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Mon, Oct. 14

Bonny Smith of Sedona wins Teacher of the Year award

Bonny Smith, a sixth-grade math and science teacher at Big Park Community School in the Sedona-Oak Creek Unified School District, earned the top Yavapai County Teacher of the Year award Friday evening at the Yavapai County Education Foundation dinner and awards ceremony at the Prescott Resort.

The foundation recognized 63 nominees, selected from more than 3,000 teachers in the county, at its 19th annual awards event. It awarded a Teacher of the Year in six categories, and from those, selected the top Teacher of the Year.

"A lot of people spend their entire life wondering if they make a difference in people's lives. Teachers don't have that problem," said Tom Benson, foundation board member, in the introductory remarks.

Smith, with 24 years as an educator and seven years with the Sedona-Oak Creek district, follows in the footsteps of this past year's winner, Angela Hillman, from the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District. Smith holds two undergraduate degrees in education and psychology and a master's degree in education, and has worked as a teacher or school counselor in Canada, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama and Bangladesh.

Along with the Teacher of the Year award, she receives $1,000 for her classroom and a two-night stay at the Prescott Resort. As winner in the Grades 4-8 Category, she also wins $500.

The winners and finalists of the other categories are as follows:

Outstanding First-Year Teacher: John Colgan, Glassford Hill Middle School, Humboldt Unified School District. Finalists are Michael Lewis, Mountain View Elementary, HUSD; and Ariel Vaughn, West Sedona Elementary, Sedona-Oak Creek district.

Grades PreK-3 Category: Penny Nicholas, Washington Traditional, Prescott Unified School District. Finalists are Karen Messenlehner, Lake Valley Elementary, HUSD; and Brandi Schaible, Del Rio Elementary, Chino Valley Unified School District.

Grades 4-8 Category: Bonny Smith; Big Park Community School, Sedona-Oak Creek district. Finalists are Katie Jones, Humboldt Elementary, HUSD; Chris Dalpiaz, Glassford Hill Middle School, HUSD.

Cross Grades Category: Laura Russo, Bradshaw Mountain Middle School, HUSD. Finalists are Kim Roberts, Mountain View Elementary, HUSD; Mary Supergan, Glassford Hill Middle School, HUSD.

High School Category: Melissa Townsend, Prescott High School, PUSD. Finalists are Sheryl McCully, Bradshaw Mountain High School, HUSD; Jeffrey Dyer, Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy, Compass Point International Inc.

Small District Category: Nate Groves, Bagdad High School, Bagdad Unified School District. Finalists are Kimberly Densmore, Clarkdale-Jerome School, Clarkdale-Jerome School District; and JoAnne Ryan, Kestrel High School, Kestrel Schools, Inc.

Benson described how the TOY committee selected the finalists, beginning with reading and scoring all nomination letters. The nominees answered three essay questions about creativity and innovation, what an exemplary teacher knows and does, and one change to increase their effectiveness. Then the committee interviewed the top three finalists to make its final selection.

Hillman, the 2012 Teacher of the Year, said she used her award money to take 12 students to the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. She also founded the informal Yavapai County Teacher of the Year Alumni Association where past honorees have an opportunity "to sit and talk and enjoy other teachers."

In addition to the YCEF, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona and Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold sponsored the award ceremony.

Sue Tone is a reporter with the Prescott Valley Tribune.

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