Longtime Payson resident and teacher Sandy Mays has been nominated to be Arizona Teacher of the Year by the Northern Gila Republican Women. Mays was also given a special recognition award at the group's recent meeting.
Mays has taught special education at Julia Randall Elementary School and at the Pine-Strawberry School.
Awards Chair Faye James said Mays received the nomination for a number of reasons.
"Special ed teachers do not get the recognition they so richly deserve. Their jobs are a lot more difficult than mainstream teaching from the standpoint of obtaining results and making a difference in a child's life," James said.
Before Mays became a special education teacher, she found she had a gift for communicating with severely retarded children. She says she took what she knew best and developed her skills toward a program of leading her students as far as they could go in the least restrictive environment.
Mays got her inspiration to follow this profession from helping her daughter who had a learning disability. Mays says dealing with administrative road blocks took a toll on her family at first. However, after years of persevering, she's thrilled to announce that her daughter has just graduated from college with full honors.
James visited Mays in the classroom and said, "Mays has taken Arizona state standards then built things to teach and help the students understand a set program. She is very passionate about what she does. She even keeps photograph albums to show a student's program throughout the school year."
"I am honored to get the support of the Northern Gila Republican Women," Mays said.
"I will continue to advocate for the special education students in Payson and help them achieve their academic and emotional goals. I love working with these children and their parents."
Mays won the award for the area's teacher of the year, the state award went to Kimberly Babeu of Flowing Wells Junior High School, Tucson. She teaches physical education.
Name: Sandy Mays
Occupation: special education teacher
Employer: formerly Payson Unified School District and Pine-Strawberry School
Family: husband, Sam; three daughters; three grandchildren
Personal motto: Always do what's right and what's fair
Inspiration: "All my children are an inspiration to me."
Greatest feat: Getting my degree while raising my family and working full time -- It took her 10 years to earn her bachelor's degree
Favorite hobby or leisure activity: Sailing
Three words that describe me best are ... Honest, caring, dedicated
I don't want to brag but ... I think I have a special gift for teaching children with disabilities
The person in history I'd most like to meet is: Helen Keller
Luxury defined: Right now, it's having all my family healthy
Dream vacation spot: Sailing the Pacific coast of North America
Why Payson: We came here almost 30 years ago to get away from the metropolitan area and raise our children in a small town atmosphere.