With all the talk of funding woes, school board drama and the pressure placed on children to perform, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the Verde Valley boasts some truly incredible teachers.
On April 28, four Cottonwood and Clarkdale-area teachers were celebrated for their efforts at the 23rd annual Yavapai County Education Foundation Teacher of the Year Award Ceremony and Banquet at the Prescott Resort.
Kindergarten teacher Lisa Fuller of Dr. Daniel Bright Elementary School, middle school science teacher Jeffry Scroggins of Clarkdale-Jerome School, earth science teacher Sandra Upite of Mingus Union High School and automotive technology teacher Andy Hooten of MUHS made it to the final round of consideration for 2017 Yavapai County teachers of the year but lost out to Prescott-area teachers.
In 2016, MUHS chemistry teacher Mike Westcott won the overall award as the county’s teacher of the year. “While it would have been wonderful to have been chosen as the overall winner, I’m grateful and honored that I was selected as the runner-up,” Fuller said. “My students shared with me that, in their eyes, I’m the teacher of the year …. That in itself is truly rewarding to me.”
DDBES Principal Nancy Erickson selected Fuller as the nominee for outstanding first-year teacher of the year, but Fuller added that “several first-year teachers on our campus …. also deserved this nomination.”
CJSD Superintendent Kathleen Fleenor answered a query on behalf of Scroggins, who was at the time of interviews on an eighth-grade river trip.
“Jeff has taught at ClarkdaleJerome for 30 years,” Fleenor said. “In addition to teaching all seventh- and eighth-grade science classes, he serves as our IT coordinator. Jeff set up the Family Link program to allow parents to monitor their child’s achievement. He works with Northern Arizona University and the Verde National Resources Conservation to bring guest speakers and real life science and the use of resources to his students.
“Jeff feels his greatest satisfaction when his students are able to combine science learning and technology to create an explanation of concepts and learning. He has strong personal investment in his students.”
MUHS Principal Jennifer Chilton, honored with two finalist teachers, said that allowing her staff to shine is one of her favorite opportunities.
“Sandra Upite is a model of excellence, service to students and professionalism every parent wishes for their child and every administrator wishes for a faculty,” Chilton said. “Dedicated teachers are such a gift to our children.”
“I work with many talented,
caring teachers; I am proud to represent Mingus and our school’s mission,” Upite added. “I am deeply honored to be nominated by MUHS and to be selected as a finalist for Yavapai County high school teacher of the year.”
Chilton also praised Hooton, stating, “When visiting Mr. Hooton’s classroom and automotive lab you can check every box [for] excellent instruction. His planning, modeling, enthusiasm and constructive approach are second to none for ensuring student engagement and success in learning. His magic is his teacher engagement, with attention to every detail in his instructional plans.
“Observing in his classroom, and with no automotive knowledge, I left with confidence that I could replace my car’s aging brake pads. I knew how and why they wear, symptoms and diagnosis, how you measure the wear, the theory and mathematics behind the evaluation, how much I’d save in my lifetime by acquiring this skill and every step of the mechanical process. It was great fun.”