The Ventura County Educators’ Hall of Fame is pleased to announce the inductees for its Class of 2016. The members of the Class of 2016 are as follows:
Gordon Woods was born in 1916 in Jerome, Arizona. He received his bachelors degree in Animal Husbandry and masters degree in Horticulture from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He taught at Santa Paula Union High School from 1942-1975 where he became Chairman of the Agricultural Department. During his tenure, he took two sabbaticals. In 1960-61 he and his family moved to New Zealand where he taught at Palmerston North Boys High School. From 1967-69 he went to Thailand with a team from Cal Poly to develop college agriculture programs.
Gordon was very committed to his profession and to his students. His real fame as an educator lives on in the hearts and minds of those he mentored and taught to become outstanding, contributing citizens. The standards and principles he instilled in the lives of those he educated reflect in their work ethics and moral dealings with their superiors, peers and subordinates.
Gordon was a disciplinarian. He made sure his students were prepared and paid attention in class, demonstrated competent communication skills and participated in hand-on projects further developing their scientific and technical skills. He taught his students that regardless of their background, they could excel intellectually and professionally no matter what area of expertise they chose to pursue.
Gordon had a unique, refreshing way of identifying with each of his students challenging them to always reach higher goals, look forward to the future and accept nothing less than high standards in their personal work ethics and dealing with others. After 33 years of teaching at Santa Paula High School, Gordon lives on in countless students who have gone on to succeed in life and pass on the same high standards they learned from him.
Gordon never looked for personal gratification or accolades. His pride was in seeing his students achieve excellence in their future careers, families and in society. Indeed, Gordon was the epitome of a true educator.
Jeannette Jennett is a long-time resident of Ventura County, attending Ventura schools from the 7th grade through Ventura High School, and graduating from Ventura College in 1950. She interrupted her education that year to join the Women’s Army Corps, returning to civilian life and school at U.C. Berkeley, graduating with a BA in Political Science and Journalism. Returning to Ventura, she worked at Point Mugu Missile Test Center where she met her late husband Norman Jennett, an engineer. They reared six children, all of whom attended Camarillo schools.
Returning from a family sabbatical abroad in 1972, Mrs. Jennett began substitute teaching in the Oxnard Union High School District, primarily at Camarillo High School where her oldest son was an entering freshman. After two years of almost daily teaching assignments throughout the district she realized that she found teaching deeply rewarding. She took summer courses at CLU, received an emergency credential and began teaching full time, first at Newbury Park High and then at Camarillo High School for the next 12 years. During that time she cleared her credential through courses at CLU and later earned an MA in Human Resources from Azusa Pacific University.
At Camarillo High, Mrs. Jennett taught English and Journalism in grades 9 through 12. She advised the MEChA Club, established and advised a Quill and Scroll Chapter, and revived, advised and published the student newspaper in partnership with the Camarillo Daily News. She served as the school representative to the District Curriculum Committee, School Minimum Proficiency Test Coordinator for English, member of the District Minimum Proficiency Task Force, District Writing Test Scoring Team, District Reading Task Force, chaired the committee for District Writing Continuum and co-chaired the site WASC Accreditation team. She served as a Mentor Teacher during the 1985-86 school year. During her tenure at Camarillo High, Mrs. Jennett received many honors, including: Outstanding California High School Journalism Teacher by California Newspaper Publishers Association, Woman of Achievement award, Camarillo Business and Professional Women’s Club, P.T.A. Honorary Service Award and 1986 Camarillo High School Teacher of the Year. She was also a Fellow in the California Writing Project, CSUN Program, 1978 and the California Technology in the Classroom Institute, California State University, Long Beach, 1986.
In 1986, Mrs. Jennett joined the Oxnard Union High School District Staff Development Office, presenting and/or facilitating workshops for teachers, classified personnel and administrators, observing classroom teachers and coaching them in the Clinical Instruction model. She received the Superintendent’s Inspirational Service Award and was listed in Who’s Who in American Education.
Mrs. Jennett retired from full time work in 1992, working on contract with the district as Consultant to the Superintendent, arranging special events and representing the district on a variety of civic committees. She received the James M. Cowan Award of Excellence in Education in 1995 frpm VCEDA, the Ventura County Development Association.
