Two more Payson Unified School District teachers have received teacher of the year honors.
Shelli Creighton, a third grade teacher at Julia Randall Elementary School, was named local Teacher of the Year by Wal-Mart, and Tina Crabdree, an eighth grade science teacher at Rim Country Middle School, was named Teacher of the Year by the Arizona Federation of Republican Women. They join Michelle Gibbar, an eighth grade English teacher at RCMS, who was recently named Teacher of the Year by the local Veterans of Foreign War.
Creighton, who has been teaching for seven years -- all at JRE, said she was "shocked" to learn of the honor, but also "very honored" and "really happy." She has a bachelors degree in elementary education from Northern Arizona University and is just one class short of earning a masters degree.
Teachers, Creighton believes, need to do more than teach subject matter.
"Any teacher can teach children to add and subtract, but what makes a teacher special is if they can teach a child to love what they do and love being at school," she said.
"(Children) need more than just a teacher. They need somebody to talk to, somebody to sit next to them, somebody to just reach out to their needs."
Creighton has four children herself, ages 12, 9, 7 and 4, so she understands the role parents play -- a role she believes is every bit as important as that of teachers.
"Parents don't have to buy their children special things," Creighton said. "They just need to be there for them, listen to them, let them know they love them.
"Just give them time. All kids want is time with their mom and dad."
Combining the role of teacher and parent, Creighton's daughter Rachel is one of her third graders this year. It has been a rewarding experience.
"I love it," she said. "I love being able to be attentive to her learning.
"And she loves it. She's a really good student and works hard. She shows me that all kids want is to make you proud -- whether you're a teacher or a parent."
Creighton's title comes with a Wal-Mart vest emblazoned with "Teacher of the Year" and $1,000 to use in her classroom.
"I'd like to buy a digital camera for the school," she said. "I do a lot of literature studies in my classroom and I'd like to buy some books for that."
Creighton is also eligible for the state and national Wal-Mart competitions, and will be writing an essay in the near future as part of her entry requirements. Whether or not she advances, she is grateful for the honor she has already won and for the teachers she works with.
"There are a lot of good teachers out there, and I don't think I'm any better than any one of them," she said. "I have a lot of mentors at Julia Randall that I really look up to.
"Three that really stand out to me are Wende Waggoner, Joyce Walters and Susan Ryden. I think they are master teachers and I hope I never stop learning from other people."
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne presented Crabdree her award at the spring quarterly meeting of the Republican Women last month in Yuma.
A 10th-year teacher, Crabdree was also named co-teacher of the year in Gila County by the Arizona Small and Rural Schools Association in 2000 -- an honor she shared with Tracey Herbert, who teaches physical education at Julia Randall Elementary. At that time, Crabdree taught at the Payson Center for Success.
"I truly loved teaching at the district's charter high school," she said. "(It) has provided opportunities for students that would not have been available at the regular high school."
PCS Principal Monica Nitzsche praised Crabdree for being in touch with reality.
"Her guiding principle for developing curriculum, communicating and teaching is to ask, ‘How will this mesh with real-world expectations?' It is a simple premise -- the true job of a quality educator is to develop people who are successful in the real world," Nitzsche said.
Crabdree moved to RCMS two years ago so she could teach her daughter, Tamara.
"She's currently in my eighth grade class, and this year has been dynamite," Crabdree said.
In a letter of recommendation for Crabdree, RCMS Principal Frank Larby called her an innovative and dedicated teacher.
"She maintains high standards for students' work, yet fosters a learning environment that accepts trial and error," Larby wrote. "Her presence in the classroom is firm, yet allows students to interact in a natural manner."
Crabdree's first degree was in range science and she worked in that capacity for the U.S. Forest Service for nine years before becoming a teacher.
It's a decision she doesn't regret.
"I became a teacher because I believe it is important to influence girls to the consider the areas of math and science," she said. "I was hoping to serve as a role model.
"I live for my family and my students," she said. "My life revolves around service to them and to others. It's no sacrifice -- it's what I love doing. I'd have it no other way."