Payson High School engineering teacher Marlene Armstrong, high school teacher Shelly Camp and music teacher Daria Mason have swept this year’s Gila County Teacher of the Year Awards for both primary and secondary school.
“I felt stunned (to win),” said Armstrong, “I was in great company.”
Armstrong teaches the hands-on engineering class at Payson High School, where students learn math and engineering by designing projects to solve particular problems. They often then create the objects on a three-dimensional printer that turns designs into molded plastic.
Teacher Shelly Camp has spearheaded projects to teach students about the dangers of drug use and alcohol. She’s the advisor to the local chapter of Students Against Destructive Decisions and has helped organize trips to Washington and campus-wide assemblies and activities.
Daria Mason is the director for the award-winning Payson High School Band, which this year raised money so the band could perform at Pearl Harbor Day ceremonies in Hawaii.
The Gila County teacher’s award program is in its second year, said Leslie Owens, the Gila County Education Service agency director and coordinator of the awards program.
Gila County Superintendent Linda O’Dell, along with other county superintendents, started county teacher award programs in response to the state granting awards for teacher of the year, said Owens.
“Linda O’Dell wanted to highlight quality education and give principals the opportunity to nominate a colleague,” said Owens.
This year, nominations came in for eight teachers from schools in Gila County, compared to six nominations last year, said Owens.
Owens explained that shortly after the first of the year, teachers, principals, community members, students, parents or other school officials can nominate teachers.
Applications are divided into two groups — one set for the primary grades (kindergarten through fifth grade) and one for the secondary grades (sixth through 12th grade).
It is easy to get the ball rolling, said Owens, but the teachers have a pile of paperwork to file including their resume, history of teaching, credentials, honors and teaching philosophy.
A three-person committee made up of members from the community interested in education but not affiliated with the county schools assesses the applicants and votes on the winners, said Owens. This year, the committee included the former county librarian, a retired attorney and a retired school official from another state.
“The committee puts the application information into a rubric (formula) and then they do a telephone interview,” said Owens.
At the end of the school year, teachers learn of their awards at the Gila County Teachers Conference luncheon.
When asked what she felt got the attention of the committee, Armstrong said, “Talking about differentiation, data and how to reach every child.”