In 2013, Mrs. Jennett received the title of Doña from the Pleasant Valley Historical Society in recognition of her contributions to her community.
Gerald K. Swanson known as Gerry by most, was born on August 3, 1937 in the state of Illinois. Gerry grew up in Sycamore, Illinois, and earned his bachelor’s degree in History from Augustana College in Rock Island in 1959. He went on to seminary at Augustana and was ordained in 1963. He served as pastor at Lutheran churches in Ohio and Michigan before he and his wife, Janice, moved to Thousand Oaks where he joined as staff of Cal Lutheran College, now Cal Lutheran University, where he became its first full-time campus pastor.
At that time, when the college was a small institution struggling for its financial survival, Reverend Gerry Swanson found himself not only responsible with providing a spiritual foundation for the staff and students, but also with playing an important role as a member of the school’s executive cabinet. This shaped and allowed him to serve as a pioneer in forming the ongoing culture and climate of the college. Gerry’s contemplative spirit and compassionate counseling serviced students well during those challenging, formative years. His calm, steady presence helped the leadership team guide the young school through its financial crisis and into a prolonged phase of growth.
Not too long after, Gerry began to serve as an assistant professor of English alongside his role as pastor, later transitioning to become the Director of Cal Lutheran University’s learning assistance center. As both pastor and teacher, he challenged students to evaluate and debate social and political issues in a measured and balanced manner. As a professor, he developed three popular classes, “Literature of the Earth” that combined the study of literature with environmental issues, “Man, Men and Nature” which featured many camping trips with faculty and students and “Humanities Tutorial”, a team-taught course by professors from English, history, philosophy, and religion that provides intellectual stimulus to outstanding freshman each year.
Gerry was an excellent role model, not only as a spiritual guide, but as an educator. His genre of choice was most often that of literature and poetry. He engaged people through literature and poetry, visual arts and political reflection with the desire for transformation of his own thinking and for engagement with the community and world at large. He regularly supported both students and faculty at Cal Lutheran University in clarifying what they valued and why. He used literature to invite reflection and dialogue. He helped many reflect deeply on the issues of the day and how they might respond, teaching they were to make a difference in the world, not in order to get something out of it, but because they were free to do so and response-able.
Earlier in life, Gerry had himself struggled to make the transition from high school to college. He understood on a personal level the needs for those who wanted to learn, but did not have the skills or habits to thrive in a collegiate environment. He was especially effective in working with students who were the first in their family to attend college or university.
And do you made 1970s, Gerry shared a community-wide resettlement effort for Vietnamese emigrants. His vision and gift of presents involved many in this welcoming hospitality that supported these new friends in every way, including helping them find appropriate educational opportunities. He had a hand in many of them receiving college and advanced degrees and entering meeting for areas of service including education in computer programming and medicine.
In 1998-99 Jerry was asked to develop the Study Assistance Center at Cal Lutheran University, a program which he designed to assist students in all aspects of their college experience. He succeeded admirably in these efforts over the next 15 years and the center is still an important facet of the Cal Lutheran educational program.
Throughout his 46 years in Ventura county, he always sought the best in people, their traditions and beliefs. His three decades of outstanding work at CLU, and a lifetime dedicated to service to the greater community reflect in the high praise he regularly received from students, both as campus pastor and as English professor. He was a cherished teacher, administrator, Pastor and colleague to those he worked with.
Gerald K. Swanson
Susan Andrews dedicated an entire thirty-four years of teaching to Ventura County. She taught at Rio Mesa High School from 1966-2000, and taught summer school at Thousand Oaks High School in 1967, Camarillo High School in 1968-69, and Channel Islands High School in 1995-96. She taught World Geography, World History, English, and almost all U.S. History classes from 1969 to 2000.
A glimpse of her exemplary teaching career can be viewed in the accolades bestowed upon her. Mrs. Andrews was Teacher of the Year at Rio Mesa High School, 1980-81. In 1989, she was awarded the OUHSD Superintendents Inspirational Service Award as well as Teacher of the Month Award by the Camarillo Chamber of Commerce. She also received the Achievement in Education Award by Camarillo Noontime Optimists, 1992-93, a Reagan Library Research and Curriculum Grant in 1993, and a WASC Achievement Award in 1998.
