Six teachers won education awards Friday during the 20th Annual 2014 Teacher of the Year banquet at the Prescott Resort, presented by the Yavapai County Education Foundation, which gives the awards to the county's best teachers of the year nominated by their principals.
Ash Fork High School math teacher Sonny Martin took the foundation's top honors, Teacher of the Year.
The audience of about 100 people watched videos on the three finalists in each category, in which Martin said because he is loud in the classroom, one student said she thought he was mean, but soon learned he was a teddy bear inside. Martin said he sees himself in a similar way, as a "strict teacher who is very caring."
As Teacher-of-the-Year Committee Chair and Foundation Vice President Cindy Daniels announced that Martin had won the top award by unveiling a large banner with his name on it, several tables of Ash Fork folks stood and cheered loudly.
Daniels, who also is the Chino Valley Unified School District Assistant Superintendent, joked about the big group and loud response, saying "and they call you loud?"
Martin, who by then was in the crowd hugging people, turned and said, "We ain't got nothing else to do!"
Martin's parents, Floyd and Josie Martin of Ash Fork, said that of their five children, two are teachers, and so far, two grandchildren also have become teachers. Floyd said Josie gets all the credit for raising education-minded children. "They couldn't do anything until they finished their homework," he said.
"My kids are awesome," Josie added. "Education was important in our home, plus we gave them all the love they needed."
Paul Street, who served as the Yavapai County Superintendent of Schools for 16 years, received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Foundation. Ron Minnich, a Foundation board member and former Chino Valley Unified District Superintendent, along with Foundation President and Daily Courier Editor Tim Wiederaenders, presented the award to Street. Daniels was proud to inform the audience that Street is her father.
The Chino Valley High School Varsity Choir, directed by Dee Wilkins, performed the National Anthem, and Daniels gave the invocation, as well as presenting the evening's awards.
Bonny Smith of Sedona, last year's Teacher of the Year, also spoke, recalling the many things she learned while teaching in other countries, and the value of field trips to her students.
Additionally, the following teachers won top awards in their respective categories: Karen Sampson, team teaching in kindergarten and first grade at Washington Traditional School in Prescott, PreK-3rd-grade category; Shannon Feipel a special education teacher at Heritage Middle School in Chino Valley, Cross-Grades Specialist category; Jeaneen Leach, a 7th- and 8th-grade language arts teacher at Ash Fork Middle School, in the Small Districts category; Robin Tankesley, a language arts teacher at Camp Verde Middle School, 4th-8th-grade category; and Eric Banuelos, who teaches agriculture at Mingus Union High School, the Outstanding First-Year Teacher.
All the category winners received a glass apple trophy and were first runners-up in the Teacher-of-the-Year award.
Sampson said after the awards ceremony that she values two team teachers with whom she works at Washington Traditional, Penny Nicholas, who won the award last year, and Erin Gizzi. She also values the approach to learn something every day, modeled by her parents, Joseph and Pat Oliver. She also appreciates her husband, Ron, and the "joy, support and completeness he brings to my life."
Chino's Feipel was excited to win the award, and to take the news back to her students in the special education department.
"I am so honored," Feipel said. "My students are going to be so excited. I told them the reason I was doing the video was to tell people what awesome students they are! And that is the reason!"
Mingus Union's Banuelos stated in the banquet's program, "My love for cattle and agriculture as a whole fuels my passion to teach the next generation of agriculturalists. My small herd of cattle is used as a teaching tool and I hope to give students hands-on experiences they would not otherwise have in life. Passion fuels success; that's my goal."
Camp Verde's Tankesley stated in the program, "Many people go into education with the idea of being in love with teaching. Fortunately for me, the idea is a reality. I have never second-guessed if I made the right choice in becoming a teacher. I love my students and my job!"
Ash Fork's second winner, Jeaneen Leach, stated in the program that her teaching style is "work hard and play hard," and that she continues to be a "team leader as well as a team player."
Salina Sialega is a reporter for the Chino Valley Review.