Educators from Payson and Rim Country, Tonto Basin and Young, along with schools across Gila County were nominated for recognition as this year’s “Teacher of the Year” with accolades shared recently for instructors who inspired, challenged and encouraged their students during an especially taxing academic year.

An impressive 63 teachers were nominated: Amanda Mowrey, Rhiannon Oldfield, Dave Hankin, Margot Tan, Laura Hacker, Mr. M., and Ken Vargas, Ahriana Tarango, Alecia Page, Amanda Sharrer, Ann Tolman, Barb Anderson, Bobby Warren, Brandi Baker, Candice Price, Carey Hudgings, Cathy Dodd, Cathy Jo Ewing, Cheryl Wickizer, Chris Harold, Christine Smith, Colette Schwenk, Damien McDaniel, Dan Hill, Debra Paciorek, Denise Greer, Diana Fletcher, George Conley, Geri Gardea, Gerine Smyers, Glen Lieberry, Hunter Harsley, Jaci Tanner, Janice Hoyt, Jeff Battese, Jenna Gregory, Jessica Gore, Jesslyn Davis, Jim McBride, Joy Wilson, Julie Rasmussen, Katy Goldman, Kevin Hull, Kristina Dieball, Leslie Sexton, Lisa Schiefert, Lynda Nixon, Marc Marin, Mary Yazzie, Michaela Perry, Morgan Gongaware, Nicole Goebel, Noelle Anderson, Pam Westbrook, Renea Short, Rob Otero, Sam Gonzales, Sandra Rodriquez, Serena Joslin, Tammy McLellen, Taylor Merrick, Ted Quinn, Wendy Granneman.

Globe High School Spanish teacher Amanda Mowrey topped that crowded field of excellent educators. A native of Globe, Mowrey graduated from Globe High School in 2008, continuing her academic career at Eastern Arizona College, earning an AA degree in liberal studies and a bachelor of arts degree at Truman State University in romance languages with a concentration in Spanish, Portuguese and French.

After earning her degrees, she volunteered intermittently as a language teacher for five years in Sao Tome, Africa, and various states in Mexico. While in Mexico, she was honored as a National Council of Science & Technology Scholar (CONACYT — acronym in Spanish) and offered a place in the Universidad Autonoma de Chiapa’s master of arts in language teaching program where she created a curriculum proposal for the university’s Spanish teacher formation courses that was accepted. Upon completion of the program, she then returned to GHS as a teacher.

Her most recent accomplishments within the school are developing various level Spanish language courses for Globe’s students, offering her students cultural exposure through national and international trips, and being nominated as Teacher of the Month and Gila County Teacher of the Year.

Her favorite part about being an educator is the challenge of being presented with potential; giving the students the tools to succeed with a little guidance; and then letting the students surprise her with the distances they go.

The Gila County teachers, schools, and staff had many hurdles this past school year with the COVID pandemic — everything they knew about teaching shifted in the blink of an eye. Kids sticking their tongues out at each other on the video chat, laying back in their chairs, or crying out of frustration. On average, teachers across the nation received three days of online teaching training. They were expected to turn their physical classrooms into virtual classrooms in less than a week. It was achieved. Kids can navigate a live meeting better than most adults. They engage, and then they get bored, the teachers must try to validate their feelings and keep them involved.

“We appreciate you. We adore you. There is no way all of us could ever repay you. Here is to hopes that the safety plans in place keep our teachers, staff and students safe,” said Roy Sandoval, county superintendent of schools.

“Thank you, teachers and staff, we need you, you are important and amazing. You are true superheroes! And this goes out to all the staff at schools, it takes a village. You didn’t ask for this, but you came up with a plan and executed it, and that, is the ultimate sacrifice,” Sandoval concluded.

Other nominees

Quotable quotes about a few more outstanding educators, nominated for Teacher of the Year:

Margot Tan

Tan teaches art, science and chemistry at Payson Christian School in Payson. She is a teacher who teaches with excellence. She spends hours to plan and display student artwork throughout the community. She provides great examples and illustrations for the students to learn from. She promotes high standards in her classroom and expects students to behave appropriately. She is an example to many other teachers.

Laura Hacker

Hacker teaches ELL at Payson Elementary School. She is dedicated to ensuring that her students perform at their individual best and shows proficiency levels that her students achieve. She mentors new teachers and provides support and guidance to all staff, through her proficiency in technology. She is an asset to the PUSD and Gila County.

Janice Hoyt

Hoyt teaches fourth grade at Julia Randall School in Payson. She maintains a positive attitude, encouraging in nature and is fair with all her students. She explains things and makes it easy to understand.

Kristina Dieball

Dieball teaches fifth grade at Julia Randall School in Payson. She is the kind of teacher every kid hopes for — she makes learning fun. She can motivate anyone just by her smile. She is super kind, fun, and pretty.

Gerine Smyers

Smyers teaches fourth-sixth grade math at Young School. She is a good teacher and gets us up to seventh grade math by being there to help us with the subject.

Wendy Granneman

Granneman teaches second and third grade at Tonto Basin School. During COVID, she delivered schoolwork to our house and then checked on us when my grandma was sick and even offered to get groceries for us. She is always respectful and kind and always puts smiles on people’s faces.

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