More than any year in recent memory, 2020 has reminded families how important teachers are to our communities and our children’s lives. Teachers have stepped up even more during the coronavirus pandemic, in many cases learning an entirely new way of teaching online to keep kids learning and engaged. As in-person learning gets underway in many school districts this month, the Arizona Educational Foundation is celebrating the best of the best of Arizona’s teachers.
A nonprofit dedicated to celebrating and supporting public education, the Arizona Educational Foundation has named five finalists for its annual Arizona Teacher of the Year award — a Glendale special education teacher, a bilingual Flagstaff teacher, a Sahuarita career and technical education teacher, a Tucson chemistry teacher and a Chandler Spanish teacher.
Arizona’s 2021 Teacher of the Year winner will be announced at a virtual ceremony at 6 p.m. on Oct. 23 at azedfoundation.org. (An online silent auction to benefit the nonprofit foundation begins at 4 p.m. Register and browse here: conta.cc/3lGjQyA.)
The 2021 winner will earn a $15,000 cash prize, represent Arizona in the National Teacher of the Year competition, attend International Space Camp and spend a week at Google’s main headquarters in California with other state Teachers of the Year.
Winners are selected by an independent panel after an open nominations process. Ten finalists and semifinalists are interviewed; they also present a lesson demonstration and deliver an impromptu speech. Five finalists are named Ambassadors for Excellence, and the remaining five are named semifinalists.
1. Estevan Carreon, special education teacher at Independence High School in Glendale.
Carreon teaches students with emotional disabilities and behavioral issues. He earned master’s degrees in both secondary education and educational leadership and has served three terms as president of the Glendale Union Education Association. He also has served on the board of directors for both the Arizona Education Association and the National Education Association. Carreon coaches Special Olympics and is the director of the high school’s Unitown and Anytown programs, which develop leadership skills and challenge students with social justice issues. He is a recent graduate of Leading For Change, a nonprofit fellowship for future Arizona leaders.
2. Jillian Hernandez is a fifth grade teacher at Puente de Hózhó in Flagstaff.
Puente de Hózhó is a public bilingual magnet school that has Diné (Navajo)/English and Spanish/English programs and is currently seeking authorization to become an International Baccalaureate School. Hernandez has a bachelor’s degree from Northern Arizona University and a master’s degree in the teaching of mathematics from Western Governors University.
3. Sara Mora is a career and technical education teacher at Wrightson Ridge School in Sahuarita.
Mora designed a pilot program introducing middle school students to trade professions including the culinary arts and engineering. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona and a master’s degree in educational technology from Northern Arizona University. Mora is also a technology professional development facilitator in her district and a Rodel Student Teacher.
4. Hillary Stacey teaches chemistry at Empire High School in Tucson.
Having worked in science research, Stacey challenges students to develop real-world skills. For this work she has received recognition as the Pac-12 Teacher of the Year, University of Arizona Online’s High School Teacher of the Year, and National Outstanding Polymer Educator. Early in her career she was named the Southern Arizona Chemistry Teacher of the Year from the American Chemical Society. She also was named Teacher of the Year at Empire High. She holds bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and secondary education from Montana State University and a master’s degree in secondary education from the University of Arizona. Stacey serves as her school’s technology teacher advocate, science instructional team leader and a district leading member of the curriculum management team for science.
5. Sara Wyffels is a Spanish teacher at Chandler High School.
Wyffels earned her bachelor’s degree from Western Washington University and a master’s degree in teaching from the University of Portland. Wyffels learned Spanish as a second language, which has shown her the power of human connections, adventure, and the beauty of the human spirit — themes she hs integrated into her Spanish, International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement classes. She considers herself and her students global citizens who have the ability to make a positive difference in the world every day. Since earning her national board certification, Wyffels has embarked on a journey for equity and access in her class, school and district.
Learn more about the Arizona Teacher of the Year Awards at azedfoundation.org/teacher-of-the-year
Semifinalists for the 2021 Arizona Teacher of the Year
- Elizabeth Shaw, social studies teacher at Rincon Vista Middle School in Tucson
- Jeffrey Mann, world history teacher at Flowing Wells High School in Tucson
- Nicole Powell, elementary education teacher at Las Sendas Elementary in Mesa
- Sharisse Nunes, elementary education teacher at Falcon Hill Elementary in Mesa
- Shaylyn Savage, special education teacher at Sunset Ridge Elementary School in Tucson