The Rotary Club of Payson's 2006 Educational Grant Awards were officially presented to six individuals at the annual School District and Teacher Appreciation Barbecue.
But just as teachers prepared to return to their meals after the awards, there was an unexpected addition to the ceremony.
"Last year, Rotary made the decision to begin a tradition of the Teacher of the Year award," past-president Dan Hill said.
So, after teachers Julie Eckhardt, Barbara Toma, Barbara Quinlan, Brenda Ortlund, Eileen Lawson and Barbara Potvin received their certificates, Carmelita Locke, a fifth grade teacher at Frontier Elementary school, shaking her head in surprise, accepted the first annual Teacher of the Year award and a $500 check.
The choice was the result of questionnaires Rotary sent to school administrators requesting nominations of a teacher who was an "unsung hero," Hill said.
Locke was chosen on the basis of what she does in her classroom and beyond. Her involvement in Frontier Elementary School's music and gifted programs were cited on her recommendation form.
She can spend the $500 on anything she wants.
The $500 each of the six educational grant winners were awarded must be used to purchase supplies for their classrooms, libraries and programs.
Toma and Quinlan, both teach eighth grade science teachers at Rim County Middle School, applied for scientific models and materials, including sets of atoms, elements and ions, that they can share with each other's students in upcoming labs.
"We are thrilled to have these new materials because we had some that were outdated and we didn't have a lot of models to show the kids," Toma said.
"Now the kids will actually get to see what they've read about," Quinlan added.
Eckhardt, Potvin and Lawson, the librarians at Julia Randall Elementary School, RCMS and FES respectively, ordered books.
The shelves of JRE's library welcomed the addition of nonfiction history books in a comic book format thanks to Eckhardt.
"I chose the listening books and paperback novels that teachers use as a classroom set, so the students who need to be listening to the book would be able to participate," said Potvin.
"I am doing a longitudinal research project on how audiobooks help to improve reading," said Lawson, who ordered them in a variety of reading levels. "The research I did last year showed that some students were able to jump two grade levels by using the audiobooks to gain confidence and be able to read on their own."
"My grant was for new grammar and vocabulary games, language cards, plus books and CDs to aid with auditory processing," Ortlund said.
She is the speech language pathologist at FES.
These awards were made possible by funds raised by Rotary Club members principally at their annual Dollars for Scholars event, scheduled this year from 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23, at the Tonto Apache Gym.
Tickets are $100 per couple and may be obtained from any Rotary member.
Tickets include dinner and a chance to win many door prizes, including a $5,000 cash grand prize.