The irony is as long as a football field.
Brian Barnes, a physical education teacher at Tesoro High, was announced Tuesday as the Teacher of the Year by the Capistrano Unified School District—the same district that said he could no longer coach football with a game remaining in the regular season.
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A former coach of the year for the Orange County Register, the Los Angeles Times and ABC 7, Barnes said this award was particularly meaningful.
"I’ve won won numerous coach of the year awards," Barnes said. "It means more than any of that. It means the respect of my peers."
Barnes is a temporary teacher at the school—he has been there six years—who gets laid off at the end of each year and rehired the next at the last minute.
Although the announcement was made Tuesday by CUSD, the school announced his award on Jan. 24; the following day, after being featured on the school's newscast, he was officially fired as the school's head coach. The school is looking for a replacement.
Barnes said Tuesday he had been placed on administrative leave when he was removed as the football coach in October after nine games; at the time, the CUSD would only say that Barnes was no longer the coach but stopped short of saying he had been fired.
"I'm not exactly sure what I did wrong, but obviously I'm doing something right," Barnes said. "On a Thursday I was named teacher of the year and on a Friday I was fired as a coach. My record and accomplishments speak for itself.
In Barnes' first season, the Titans broke Mission Viejo's seven-year streak as South Coast league champion, and the next year lost its only game in the Southern Section finals, 20-17, to Long Beach Poly. In six seasons with Tesoro, Barnes' teams were a combined 47-23; prior to that, he coached Estancia to a 7-4 record.
A district spokesman said Barnes' removal as coach was made at the district level, so it is with some irony that in the release by CUSD that Superintendent Joe Farley said: “Please join me in congratulating the local teachers who have been chosen by their peers to represent them in this important recognition. The fact these individuals were selected as the best from a group of highly effective and engaged professional educators speaks of their expertise in classroom instruction.”
Barnes has kept a low profile since the end of his football season; he said he was "enjoying being a P.E. teacher and improving my golf game."
And he was clearly proud of the support he received from other teachers.
"I know there’s only been 12 (teachers of the year) at Tesoro and even to be nominated is pretty special," he said. "I think all the other teachers are well deserving and probably deserve it more than I do.
"I'm honored. It means the world to me."
From the 56 winners—one from each school in the district—three will be named in May as the district-wide teacher of the year, one for each school level. The three will then compete in the Orange County teachers-of-the-year contest, according to the CUSD press release.
Other Rancho Santa Margarita-area teachers who were honored:
- Arroyo Vista Elementary School: Michelle Gicking
- Las Flores Elementary: Annette Fettis
- Tijeras Creek Elementary: Dai Backlin
- Wagon Wheel Elementary: Maureen Zimmer
- Arroyo Vista Middle School: Mike Hammond
- Las Flores Middle: Kimberly McDermott