The Bee's Knees Teacher Awards

$250 Donation From Every Sale For Our Teachers


September, 2018 – Lynn Culli, English

Lynn Culli grew up in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  She attended Vine Hill Elementary, followed by Scotts Valley Middle School (Class of ‘88) and Harbor High. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English from UC Santa Barbara, Lynn moved to Takasaki, Japan to work for the JET Program.  She taught English for two years at Minamiyawata Chuogakko before returning home to earn her California teaching credential.

Lynn has taught at Scotts Valley Middle School since 2001. She loves her SVMS family and feels blessed to work with such an amazing team.

Currently, she lives in Santa Cruz with her husband and two wonderful children. In her precious spare time, she enjoys reading, traveling, and photography.  She believes that life is a journey of self-discovery. As her seventh-grade literature teacher, Wendy Summer, once told her, “All that matters is that you become the best human being possible.”


May, 2018 – Arnie Sterigstad, Math

Arnie Serigstad’s journey to being a middle school math teacher began after graduating with a degree in communications studies from Biola University. He originally entered the workforce by working with foster youth and families in a variety of ways including group homes and “Wrap” Services for the county of Orange and some Non-Profits. However, having grown up in Gilroy while frequently coming over the hill to Santa Cruz, it has always been his hope and intention to return to the Monterey Bay. So, as fate would have it, while Arnie originally set out on a path to become a social worker or family counselor, he eventually decided that his desire to serve and work with families needed to take the form of a different career. Coming from a family of educators, changing his trajectory toward teaching seemed to be his inescapable destiny.

Arnie joined the Math teaching team at Scotts Valley Middle School in 2013 teaching 6th grade. Growing up, math classes were never his favorite in school, and were primarily a source of frustration through high school. So, one of Arnie’s goals as an educator became to help students realize the potential of the subject of math and to form it into a positive, stimulating, and enriching experience. He believes that Math can be more than just memorizing abstract logical procedures, but rather can positively shape the way students encounter challenges, themselves, and the world. Arnie strives to inspire a “growth mindset” in his students in how they view themselves and their own potential. Success is not determined by whether or not students happen to be a “math-person”, but rather that they can build their own abilities as they apply themselves. It is his philosophy that Math can be a platform for flourishing creativity and provides endless challenges through which students can push their own limits through collaborative problem solving and interactive experiences with the concepts.
In his spare time he enjoys being near the ocean, enjoying great coffee, discovering new places with his wife Natalie, playing with his daughter Mabel, biking through the mountains, and playing card and board games with friends.

September 2017 – Sally Ghilarducci, Science

Sally Ghilarducci has been teaching 7th grade science at Scotts Valley Middle School since 2004.  Before SVMS, she taught high school in Wisconsin, Michigan and in Albany, California.  She grew up in Colorado and California and earned a BS in Chemistry from UC Santa Cruz.  She worked as a chemist for a few years before returning to school for a teaching credential.  Sally feels that anyone can be a scientist and that science should be fun.  Science is not about memorizing facts but about asking questions, making observations and creating new ideas.  Her class focuses on hands-on labs and she guides her students each year to complete a science fair project.  She loves teaching at SVMS where the staff is professional, collaborative and fun.  She also appreciates the amazing support of the Scotts Valley community.  Speaking of support, (Measure A!) — she is looking forward to the day when the science department moves into their new building at SVMS!   Sally lives in Santa Cruz with her husband, two teenagers and a dog. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, running and reading.

Bee's Knees

June 2017 – Renae Fish, Science

Renae Fish grew up in the Central Valley working on the family’s vineyard and farm.  This gave her an  early interest in plants and animals (although her father never did get her a pony because “it doesn’t give milk and it doesn’t lay eggs”).  It was, however, a dedicated high school science teacher that cemented in her the wonder of science.  She followed that love to Fresno State getting a B.S. in Biology then on to UC Davis to complete an M.A. in Zoology.  It was working as a TA in the Zoology labs where she discovered how fun teaching was.  Her goal since has been to spread her love of science and hope that her impact is as potent as her high school science teacher.

Renae began her teaching career in Cupertino and switched to Scotts Valley when the commute took too much time away from her young family.  That was 19 years ago!  Renae’s science classes are filled with experiments, labs, and hands on activities – learning is rarely from a book.  Renae doesn’t confine her teaching to the classroom.  She started and coordinates the 6th grade Yosemite science trip each year along with field trips to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Elkhorn Slough.  She wants students to realize science is all around them and the choices they make today are going to affect their future.

When not working, Renae enjoys going on dates with her husband, hanging out with her college age children, hiking, gardening, baking, and walking her dog Rue.

The Bee's Knees

May 2017 – Sumita Jaggar, Math

Sumita Jaggar has been teaching 8th grade math and science at Scotts Valley Middle School since 2011.  Before that, she taught for ten years in Watsonville.  She was raised in the midwest and slowly made her way across the country, settling in Santa Cruz to earn first an M.S. in Physics and then a M.A. in Education from UCSC.  She has a passion for seeing the connections both across and within disciplines.  She laughs when she says her teaching philosophy can be summed up as “Never work harder than your students.”  But, she means that questions and discussions in math and science should encourage students to grapple with big ideas and concepts.  True learning happens when students do the thinking rather than being provided answers to memorize.  She believes her job is to create opportunities for students to think deeply and then express their thinking coherently.  She loves teaching in Scotts Valley where the community, administration and coworkers come together to support the education of all students – both high achievers and students with academic challenges.  She is especially grateful for the freedom she feels to try new ideas with students and for working within the Academy system, which allows her the time to get to know each student.

She lives in Santa Cruz with her husband Tim, two school-aged daughters and a couple of cats. In her free time (what’s that?), she enjoys gardening, hiking and Islamic tiling.