Educational programs from Orange County take home Golden Bell Awards

CSBA Golden Bell Awards logo

Seven school districts from Orange County have earned prestigious Golden Bell Awards for educational programs that help students test-drive potential careers, build self-confidence, improve language skills and close opportunity gaps.

The California School Boards Association’s Golden Bell Awards have been around for 43 years now, promoting excellence in education by highlighting outstanding programs and governance practices. This year, the program received and evaluated 205 award entries in 21 categories.

Experts from school districts and county offices of education comprised the 49-member judging panel, and 51 delegates and board members from across the state validated the winning submissions either in-person or virtually. Honorees were announced in December.

Here are the winning entries from Orange County by category — those are in blue — with descriptions lifted from the 2022 Golden Bell Awards website.

Career Technical Education

Brea Olinda USD Career Technical Education Program
Brea Olinda Unified School District

Brea Olinda USD’s CTE pathways provide significant opportunities for students to apply core curriculum in areas of personal interest, reinforce academic competency, and develop the skills and experience necessary to enter the Orange County workforce at or above a living wage. This program provides students with the opportunity to explore careers starting in elementary school, build skills in junior high school, continue their pathways into high school and earn college credit and professional certification.

Biology, Engineering, Arts, Science Technology Program (BEAST)
Fullerton Joint Union High School District, Fullerton Union High School

BEAST is an award-winning CTE program dedicated to hands-on STEAM-based learning through the careers of the special effects (SFX) industry. BEAST students link art, science and technical skills through original artworks and animatronics in their Laboratory of Artistic & Industrial Resources (LAIR). With its many industry partners, BEAST allows students to tour theme parks’ backstage and meet award-winning SFX artists. BEAST brings the world of professional SFX career education into the lives of its students.

Closing the Opportunity Gap

Santa Ana USD Speech and Debate
Santa Ana Unified School District

The Santa Ana USD Speech and Debate program is both inspirational and transformative. The program does more than develop verbal skills in children; it develops how each child feels about themselves. Empowerment comes from the disciplined work plan participants outline in their career as a Santa Ana USD Speech and Debate competitor. Winning three elementary state titles and six national middle and high school championships has inspired youth to feel connected and a part of something much bigger than themselves.

English Learners/Biliteracy

Saturday Language Academy (SALA)
Anaheim Union High School District

The Anaheim Union HSD Saturday Language Academy (SALA) was created three years ago as a part of the board’s vision and Local Control and Accountability Plan goals to increase language acquisition for English learners, biliteracy, and college, career and life preparedness. SALA is a culturally and linguistically sustaining teaching and learning program established to meet the needs of the growing numbers of newcomer students to this country speaking different languages. The academy is significant because it helps scholars explore who they are and how to become part of their new communities, without giving up their identity and culture, while integrating Youth Participatory Action Research. Three years of data reflects how this program positively affected students and has led to replication in other districts.

CUSD Dual Language Immersion Program
Capistrano Unified School District

Since 1992, Capistrano USD has proudly promoted the importance of multilingualism through its preschool through grade 12 language immersion programs in Spanish and Mandarin. As one of the oldest and most comprehensive language immersion programs in the county and the state, goals of the program are steadily focused on bilingualism, biliteracy, academic achievement and sociocultural competence. While the program carries significant benefits to the academic and linguistic enrichment of students, its true legacy is the lifelong passion for languages and culture that students take with them long after program completion.

Innovation in a Time of Crises

The Owl’s Nest at Oak View Elementary School
Ocean View School District

Oak View Elementary created the Owl’s Nest, a safe learning haven designed to keep students on campus, increase in-person instruction, provide internet access, and strategically incorporate intervention into students’ days to fill in the gaps that may have been exacerbated by the pandemic. This innovation continues to evolve and keep students engaged mentally, emotionally and physically. Students continue to persevere in the face of insurmountable challenges with resilience, courage and kindness.

Technology Innovation

STEAM Innovation Lab: Unlocking Students’ Imagination, Creativity and Discovery
El Portal Elementary School, Lowell Joint School District

El Portal Elementary is full of creative thinkers and problem solvers. In 2014, data showed that some subgroups were not making desired academic growth. Since then, El Portal has developed a STEAM lab that is equipped with supplies and countless ways for students to create, imagine, test and solve. Current data shows that the students who raised the largest concerns continue to succeed and enter a space where their voices are heard and their ideas make way for innovation and solutions.

To view the complete list of winners, check out the 2022 Golden Bell Awards webpage.