Scorps Spotlight 19: Ms. Tawney Safran


Photo by: Nick Garcia

Social Sciences teacher, Ms. Tawney Safran.

Cam High social science teacher and swim coach, Mrs. Tawney Safran, strives to inspire students to ponder and experience life and history.

Safran, who grew up in Oxnard, obtained a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies and Spanish from UCSB and a Master’s degree in education from Pepperdine University. Outside of the classroom, she enjoys swimming, playing water polo, caring for her two children, and traveling.

She attended Oxnard High School where she was a member of the swim and water polo teams. “[My parents] wanted to send me to St. Bonaventure high school because I had attended St. Anthony’s for eight years, a Catholic school in Oxnard, but I wanted to swim and St. Bonnie’s didn’t have a team. So I pleaded with my parents to let me go to Oxnard High,” she said.

Throughout high school, Safran considered many college majors. During her freshman year in college, she tried a few majors including communication, business, and economics.

Eventually, she realized that she had always enjoyed discovering other cultures and perspectives. “I realized that my favorite book growing up was the Children’s Illustrated Bible and I think it’s because of all of the historical themes of emotion, violence, love, tragedy, and morals. I think that’s where it all stems from,” she said.

Once she knew that she was destined for a global studies major, Safran still did not know what job she wanted to pursue. Originally, she dreamed of becoming an international relations businesswoman. “I really thought I was going to be out in the world, doing my thing,” said Safran.

In the beginning of her senior year of college, Safran had a head-on car accident that forced her to spend three months recovering in the hospital. “It made me realize what’s important and what’s not [and] what success means and what happiness means […] It made me re-examine the point of life and everything,” she said. “I think, at that point, I realized that I had always been a teacher. I was a junior life-guard for six years, [I] tutored friends, [and held] leadership roles. I did a lot of tutoring in college, it seemed like. My dad had suggested it years ago, and I was like ‘No! No! No!'”

After graduating from college, she taught in Culver City for one year. “Very cultural, very diverse and very talented area. It’s the hub of entertainment for Los Angeles, so anytime, I could ask someone to be a certain character or read with an accent or sing,” said Safran.

After moving to Calabasas, she reached out to teach at the districts in the area and Cam High responded first. They offered her a position where she would teach three classes and coach water polo and swimming. “It was a definite yes. And, I’ve been there ever since, at Camarillo High.” Safran has now been teaching at Cam High for 15 years and counting.

For Safran, being a teacher has proved to be extremely fulfilling and rewarding. “You have to be prepared, and it’s always shifting and changing, but I think that’s what makes it so beautiful and unique because every day is different and I get to hang out with people that are amazing,” she said. “I get to, not shape that, but watch it grow and feed it and connect to it and converse with them and I couldn’t even imagine a life otherwise.”

At Cam High, Safran has not only contributed as a teacher, but also as a coach and club advisor. She served as water polo coach until her son, Kai, was born in 2008 yet she has always served as the varsity girls swim coach for the 15 years she has been at Cam High.

“I love coaching. It’s just a different connection from the classroom. They’re both great, but just to be able to connect on another level outside the class, outside, working on technique and skills, has been amazing,” said Safran.

She is incredibly proud of her swimmers, in and out of the pool, “They always have a high team GPA, so they really value school and swim […] It just says a lot about them, how they perform in class and at the pool.”

Her participation at Cam High also includes advising Naturally Green, Poetry Society/Spoken Word, and Scholastic Success Society. “I think [I advise clubs] because, as a mother and as a history teacher, why wouldn’t I help develop that with students? […] I teach so many different styles of students and everybody’s just struggling to figure out who they are and where they fit, not just to stand out, but to build confidence. Why not? Why not give them opportunities?” she said.

Safran has watched the clubs grow and develop. She said, “[Naturally Green] is the strongest it has ever been this year. I think it’s just because of increased awareness, different kinds of environmental jobs, activism, and realizing it’s not all for tree-huggers, and grass-roots, and radical leftists. It’s for anybody and everybody. And, we’re all very aware that we’re not perfect, it’s just that idea of trying to consider, trying to think. We’re all flawed, but let’s work on it.”

Five years ago, Safran began teaching AP European history. She enjoys teaching the course material and supplementing it with fun, educational activities such as Socratic Seminars, debates, English tea parties, Enlightenment salon reenactments, and mock trials.

“It came at the right time for me. Many people were making me doubt myself if I could be able to handle this course because of the rigor, discipline, and you have to attend a week session in San Diego,” said Safran. “There’s so much more to it. There’s not a whole lot of extrinsic motivation; it was just all the intrinsic which I definitely saw within the whole year with the ‘aha’ moments [and] the ‘thank you’s.'”

Throughout the years, Safran has organized summer travel trips to Europe through Education First (E.F.). Her passion for travel began when she spent a semester during college in Sevilla, Spain as a foreign exchange student. “It’s just a whole other world out there. It’s tolerance, empathy, compassion, acceptance,” she said.

Safran hopes to influence her students’ developing characters. “I think I’ve always tried to lead by example and influence people to do what’s right and show integrity, just doing the right thing when no one is looking,” she said. “And not for any other value than intrinsic value. For no other reason that because you’re supposed to and why not?”