock Trial competition. Last year, Burrows' team won the state competition and placed fifth in the national competition.

In 2001, Chris Mullin, the history and Latin teacher at Santa Ynez Valley High School, was one of the five honorees for the Teacher of the Year award.

"The county and state do a great job of valuing teachers," said Burrows.

One of the stated goals of the Teacher of the Year program is to help bring more prestige and media attention to the profession of teaching, a goal Burrows says is worthy.

"The award does value that teacher in the classroom," he said. Burrows went on to say that the award shows the children that society does appreciate educators and that education remains important.

His students seem to agree with the selection committee, giving their teacher a standing ovation when the award was announced last week.

"There's just an eagerness to learn, an infectiousness of learning that's there in the classroom," said Burrows

He added, "What I'm hopeful is that they walk out of that class with that love of learning."

December 16, 2004

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