Alongside her career as teacher, Mrs. Susan Andrews committed herself to several other roles in education. As a sponsor of the California Scholarship Federation, Mrs. Andrews worked with Knowledge Bowl in developing the program and coaching the team, initiated the reception after graduation sponsored by CSF, and coordinated the recognition for CSF scholars. As coordinator of the School Improvement Program from 1982-1992, Mrs. Andrews worked with a $130,000 budget to facilitate the Spartan of the Month program, the Renaissance recognition program, and Spartans of the Year night. She also implemented SIP programs for the departments, and coordinated the Sustained Silent Reading program. As part of the District Curriculum Committee, she worked on implementing the Madeline Hunter Lesson Plan, developed comprehensive research paper guidelines for juniors, developed guidelines for honors classes, and participated on qualifications for valedictorian and salutatorian.
Susan was also the Social Science Department Chair from 1969-72 and 1978-2000. She served on a District Discipline Panel, a principal selection panel, was a pep squad advisor, and a Track and Field timer. She was a TESA trainer for the district and the county. She served on the five-person Technology Committee (1998-99) that developed Rio Mesa’s Technology Plan. She and her students arranged a “1920s” week with exhibits and special foods. She arranged for students to attend the dedication of Reagan Presidential Library, subsequent events and arranged for students to do a research project also at the Reagan Library. She taught students with a range of abilities. Mrs. Andrews served on 5 WASC accreditation teams from Cambria to San Diego.
Today, Susan Andrews continues her community service by acting as Docent at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, where she also worked in the archives and served on the Education Committee. She serves as Docent at the Camarillo Ranch House since 2001, where she also serves as Training Committee Co-Chair, and serves on the Community Relations Committee, and the History and Education Committee. She has served with St. Columba’s Episcopal Church as Altar Guild, Vestry, Senior Warden and Memorial Ministry. She was also in the Pleasant Valley Historical Society Selection as Camarillo Dona in 2010.
Betsy Potts was at La Reina High School, a Catholic all girls’ school in Thousand Oaks, for 42 years. For 37 of those years, she taught English, mostly to seniors. As English Department Chairperson for 20 years, she was privileged to help hire and mentor a number of alumnae, many of whom are in the English Department today.
As the second oldest in a family of ten children, Betsy learned a great deal about how to take charge at an early age. She says, “My siblings unwittingly prepared me to be an educator. By the time I stepped into my first classroom at Tucson High School, I was already pretty bossy and demanding. I have also been blessed with wonderful mentors throughout my teaching career.”
In 1971 she and her husband, Chuck, and their two children, Jim and Katey, moved to Thousand Oaks where their third child, Christy, was born.
Betsy began teaching part-time at La Reina in 1973. Linda Piera Avila, a member of that first class, says, “Betsy Potts guided our young lives with wisdom, patience, and humor, as well as grammar, composition, and literature. She always exhibited that kind of personal caring and academic support which exemplifies La Reina’s mission which is to provide a quality education ‘where the individual student is valued and respected.’ “
In 2010, she retired from teaching, but remained at La Reina in a part-time position for five more years, serving as a teaching mentor and continuing as Director of Alumnae Relations, a position she had held since 1999.
In 1997 she was selected Distinguished Teacher of the Month by the Thousand Oaks/Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce; in 2000 she won an Amgen Award for Teaching Excellence.
For years, Betsy and several other teachers, chaperoned students on trips to Europe. During this time, she caught the travel bug. She says, “What I wanted more than anything was to be able to travel with my husband and friends, and not with 40 girls who were looking for adventure.” Her goal has been reached, she says. “My husband and I now travel frequently. Occasionally, we are accompanied by friends over 50.”
In her retirement, she has been taking classes at Conejo Valley Adult Education, tutors through its Literacy Center, and writes a mostly humorous blog. An Associate of the Sisters of Notre Dame, Betsy is a member of St. Julie Billiart Parish in Newbury Park where she is a volunteer with the Winter Shelter Program, a lector and on the Pastoral Council.
She has been married to her husband, Chuck, for 52 years. Their three children have blessed them with nine grandchildren.