Thursday, April 25, 2013

2013 Yuma County Teacher of the Year

On Tuesday night I was awarded 2013 Yuma County Teacher of the Year.  I was first nominated by my peers and co-workers at GW Carver Elementary for the Special Area category.  There were about 150 nominees total in 5 different categories.  From there we were interviewed by a panel of local business men and woman from the area Rotary clubs.  From that interview I was chosen as a semi-finalist in my category.  There were a total of 15 semi-finalists.  We were to write an essay and submit a video, then go through a final interview with a larger panel of judges.  None of us were to know the finalists for each category or the Teacher of the Year until we were announced at the Banquet/Ceremony Tuesday night. Click on the link below to view the newspaper article on the event. Included with the online article is a video of my acceptance speech.

I've stayed mostly silent about this because I honestly never expected to win. I'm also not a self-promoter.  I didn't take it seriously at first either, because I assumed myself to be the most unlikely candidate.  However, I had a change of heart when I became a semi-finalist.  I quickly realized that this would be a tremendous platform for me to use as an advocate for students with special needs.  The running motto I held to throughout the process was:

"This is for the students, not me.  Be yourself. Don't change a thing. Don't boast, but be confident.  Step out of your comfort zone and make things happen for these kids." 

It worked, and I'm extremely grateful and honored.  Students with special needs deserve to be recognized and included.  I'm proud to have this honor to do so. I've already received a huge outpouring of support and encouragement! Some doors have begun to open for myself and my students. That makes the whole process worth it.

Please share this video that I submitted.  I tried to leave myself out of it as much as possible so that the viewer can see what my students CAN do.  My class is just one representation of students with disabilities who have shining potential just like any other kid.

Also, my co-workers at GW Carver Elementary, Briana Edgerton and Rudy Rodriguez, won their categories: "Outstanding First Year Teacher" and "Outstanding Intermediate Teacher" respectively.

For our school to dominate this incredible honor is a true testament to how amazing our school is and the support we have not only from our Principal, Ms. Drysdale, but also from each other.  I am proud to represent Carver and Yuma School District One.

I have three outstanding paraprofessionals (teacher aides) that take on many responsibilities.  They're the ones that get all of the dirty work and allow me to teach and take care of academic needs.  They get very little recognition and are often overlooked.  As much as I am awarded, they should be as well.  Thank you Mrs. Martinez, Mrs. Ramirez, and Mrs. Ryan (and Mrs. Castanos from last year).  This honor is for you too!  

I wish to thank the following professionals and agencies:

Yuma County Rotary Clubs
Yuma Investment Group Wealth Management
Yuma School District One (especially including Exceptional Student Services)
GW Carver Elementary
Desert Mesa Elementary
Castle Dome Middle School
Arizona Western College
Northern Arizona University - PRISE Program
Sharing Down Syndrome Arizona

Sunday, April 21, 2013


Much can be learned from my little dude and my students. The Lord knows I have. They all try twice as hard and many take twice as long to do everyday things. Most of them have been through twice as much too. If patience is a virtue, this is what it looks like. Having my son made me grow up fast. I would not be teaching his little buddies if it weren't for him. A whole new world opened up to me and I'm thankful everyday for them and the life I've been given.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Special Olympics Young Athletes Day

A few volunteers giving one of my students the extra encouragement he needed to finish the race.

This week we attended our first Special Olympics Young Athletes Day.  This was an excellent event!  It was well put together and full of enthusiastic volunteers.  This was not a competition where children receive awards for first, second, and third place; instead, it was more of a play day where everyone wins and receives ribbons for participation.  I'm not generally the type of person in favor of awarding every child.  Losing is a part of life and if children don't learn that lesson early on, they grow up with a warped view of society.  Even children with disabilities need to learn this important lesson.  However, Young Athletes Day is different.  I think it should be noted that this is not a competition but a day to encourage children with disabilities and those who work with them to get outside and be active.  Here is what the Special Olympics website says about it:

"Young Athletes™ is a unique sport and play program for children with intellectual disabilities. The focus is on fun activities that are important to mental and physical growth.
Children ages 2 1/2 to 7 enjoy games and activities that develop motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Young Athletes is an early introduction to sports and to the world of Special Olympics. The children learn new things, play and have lots of fun!
Parents say their children in Young Athletes also develop better social skills. The confidence boost makes it easier for them to play and talk with other children on the playground and elsewhere."

Judah is tossing a softball to an older student.  My little dude is not very active outdoors, so it was awesome to see him so involved and eager to play.

I'm helping one of my students who uses assistive devices for mobility.  We're not going to let that stop him from  knocking the skin off that ball! 

This is a great picture that I believe captures the spirit of Young Athletes volunteers.  I was very impressed by those who helped out.  For the most part, I noticed a genuine attitude of kindness and even gentleness from them.  If I'm not mistaken, I think they were all Marines. 

Another awesome aspect of the day was seeing other students from different schools.  I finally saw two former students of mine after almost a year.  In this picture, Judah is with one of his best friends from our Sharing Down Syndrome Arizona Advocacy Group.  They have been buddies since they were only a few months old.

There were so many activities.  We rarely had to wait, and all of the events focused on using gross motor skills to keep everyone moving.

Potato heads!

I'm not kidding, Judah would rather be on the computer or watching TV than play with a ball.  I encourage my three children in whatever their interests are, so I don't force him to be outside playing too much.  On average he gets about an  hour a day of active play.  That includes recess at school.  He likes to play on the fort/swing set and trampoline at home and that's about it.  So seeing him be so active at this event was very encouraging.

Involved parents make all the difference in the world!  If you're a parent, please don't allow the school to raise your kid.  Get in there and be a part of your child's education!

I'm not gonna lie, I had as much fun as they did!

Thanks to our districts amazing Physical Therapist, our students were no strangers to many of the activities.  Who doesn't like to hop around?

The only thing missing here is my bike!  I think I may start bringing mine to work so I can ride around our concrete jungle with these guys!

 Thanks to everyone involved with putting this event together and making it happen! From my class to you, we give you a huge applause and look forward to next year!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Room N.

Recently a photographer from the school district came to my class and snapped this pic. I now have written permission from my students' parents to include their pictures on this blog. Also, this can be seen on our districts website, so it's public now. Here you go, these are my little buddies! I have the privilege of teaching, having fun with, and learning from these rad kids every day! We're only missing one.