s
s
Sections
Search
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, nearly 1.5 million people used their mobile devices to visit our sites.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Wow! You read a lot!
Reading enhances confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction. Keep it up! Subscribe.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
Until next month, you can always look over someone's shoulder at the coffee shop.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, we posted 390 stories about the fire. And they were shared nearly 137,000 times.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Supporting the community that supports us.
Obviously you value quality local journalism. Thank you.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
We miss you already! (Subscriptions start at just 99 cents.)
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
X

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Login

X

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

LoginSubscribe

The 29 Analy High School freshmen in Rachel Ambrose’s social science class were in the middle of watching a documentary Thursday afternoon, when a crew of about a dozen school administrators and nonprofit representatives rushed into the classroom to tell her she just had been named Sonoma County Teacher of the Year.

Ambrose, who has taught at Analy since 2013, was shocked.

“It means a lot,” she said. “Not just for me, but for my students and the school. It’s a great honor. It feels strange to be recognized as an individual because what we do is about supporting students.”

The balloons, flowers, Santa Rosa Symphony season tickets and $3,000 check from Community First Credit Union came just a month after dramatic budget reductions forced Analy High to cut for next school year 18 class sections and some staff positions — including Ambrose’s.

The school has since found a way to keep Ambrose on staff next year, though the freshman class she was teaching Thursday will no longer be offered, she said.

“It’s weird,” she said. “It’s a very weird year.”

Analy High School Principal Raul Guerrero nominated Ambrose for the Teacher of the Year Award because of the creativity and strategies she uses to provide her students with a top-notch education, despite financial difficulties, he said.

Declining enrollment, along with a lack in state funding and rising employee pension and health care costs, left West Sonoma County Union High School District with a $1.2 million budget shortfall for next year. Because of that, more than 40 class sections at Analy and El Molino high schools were put on the chopping block. Ambrose has supplemented her meager classroom budget by applying for grants and working closely with the Sebastopol Regional Library to find low-cost and free opportunities to broaden her students’ minds, like interviewing elderly members of the community as part of a StoryCorps project. The nonprofit seeks to preserve America’s history through audio recordings, which then are archived at the Library of Congress.

“She really has dedicated her time and profession to the school and to our community,” Guerrero said of Ambrose. “She does a lot of work that goes beyond the classroom... She tries to expose students to as many opportunities as possible, and she does it in a way that ignites in students a passion for learning. To me, that is the most valuable thing — for a teacher to ignite that passion for learning.”

Ambrose also started a lecture series called “Woke Wednesdays,” in which community members are invited to speak to her ethnic studies class about important issues of the day. In the past, speaker have included representatives from Santa Rosa Junior College’s Black Student Union, nonprofit LGBTQ advocacy group Positive Images and the Islamic Society of Santa Rosa.

“I’m passionate about it because it’s meaningful,” Ambrose said. “It’s like, when you wake up in the morning, you actually want to go to work because you enjoy what you do. You feel like you have an impact. You might not see that impact for a long time... and you might not be able to connect with each and every one of your students, but that doesn’t mean you don’t try, right?”

Ambrose also revived the school newspaper and pushed the staff to enter The Press Democrat High School Journalism Awards. In 2017, the staff was honored in four categories, including outstanding journalist, news coverage, editorial, and design and layout.

“I care so much about the future,” Ambrose said. “I want the children of our community to have good lives. I want them to be good people, and I feel like school is the place where they have that formative time.

“What’s special about high school is it’s right before they’re entering adulthood. You can still catch them,” she said. “There’s still a chance that you can maybe get them to think a little more critically, maybe get them to care more about their community. Have empathy. All of those things.”

You can reach Staff Writer Christi Warren at 707-521-5205 or christi.warren@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @SeaWarren.

Show Comment