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2014 California Honoree Brandon Sportel

Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award winner for 2014.

Brandon Sportel

Canalino Elementary School
Carpinteria Unified School District

As more and more students qualify for special education services in schools across the country, the need for exceptional teachers trained in behavior management and modification techniques is critical to their future success. At Canalino Elementary School in Carpinteria, special education teacher Brandon Sportel is impacting all students’ lives in a positive way.

Every student in Sportel’s classroom has a physical, mental and/or behavioral disability and an Individualized Education Program (IEP), which outlines a child's educational goals and needs. Sportel believes in every student’s ability to learn, regardless of their challenges, and, along with a dose of fun, he models optimism and a strong work ethic. He is credited with helping the majority of his students meet and exceed their goals and works with parents and staff to ensure that progress is being made to attain those goals.

Students benefit from his knowledge of technology and innovation. IPads, Google Docs and Web-based programs are used regularly in his class. He is known to go out at recess, play with students and help them resolve conflicts.

Sportel’s influence and leadership extend well beyond his special needs classroom and are felt across the entire school and district. Recognized for his expertise, he presents to staff and assists teachers on strategies for special and regular education students. He is often asked to consult on cases at other schools. After Sportel collaborated with a fifth-grade teacher and psychology interns from UCSB on a behavior tracking program, it was expanded to four other classrooms. He supervises student teachers, hosts emerging psychologists and behaviorists and is often asked to speak at universities and to new student teachers.

He created a schoolwide “Fun Fact Finale” involving students, teachers and parents to celebrate learning math facts with food and soccer tournaments. The program is credited with helping to raise the number of third graders with passing math CST scores from 30% to 70%. Sportel also drew on his specialty in behavior management to create a campus Safe Room where any student can go when they need to let off steam. The room gives students an alternative to misbehaving and encourages self-awareness.

It is this kind of full-circle, problem-solving approach that makes Sportel so respected by colleagues and parents. He is the ultimate team player willing to lend a hand on behalf of any student or family, regardless of whether they are designated as special education. This innate philosophy that he is here to serve all kids makes Sportel stand out as an exceptional educator.
Questions: Dina Fong | | 916-319-0551 
Last Reviewed: Tuesday, March 9, 2021