When asked what they teach, most educators would name a subject — but Halli Kinnick answers that she teaches students.
A response like that shows one of the big reasons she was named Teacher of the Year for Gila County. Gila County School Superintendent Linda O’Dell honored Kinnick at the April 1 meeting of the Gila County Board of Supervisors.
Kinnick’s subjects are algebra 1A and 1 and Arizona Standards.
Youthful and enthusiastic, it’s a surprise to learn the Arizona native has taught for 20 years — mostly in Payson.
She started her career teaching in Lake Havasu City. She grew up in Glendale and earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Northern Arizona University. Her bachelor’s is in physical science; her master’s is in elementary education.
Kinnick was nominated by former high school principal Anna VanZile, who attended the supervisors’ meeting.
“She is truly valued. She helps create a positive school climate,” VanZile said. She pointed out Kinnick worked with the culinary arts program to incorporate core academics into its curriculum.
“Collaboration and development of curriculum and delivering it to students make her an outstanding teacher,” O’Dell said.
“Health issues took me out of education for awhile and that helped me realize teaching is a gift that has been given back to me. I am grateful for every child who touches my life,” Kinnick said.
Living in a small town, Kinnick said she loves seeing her students and their families out in the community.
“I like to be connected,” she said.
She said the biggest change she has seen in Payson schools since her arrival is the downsizing of both the schools and the community because of the economy and lack of industry.
Kinnick said the biggest challenge over the years has been the advent of technology in the schools that both teachers and students have.
“It’s a two-edge sword. It is a great help in education, but it is also a big distraction for the students,” she said.
Kinnick said she was amazed to be nominated as Teacher of the Year and even more amazed that she won the honor.
“I feel blessed and thankful,” she said.
Kinnick believes that as long as the board, administrators and teachers keep children in the forefront of their decisions (for the school), they will do right by them.